Blast from the Past: Shankar’s Interview before release of Nayak

Check out this Filmfare August 2001 Interview of Shankar where he talks about offering Nayak to Aamir and Shah Rukh, working with Anil Kapoor and Kamal Haasan, his “obsession” Aishwarya Rai, Ram Gopal Varma’s obsession with heroines and comparisons with David Dhawan.

He’s India’s highest paid director. His fee is whispered to be a whopping Rs 5-crore plus. But look at the man in the khaki chinos with a conservative checked shirt… sitting in the plushest suite at a five-star hotel in Mumbai and you’ll never guess that his stock on the Indian film market is worth a lot more than that of apna Subhash Ghai, avid Dhawan or Aditya Chopra. Fact is he’s the only Indian director so far who has actually been offered a movie by a bigwig Hollywood Studio.

Shankar who makes his debut in Hindi films this August is the man who has directed five Tamil mega hits–Gentleman, Kadalan, Jeans (the original grossed crores) Indian and Mudalvan.

Nayak, his first offering in Hindi, is the remake of Mudalvan. The film deals with the hard-hitting subject of the corruption prevalent in our system… and it has a cast headed by the current garma-garam jodi Anil Kapoor and Rani Mukherjee.

The principal photography has been completed. Yet the director doesn’t have a moment to spare. Between editing, mixing and what-have-you, we snatch a half hour for a quick sawaal-jawaab session on this crorepati’s journey from Chennai to Mumbai where the stakes are higher and the competition’s tougher.

Is it the thought of more money and fame that made you take the leap from Tamil to Hindi?
It was the subject of Mudalvan itself which actually prompted me to remake it in Hindi. As you may be aware, Mudalvan deals with one man’s fight against the red-tapism in our administration. I’m sure every Indian can identify with the subject. It deals with the apathy of the administration towards basic issues like human rights. All my films–Gentleman, Kadalan or Indian–have either been remade in Hindi or dubbed. But the remakes haven’t always had the same impact as the original. But yes, my films did find a market in Hindi.

In the past, I didn’t have a say in this matter because most of the films were produced by others. Mudalvan was my own production. Encouraged by its success in Tamil and Telugu, I decided against getting it dubbed. I felt I could make this film in Hindi with some alterations.

Aamir Khan and I had a huge communication gap… so I quickly moved on

Didn’t you first approach Aamir Khan to play the lead?
I did meet Aamir Khan for a narration. But the two of us faced a huge communication gap. His views about Mudalvan didn’t match mine, so I quickly moved on.

Next you approached Shah Rukh Khan.
Yes, that’s right. Shah Rukh was more receptive than Aamir but he begged off saying that since he had played a television reporter in his own home production Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani which had just been released, he wasn’t keen on taking on a similar role at such a short interval. I couldn’t afford to wait…so I moved on again.

Was Anil Kapoor your next choice?
Honestly, I was in a dilemma about who to cast. Just then Boney Kapoor sent a feeler, Anil would be happy to work with me in Mudalvan. I’d heard that Anil was one of the most disciplined actors in the Hindi industry and so I decided to sign him on. My gamble has paid off. Anil Kapoor has completed my film in record time… and he showed a level of discipline which I thought was there only down South.

Why did you opt for Rani Mukherjee instead of Manisha Koirala who was in the original?
Rani Mukherjee has the bubbly image I needed for the character. Manisha is a good actress but she has been around in Hindi cinema for a decade now. In the Tamil version we could get away with casting Manisha because she isn’t all that exposed in the South. For Hindi I definitely needed someone like Rani Mukherjee or Preity Zinta.

I’m not obsessed with Aishwarya Rai. I certainly didn’t name my daughter after her

Why not Aishwarya Rai who’s your favourite?
Too much is being made of my obsession for Aishwarya Rai. I did enjoy working with her in Jeans. It’s also true that she was my first choice for Indian and Mudalvan… but she couldn’t manage the required dates. But I’m certainly not obsessed with Aishwarya Rai. I read an item somewhere which said I’d named my daughter Aishwarya because of my liking for Ms World–Aishwarya Rai. That’s not true. My daughter was born long before the actress Aishwarya came into my movies.

Ram Gopal Varma says it’s important for a movie-maker to be obsessed with his heroine to get better results. Comment.
(Laughs uproariously) This is a new one. But that must be Ram Gopal Varma’s logic. I get passionately involved with my movies, not my heroines.

