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.
Akiro Kurusawa’s The Red Beard, The Seven Samurai
Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, The Lost World
V.Shantaram’s Do Ankhen Bara Haath
Raj Kapoor’s Jagte Raho
Mani Ratnam’s Nayakan, Roja
Source : Filmfare August 2001Tags: Aamir Khan Aishwarya Rai Anil Kapoor Blast from the Past David Dhawan Dil Se Gentleman Hrithik Roshan Indian Interviews Jeans Kadalan Kamal Haasan Mani Ratnam Manisha Koirala Mudalvan Nayak Preity Zinta Ram Gopal Varma Rani Mukerji Retro Robot Shah Rukh Khan Shankar