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Interview : Vipul Shah

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Vipul Shah is back in 'action' and quite literally. Vipul Shah has many firsts with his upcoming film FORCE – this is the first time he is working with hunk John Abraham, the national award winner director Nishikanth Kamath and bubbly Genelia D'souza, this is the first time he has attempted a hardcore action film, however with much ?lan, the prolific filmmaker who has only worked on films with original concept for the first time enters the remake market with FORCE as a producer. Starring John Abraham and Genelia D'Souza, FORCE is the remake of hit Tamil film KAAKHA KAAKHA. In conversation with Vipul Shah. Here are the excerpts.

Akshay happens to be your favourite and regular in your films. Moreover he is known to be the original action hero. So why you roped in John for FORCE?
I and John have known each other for a very long time. When I got the rights of this film I also got to know that he was very keen to do a big action film. I showed the film to John and he said it looks great and was all game for it.

How director Nishikanth Kamat came on board?
Nishikanth actually came in the last. After me and John agreed to do the film then the search for the director started and John recommended Nishikanth's name. I had already told Nishikanth after his DOMBIVLI FAST that I'd sign him as a director someday. But something or other kept happening and we couldn't start a film. So it became a coincidence that I signed Nishi, John wanted Nishi, Nishi liked the film that's how we came together.

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And that was the reason why FORCE got delayed?
After Nishi took over he wanted to rewrite the original version the way he wanted. And we all agreed that he should be given time because ultimately it's the film that he wants to direct and it should be done the way he wants it. So we waited for almost 5 months for Nishi to write it. And once it was fully written only then we started. And anyway as a producer I don't start any film till it is written to its last word.

How was it working with National award winner director Nishikanth Kamat?
As I said when I saw his DOMBIVLI FAST I thought I should work with him. So that speaks about what I feel for him. He is a very talented and a committed person. He's made some very good realistic cinema. This is his big jump into commercial cinema. So I think it's an interesting platform and Nishi has done superb job as a director getting performances out of John and Genelia to the way he is designed the action to everything. He lived upto his reputation.

Apart from producing what were your contributions towards the film. You gave suggestions?
I am very clear that the film belongs to the director. So if I am directing I don't allow anyone to interfere but if anybody is directing in my banner I don't interfere with his work. My job is to produce and give a certain scale and how that scale can be given within the budget constraints. How to market and how distribution will happen that's my job. I do give suggestions but I never insist that it has to be taken. Final call is taken by the director. In that sense it's totally a Nishikanth Kamat film produced by Vipul Shah. I have not contributed creatively I mean if some suggestions are accepted I don't consider them as creative contribution. I am very happy to be in the producer's chair and not standing next to the director on his head. I don't even go to the shoots. In my 100 days shooting of this film I must have visited the sets for hardly 3-4 times. That's the kind of producer I am.

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A trend of action heroes and south remakes is perceptible in Bollywood. FORCE also joins the bandwagon?
If you look from release perspective we are coming now but if you look at the time when I bought the rights there was no BODYGUARD or DABANGG or SINGHAM or READY. They were not even started. So my rights are two years old. And at that point of time there was nothing happening on south remake thing as it is happening today. So I have not gone on a bandwagon of any kind. There are some great films made in south Indian languages, however due to the language barrier and distribution barrier Hindi audience doesn't get to see. And if you can remake it nicely and give the chance to the audience to see a good film whether you do twenty such films or you do two it doesn't matter. So the idea is to make a good film if I am in the bandwagon I have no problems. If you liked BODYGUARD, DABANGG, SINGHAM, READY come for FORCE. In the same bandwagon you'll like this film also.

But don't you think it gets repetitive for the audience as only the lead actor is different whereas the treatment, the style and concept remains the same?
That's a very valid question provided the treatment of my film is similar to READY, BODYGUARD or SINGHAM and that's why Nishikanth took 5 months to rewrite and remake it in a way that it looks like an original story, a fresh idea and total Hindi film. There's no trace of south Indian touch in the film. Today audience likes the hero to be very aggressive, very dynamic; they want him to start beating up the goons but at the same time in south Indian cinema there are these interesting one-liners that the hero says (like in BODYGUARD, READY and SINGHAM). Whereas in FORCE the hero is very different – he is very silent, he doesn't talk much. He speaks less and delivers with his hands. In that sense it's a very different film but the beauty and goodness of south Indian cinema is inherently evident in the script.

With more and more filmmakers opting for remakes Bollywood is losing its originality?
I don't think so. In a year out of 200 films that we produce 10 films are remade from south. 190 are original and 10 are remakes.

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What if those 10 films are the one which are watchable and 190 passable?
I don't agree. If we look at DELHI BELLY or ZINDAGI NA MILEGI DOBARA or MURDER 2 or NO ONE KILLED JESSICA, DOUBLE DHAMAAL etc there are so many films which have been big hits and they are not copy of any south film and are original. Right now Salman and Ajay are at the peak of their careers and because of that their films are doing numbers which are huge. So it's partly about south films but it's partly about their star power as well. Salman Khan and Ajay Devgn are able to draw in audiences to the theatres today. For e.g. if BODYGUARD was not a south Indian remake and if it was an original film it would have still done better because people want to go and see Salman Khan. And for SINGHAM – Ajay was returning to action after a long time so whether it was a remake or original, people would have gone to see Ajay doing action. Because that's their star power.