Mani Ratnam failed in his debut in Hindi with Dil Se, did you have second thoughts about making your own debut in Mumbai?
Call me a freak, but the truth is that I loved Dil Se. I even called Mani Ratnam after a preview and praised him sky- high. Dil Se may have bombed at the box office but it remains my personal favourite. I don’t think Dil Se failed because Mani Ratnam was handicapped by the language factor. There were other reasons for it’s debacle. Incidentally, my wife Eashwari has been brought up in Delhi. I’m not fluent with the language but I can pass muster. Cinema is not only about language… it’s about sensibilities.

Kamal Haasan was heard saying that you’re the David Dhawan of Tamil cinema.
I don’t understand that remark. I can’t believe Kamal Haasan made this statement. I’ve just seen bits of a David Dhawan movie. I know he’s a very successful director in Hindi.

I’ve just seen bits of a David Dhawan movie. I know he’s a very successful director but I don’t belong to his category

David Dhawan makes laugh-a-minute films with regressive jokes.
Oh is that so? I definitely don’t belong to the David Dhawan category then. Each of my films has dealt with a definite theme. Gentleman tackled corruption in the education system, Kadalan exposed the nexus between politicians and anti-social characters and Indian said bribery should be abolished. So one can hardly say my films are flip… and only aim at making money. I’ve made it a point to package a message with a lot of gloss, naach gaana as the North Indians would say. My films may not be as realistic as documentaries but they most certainly can’t be dismissed as trash.

Are you directing Hrithik Roshan next?
Who started these rumours of my being signed by producer Sajid Nadiadwala to direct Hrithik Roshan? I’ve not even met Sajid or Hrithik. Right now I’m on tenterhooks about the release of Nayak…after which I plan to start Robot, a science fiction film in Tamil and Hindi with Kamal Haasan and Preity Zinta.

Kamal Haasan and Anil Kapoor have the reputation of proxy-directing their movies. Have you experience any interference from either of them?
Both Kamal and Anil have an extensive knowledge of the medium. I didn’t have any trouble with these two actors because I gave them a detailed narration on day one…so when they came to my sets, they were aware that I knew my job.

It’s said that you’re a man of very few words.
Yes, I’m extremely shy. I’m often misunderstood because of this. When I started making films I was so young that I didn’t even have a proper moustache. I was afraid that when I went to narrate a subject, the actors wouldn’t take me seriously, so I put on this stern image. Six years down the line the image has stayed.

Are you the same at home too?
On the contrary, my wife has a hard time getting me to keep quiet. I’m constantly kicking up a row. I thoroughly enjoy spending time with my daughters.


Their films
Godard’s Breathless
Akiro Kurusawa’s The Red Beard, The Seven Samurai
Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, The Lost World

Our films
V.Shantaram’s Do Ankhen Bara Haath
Raj Kapoor’s Jagte Raho
Mani Ratnam’s Nayakan, Roja

Their actors
Charlie Chaplin
Jack Nicholson
Jim Carrey

Our actors
Amitabh Bachchan
Kamal Haasan

Their actresses
Audrey Hepburn
Julia Roberts
Demi Moore

Our actresses
Madhuri Dixit

Source : Filmfare August 2001

  1. Suprabh 12 years ago

    I think, its actually great that he didn’t get Aamir or Srk in Nayak. Anil Kapoor is much more talented than both of them and a far more accomplished actor. Some of the scenes in Nayak were really amazing and looking at them now, it feels only Anil could have done most justice to them. Shahrukh would have simply wasted this role, He just cannot portray Anger with ease. What I mean by that is the ability to show anger even without showing it on your face (The scene where Anil is interviewing the Minister but not really showing it on screen–the implied frustration and anger he has towards the polician) and Aamir might have managed it to an extent but would have lacked the much needed spontaneity in the character that Anil had.

    Regarding, Shankar– He used to be someone who I’d call a bridge between Kamal Hassan and Hrishikesh mukherjee.. But looking at his past few movies– he indeed has turned into a David Dhawan.

    • Author
      sputnik 12 years ago

      I saw Mudalvan (without subtitles with my Tamil roommate explaining it to me) much before Nayak and Arjun was very good in it and Raguvaran was excellent in it.

      I did not like Anil Kapoor in Nayak. I did not like the movie either – I think Shankar did not adapt it well to the northern sensibilities. He had the same pots sequences in the songs that those 80s movies used to have and even the scenes have a southern sensibility to them.

