In what way is TUM MILO TOH SAHI different from your earlier film POPCORN KHAO MAST HO JAO?
TUM MILO TO SAHI is completely different from my debut film POPCORN KHAO MAST HO JAO. If POPCORN KHAO… was a young frothy college caper, TUM MILO TOH SAHI is about love across different ages and how it means different things to different people. You take any class of society. Though the experience of love is the same, how you react to it, makes all the difference. TUM MILO TOH SAHI is a clean family film. There is no element of lust though I have tackled the love stories of people from the age of 14 and 18 to 35 and 60. The Censor Board members who were full of smiles and tears told me that it was after a long time that they were able to watch a clean and entertaining family film.
What went wrong with POPCORN KHAO MAST HO JAAO?
You mature every day and pick up new perspectives. I am glad that I am learning every day by making mistakes. My debut film went for a toss at the box office though it was a sound film as far as technique was concerned. It was my mistake because the script written by me went wrong. That is the main reason I decided to team up with Rajen when I set out to write the script this time for Tum MILO TOH SAHI. I learnt that you cannot be objective as a writer when you also set out to direct a film. When it was ready, I went with the script to Nikhil Panchamiya who agreed to produce TUM MILO TOH SAHI. It took some time to get launched
“Dimple Kapadia is the most passionate newcomer…”
What exactly do you want to convey through your film?
At 18, love is feverishness and excitement. At 35 you graduate in love and it is time to decide whether to invest in the relationship and bring the spark again or continue to live like strangers under the same roof and bring up a common child and at 60, it is time for you redefine and seek companionship in life. I am not lecturing through my film since there is no lecture baazi on your face. There are several layers and you will discover a new layer every time you watch the film
How did you manage to cast seasoned actors like Nana Patekar and Dimple Kapadia in your film?
To tell you the truth, it was the script of the film written by Rajen Makhijani and myself that decided the actors, whether it was Nana Patekar, Suneil Shetty or for that matter Dimple Kapadia. Each and every actor liked my script and agreed to do my film and not because they liked my face (Smiles). Dimple Kapadia plays the interesting Parsi character of Dilshad Nanji aunty who runs an Irani caf? in the film whereas Nana Patekar is a retired South Indian clerk who though an advocate has not taken up any case in 35 years. It was absolutely easy to direct Nana Patekar and Dimple Kapadia. I feel that Dimple Kapadia is the most passionate new comer that I have met that not even for one second could I feel that she is a big star. If you know what you are doing, I think Nana is the easiest actor and if you do not know what you are directing him with, Nana could be the most difficult director. My experience with Nana is such that I’d like to do all my films in future with Nana Patekar.
How did you zero in on Rehan Khan?
I cast Rehan Khan when Nikhil suggested that I consider him for the young romantic role in my film. I liked the innocence of the boy and his readiness to invest in the role. It helped me that he stuck to me like a leech. Rehan took part in a workshop which I conducted with him for six months.
As a director, you draw from your own personal life. In real life, I am as stubborn as Subramaniam played by Nana Patekar and I love my family as much as Amit Nagpal, played by Suneil Shetty. Rajen tells me that I am also as spontaneous as Bikramjeet Singh, played by Rehan Khan in my film. I give more credit to Rajen for coming up with the idea for my film. He is an IIM graduate. Both Rajen and I tried to draw from our own lives after exchanging a lot of ideas.
What is your approach as a director?
My approach as a director is to tell a tale that is entertaining and at the same time I try not to take away its basic simplicity. TUM MILO TOH SAHI is about real people and extra ordinary persons in all of us. I feel that each and every one of us is extra ordinary in our own way. Why do we label people as heroes? Every individual is a hero in his own way.
Are you happy with the way your career has progressed till date?
I am happy with the way my career has progressed both as an actor as well as a director. Till date I have acted in films like EK DIN 24 GHANTE in which I played the villain with Nandita Das, MUMBAI MATINEE, DEEWANAPAN, GOOD BOY BAD BOY, CHARAS and CHAMELI. Right now I am excited to act in Ashwini Chowdhary’s film, the script of which is being finalized. I feel that I need to learn more as an actor but as a director; I am learning to be a better actor. I pick up from every actor his or her strong point and make it a point to learn something or the other. Though certainly I’d love to cast myself in the films which I direct, I do not for the simple reason that I am not saleable as an actor.
What next after TUM MILO TOH SAHI, as a director?
I am planning to launch my next as a director in August for IDEA for producers Panchali Chakravorty and Sandeep Sangwan. It will be an expose on Delhi. It will be a dark and edgy film with a strong sense of humor. I am also planning to launch another film as a director, with Rajen as my co-writer again after TUM MILO TOH SAHI. It will be a sports thriller with the game of hockey as the backdrop.