On the eve of the release of Agneepath, what’s going through your mind?
I’m excited. The energy around the film is amazing. There’s been tremendous excitement and curiosity. Of course, curiosity comes with expectations. The original Agneepath has a cult following. Both the films are different from each other. The protagonist and the antagonist remain the same but their characterisation and presentation is completely different. Hrithik (Roshan) is more of an underdog while Sanjay (Dutt) is more flamboyant and menacing than Danny saab was in the original. Till people see the film, we’ll go on justifying that the film is different, how it’s different and where it’s different. Dharma Productions is making a full on action film after quite some time. Ironically, our last action film was Agneepath, 20 years ago. My production house and I are known for its love, romance and family dramas. This is a hard, rough, action thriller. If this works, it will give us the power to pull off more films of this genre.
The original Agneepath was a box office failure. What expectations do you have from this one?
Honestly, the tonality and the syntax of this film is so hardcore, it’s totally mainstream. It’s an easier film to heat up the box office. But till box office reports come in, you can never really tell. We have our fingers and toes crossed. I’ll be very happy if this film works because my father was dejected when the earlier Agneepath didn’t work. We were at our darkest end that time, emotionally and financially. We had to take Dharma Productions forward once the film released. But that didn’t happen. My father had to take drastic monetary decisions. Agneepath has left a big mark on our lives. Of course, it gave us all the respect but it left a permanent dent in my father’s aspirations. I’m emotional about the film. So getting it right will mean a hell of a lot to me. My father had told me, ‘Tu nahin bana sakta par yeh picture banni chahiye.’ We got such tremendous reception during the trials of the film. People would come and say you have made a Sholay. When you’ve heard so much and then the film crashes on day one, it’s devastating. I remember my father talking to exhibitors across the nation and being told numbers were dropping, the audience didn’t like Amit uncle’s (Amitabh Bachchan) voice, they found it too heavy. My father made films like Muquaddar Ka Faisla and Duplicate. They too didn’t work but they were not good films. Agneepath was a brilliant film. It was shattering when it didn’t work.
Should originals be tampered with?
Not all. Some yes. You cannot remake a Sholay. Agneepath got cult love but it didn’t get wider recognition. It doesn’t come in the top 100 movies of all time. So why not make it again and give it the box office winner tag? Why shouldn’t a Don be remade? It has the thriller/spy feel to it. It should be remade. You can’t remake a Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Because you can’t revisit those moments which all of us shared to create them. You can’t.
Your assistants, whether Siddharth Malhotra or Renzil D’Silva haven’t lived up to expectations. What makes you think it’ll be different with Karan Malhotra and Agneepath?
They’ve all made their mark in their own way. Yes, some films have worked, some haven’t. Tarun (Mansukhani) made a mark with Dostana. The film had the bubblegum quality that Karan Johar films are known for. Punit’s (Malhotra) I Hate Luv Storys was a box office hit and that’s what matters in the end. I don’t think Punit pretended to make anything else. Kurbaan was a disappointment for all of us because we thought we’d made something different. But I have complete faith in Renzil. I have faith in these kids that they’ll come into their own with their second film. Fortunately, some of them got a hit with their first film. They all are ambitious. Karan Malhotra is actually making a film which an established filmmaker should be making. The onus is on Karan because he has to satisfy many expectations. I am proud of what he has made.
What happens when you see a film made by your assistant and you don’t like it?
Kaal didn’t work for me. I’m sure Soham Shah is capable of making a good film but that wasn’t a good film. That’s why I added two item songs. As a producer, I did that and the film got a thunderous opening and no one lost money. I’ve produced two-three films, which I haven’t liked, but I can’t disown them. When you put faith in someone, you can’t back out. Sometimes you go right, sometimes you go wrong. I hate it when distributors lose money. When Kurbaan tanked, I compensated them duly. Then I gave them I Hate Luv Storys at a good price. The film was a big hit and they got their money back. I’m not here to make money by myself. I make sure people don’t lose money. I want to leave behind the legacy of goodwill inherited from my father. Which doesn’t only mean being good to people but also means to be correct in business. I don’t want to over charge. If I want to, I can make a hundred movies tomorrow and go screaming to the bank. But will that make me sleep well at night? No. Will that make me happy? No. Money is secondary for me. The quality of my cinema is my priority. Would I make a good film which will earn `5-6 crore less than what my movies normally earn? I will go ahead and make it. Cinema over money any day. I’d rather put the money in a great shot than in my bank.