What do you have to say about FORCE
John Abraham is coming back in action. People have loved him in DHOOM, ZINDA, NEW YORK all three have been action films. But FORCE will take him to another level. He's not done real, hardcore, raw action in his career span. Here he is the real man. He's trained himself and developed a certain kind of body.

John is known as classes star and not a masses star which cuts down your audience. And it becomes difficult to place a classes hero into masses?
I beg to differ. This will probably be the film which will take John into the masses. That's the effort we have put in. That's our aim that we can translate John's personality for single screens audiences or the interiors of India. Every actor takes a jump at a certain stage in his career. John, yes he is very urban, very uber cool, multiplex audience like him. But he is taking a chance with this film; he's doing hardcore action and trying to reach out to new audience and I think on the strength of the film I don't see why he can't do that. Every film can change the way people look at actor. There are actors who go through a lean patch and then suddenly after one film they become a star. This is all in our minds. What does a single screen audience sitting in UP wants? He wants to see a good film whether it is a John Abraham or XYZ. The kind of interest UP, Punjab, Rajasthan, CP, CI are showing in this film, if that is to go by, I think you will see this Friday John to have reached to the interiors of India in a big way. Everyone will be surprised to see John.

As you said Salman and Ajay are at the peak do you regret casting John now as the wonders Salman and Ajay can do at Box-office no other star can do?
What we'd set out to do we are very proud of that. What could have happen is a very hypothetical question. I will be always keen to work with Salman and Ajay after LONDON DREAMS but this film was designed for John and this thought never crossed my mind that had somebody else played this role. John is absolutely tailor made for this film. The way he is performed is fantastic. With this film John will establish himself as an actor. For a very long time people have called him a model. John has gone through a critical phase in the industry. This film will establish him as a very dependable actor and a great action hero. In fact he's done the action so well that in our unit his name has become 'Action' Abraham. We call him 'Action' Abraham. So I am hoping after the film is released audience will start calling him 'Action' Abraham. And that will be our contribution to him.

There were incidents on the sets like John got injured and the John-Genelia false marriage thing. Was it to gain eyeballs for the film
John did get hurt because he wanted to do every stunt himself. Even after getting hurt he went on shooting and completed the shoot with injured body parts. He's taken lot of pain for this film to really deliver the kind of stunts. He said if I am coming into action I don't want people to point out that probably this was done by the duplicate. So I will do everything myself. And that actually made the action look so fantastic because you don't need to cheat you can shoot exactly what you want to shoot as the hero is ready to take the challenge. The John-Genelia marriage thing was not to draw attention. I don't believe such gimmicks can actually make a film big hit. It was only laughable thing. If there was an intention to create controversy around it we would have taken it further, would have made statements and created stories out of it.

Your forte lies in making comedy, drama films. How was it trying hands with action?
My first film AANKHEN was an action thriller. The only difference is there I was a director and here I am a producer. I have never repeated myself. I have always experimented with the genre of films that I have done. You can put all my 5 films together and you cannot point out one is similar to other. Some films work some don't but I have taken chances. I believe that as a director I should have the ability to make any kind of cinema whether its comedy or action or drama or whatever. Here, Nishikanth Kamat is a very capable director, he understands action very well and he's handled it beautifully. My job as producer was to back him to my maximum ability.

FORCE is releasing during Navratri. Are you worried that the vibrant festival will affect the film?
Navratri is a celebration time. I slightly differ on that I feel that when you are into celebration mood every kind of celebration just adds to it. In fact if you look at last 5 years collections, in Navratri Gujarat collection goes up quite dramatically. People are in a mood to spend. So I am not worried about Navratri. On the contrary I think it will add to our success and more people will come in theatres.

What do you have to say about leading lady Genelia D'Souza?
We wanted a good looking girl-next-door but at the same time hot and sexy that's why Genelia's name occurred. It's like a girl turning into a woman kind of a space and Genelia is best suited for that space. She is looking sexy when she wants to. Bubbly, chirpy comes to her very naturally. She's a great performer. So she was the first and the most natural choice. 

Who is the original action hero of Bollywood according to you?
The original action hero of Bollywood is Mr. Amitabh Bachchan. He was the angry man, he started the trend. He was the first action superstar. Subsequent to Mr. Bachchan, Akshay has been the action hero of the industry. Salman has done some great action, Ajay was known as the very big action hero, Shahrukh has done some amazing action in BAAZIGHAR & DARR, Sunny Deol – Dhai Kilo ka Hath. So they are all amazing.

That's quite diplomatic.
Its very difficult choose one out of all. Still Akshay has always been my favourite so that goes without saying. I will be biased in saying Akshay Kumar because I anyway like him. I have been working with him so he is my favourite in anything. But I think all the actors have done great action over the years.

Suddenly Bollywood is too much fascinated towards heroism kind of concept what do you have to say about it?
I think the MEN are back and FORCE is just gonna consolidate that. You are going to see a different kind of man here. He's not Chulbul Pandey or Bajirao Singham but he is the man of his own. He delivers the knockout punch when required. So, yes Men are back and people want to see Men on screen. FORCE is going to give them a new hero which they will love who doesn't talk too much but just delivers.

Shed some light on your future projects
Nothing for the moment till 30th September its only FORCE. After 15th October I'll start looking at all my new projects, all my future work. There's a lot going to happen in the coming one and half – two years so keeping my fingers crossed. But first things first FORCE has to work.

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