      Today is Amrish Puri’s birth anniversary so may be I should not be saying this but the biggest miscast in the movie was him.

      Now watch these two scenes – first from Mudhalvan (unfortunately with no subtitles but since it is almost scene to scene remake you can guess what he is saying) and secondly from Nayak. You can see the difference in the acting.

      • Baba Ji 12 years ago

        spuntik – clearly the acting in Tamil version is miles better.yes hindi version is very OTT in comparison.But I liked Nayak as a film.

    • aryan 12 years ago

      Good interview but Aamir missed Nayak Movie its very sad.

    • Baba Ji 12 years ago

      yes suprabh.srk was not suited for nayak because he doesnt carry normal roles well.Aamir might have been good.But srk would have nailed Shankars Aparichit.It was a role suited for him.

  2. Suprabh 12 years ago


    Here’s the thing..even before watching the tamil scene you posted, I agree that Amrish Puri was a miscast and he looked a bigger miscast because of the dialogs he was made to utter- they just did not suit the character he played.

    Regarding the songs sequences and southern sensibilities- I understand that and I prefer to give a southern director that much latitude

    Now regarding the tamil scene you posted– I just saw the first couple of minutes and it looked ridiculous to me not because of the content or acting but because why would they make Raghuvaran wear the whitest fake wig and try to make him appear 30 years elder than his age and fail miserably at that !!!

    • Author
      sputnik 12 years ago

      The reason why Amrish was a big miscast was not really because of the dialogues but but because it needed a double faced guy. I don’t know may be Paresh would have been better or some other actor in the same role.

      I agree with you on the whitest fake wig but Raghuvaran was apt for the part as he usually does the double faced roles well. And he was very good in Mudhalvan.

      Watch the finger on lip scene from both movies – scene itself is bad but Amrish totally overacts in that compared to Raghuvaran.

      Giving some latitude to a south indian director is fine but Shankar just made a scene to scene remake and it just did not fit well in the North Indian context.

      I have seen almost all of Shankar’s movies and his movies usually have the populist/vigilante rhetoric which appeals to people but he also has crass comedy and some crowd scenes which only suit the Tamil movie context.

  3. Suprabh 12 years ago

    Let me put it this way. I have lived all my India-Life in North India, and I did not find it as south Indian- many of the other remakes. I do however agree, on the songs, dances and picturization, even som of the additional cast (and their dubbing)..but the core part of it the theme- Politics-corruption- that did not go out of context at all and thats where the hindi version was a winner for me.

    The scene where paresh rawal tries to woo Anil into joining politics (ending at that disabled guy) is one of my favorite scenes of the last decade. Especially the line – “hamara desh bhi meri tarah langda ho gaya hai… aap isko utha lijiye” is just amazing.

    • Baba Ji 12 years ago

      100% agreed suprabh.Nayak is a very good film,yes songs have madrasi flavour,I alwaya hated Rani part in it.Wish there was no herione in would be a perfect film for me then.

  4. Author
    sputnik 12 years ago

    “yes hindi version is very OTT in comparison.”

    And South Indian movies are supposed to be OTT 😉

    I think you guys (Baba and suprabh) may have liked Nayak because you had not seen the original before. And may be if I had not seen Mudhalvan I would have liked Nayak too because it definitely has a new interesting concept of one day CM. I think the interview scene and the CM asking him to become CM for one day is the whole novelty of the movie.

  5. Baba Ji 12 years ago

    My favourite shankar films :Indian,Aparichit,Robot,Nayak in that order.I didn tlike jeans.The gentleman was ok.Sivaji was a not a great was saved by rajni.Hum se hai muqabla of prabhu deva was a bad film but had great songs the title song being my alltime favs 😀

    • fearlesssoul 12 years ago

      My Favorites – Indian, Robot, Anniyan/aparchit, and Nayak. Rest haven’t seen them. But baba Hrithik would be perfect choice for Anniyan not srk.

  6. Suprabh 12 years ago

    My favorite Shankar film is Indian. It was a very amazing concept. It is a brilliant film and would have been even more amazing minus the shankar’s typical directorial histrinoics and the songs.

  7. Author
    sputnik 12 years ago

    Ageee that Indian is his best too. I did not mind the songs but the comedy scenes were crap – the two comedian guys fighting and Urmila and Manisha fighting.

    Kamal was brilliant in the old man role but someone else should have played the younger Kamal Haasan role.

Leave a reply

Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?