He revived the career of Akshay Kumar in JAANWAR in 1999, Then Miss World & Miss Universe Priyanka Chopra & Lara Dutta respectively, got their first recognition at the Filmfare as best debut in ANDAAZ (2003). His directorial debut AJAY in 1999 was a huge hit for Sunny Deol and Karisma Kapoor. Producer, director, writer Suneel Darshan is back after a sabbatical with a romantic musical mystery EK HASEENA THI EK DEEWANA THA starring his son Shiv Darshan, Natasha Fernandez and Upen Patel in lead roles. Though he launched his son in KARLE PYAAR KARLE around three years ago, but the film was a disaster and now Suneel is back with a bang with a new film. He is set to re-launch his son in the industry. The filmmaker who strongly believes in cinema with Indian ethos speaks his heart out on his beliefs, the effects of corporate culture and why he brought music director Nadeem from the Nadeem-Shravan duo back in his film and the lessons learnt during his sabbatical.
Will you call EK HASEENA THI EK DEEWANA THA as your comeback?
I didn’t go anywhere.. Yes, there has been a gap after KARLE PYAAR KARLE (2014) as a producer and SHAKALAKA BOOM BOOM (2007) as a writer, producer director, I took a break. The corporate culture was setting in and I wanted to study and understand that. I had a film with Sunny Deol but that didn’t materialize, so I needed something motivating, inspiring to begin my next. So I started revisiting, recollecting, going through the old books and also peeping in what’s happening nowadays, and relearning the work I have done as a writer director since AJAY (1996) starring Sunny Deol and Karisma Kapoor. I came to a conclusion that EK HASEENA THI EK DEEWANA THA is the film I should be making as I also wanted to re- launch Shiv’s career. EK HASEENA THI EK DEEWANA THA is made keeping the times we are in mind but yet it’s a timeless in its theme – it’s a romantic musical surrounded by a mystery with surprises in between.
Speaking of modern times but you showed the courage of going back to Nadeem for the film’s music, Nadeem is not getting work due to those allegations but you gave him work in this film, Nadeem even said that Suneel Darshan had the guts to give me work when nobody was interested.
I would have easily taken the music composers of today but that music lacks soul. The reason to bring back Nadeem is obliviously the body of work which he had done since AASHIQUI is tremendous and he has been out of touch for quite some time, so I thought let’s bring the melody back with him in EK HASEENA THI EK DEEWANA THA.
Composers like Pritam, Ankit Tiwari and performers like Arjit Singh are getting appreciated all over, what makes Nadeem Shravan’s music so special to you.
For me Nadeem’s music connects me emotionally. Opinions are formed by a select few and I have no objection to that. The opinions does matter but it is restricted to a certain layer – the upper layer to be precise but deep down the line to the audience/listeners where it really matters the music that has soul always demands repeat runs. We are overwhelmed by the response to the music of EK HASEENA THI EK DEEWANA THA – the music is the same that Nadeem is known for but told with a different treatment. The repeated download of old Bollywood melodies is an example that music that has soul stays and I find soul in Nadeem’s music.
Reunion with Nadeem, what’s the delay in reunion with Akshay Kumar with whom you have done seven films and shared a special bond
Akshay Kumar and I came together with JAANWAR in 1999 and we both have benefited from our association. I am happy for Akshay who has reached so far and the day I have something at par with Akshay then I will definitely be happy to work with him.
'Most intelligent filmmakers talk about personal lives more than about their cinema'
What lessons have you learnt after KARLE PYAAR KARLE?
I have learnt a lot. I have witnessed the radical change in the industry. The corporate requirements have affected the art of cinema. The soul of Indian cinema is missing. A genuine runaway Indian blockbusters like DANGAL, BAAHUBALI are so rare. Yes, we get entertainers and the business goes on but I have noticed that cinema gets sidelined with the emergence of corporate powers who aim at creating content for quick returns – the game of three days. I am a filmmaker, I believe in making cinema rather than just creating content for money. The race for quick hooplas at the box office without giving a second thought to the kind of cinema we are pushing that lacks the ‘Indian’ belief, ethos is playing spoil sports. We have intellectuals filling pages on cinema around world without willing to cater to our forte. The corporate culture has given us great service in money, equipments, technology but somewhere has made a good filmmaker compromise on his art.
Doesn’t it worry you as a filmmaker who also owns a banner and is against the corporate culture in today’s times.
Yes, it worries me and the question is my cinema dying haunts again and again. But the almighty gives you hope. My movies got downloaded last year on top digital platforms and it was amazing to find that my movies where watched by 150 million people officially and the songs were watched by over 300 million people officially. The audience reviews were overwhelming. Critics have not liked my films, I have received half a star, 1 star and if they are generous enough then two stars but the audience gave me more than that in their reviews. This encouraged and motivated me a lot that down the line the audiences have a liking towards my kind of cinema and EK HASEENA THI EK DEEWANA THA took birth. It’s such a difficult film to make in today’s time. My film lacks star value, has a music composer who is out of work for quite some time, it’s clearly on the directors conviction that an amount of 15 crore has been invested in this film. The online response made me realize that my cinema has some kind of a following.
You are influential in shaping careers of Akshay Kumar, Priyanka Chopra, but you have always chosen to remain out of media limelight. Why?
I am a recluse, I could have easily featured on front pages of tabloid and covers of fancy magazines but I prefer my work should talk about myself. Things have changed now, everything is news. Even going to a loo is news. I have seen most intelligent filmmakers talking about everything, their personal lives but not more about their cinema. Maybe they don’t have much to talk about their cinema so they speak about other engagements.
But in this industry, you have to be seen and heard to make your presence felt, cinema imitates life and vice versa, realism in cinema has more takers now, filmmakers today also engage in social media networking and some are open in their thoughts/believes and they blame escapist cinema in running away from reality
‘ZINDAGI EK KHAWAB HAI, KHWAB MEIN JHOOT KYA OR BHALLA SACH HAI KYA..’ Remember this song from Raj Kapoor’s JAAGTE RAHO, that’s life. Yes I have sugar coated my films but emotions are real. I predicted the emergence of PR and corporate powers in SHAKALAKA BOOM BOOM where good talent will find it difficult to survive under these powers and look what’s happening today, the corporate culture is everywhere in the entertainment industry. SHAKALAKA BOOM BOOM was panned, thrashed by critics all over. I will get the censor certificate of EK HASEENA THI EK DEEWANA THA very soon and hopefully it will be able to get reasonable number of theatres for my film which is scheduled to release on 30th of June. My son Shiv has grown as a performer from his previous film and has evolved as an actor. It’s a romantic musical with a mystery and it’s a true blue Indian entertainer that also speaks about love in today’s reality.