The promos of Gali Gali Chor Hai give the impression of a comedy but there seems to be a strong social message too...
There is no intentional effort on our part to spread a social message through this film. There is no preaching… this just isnt that kind of a film. Its purely a mainstream Bollywood comedy… a satire, to be exact. If someone takes away something from the film in terms of a learning, then thats a separate thing.
But one does get the impression that the film is themed on the anti-corruption movement that is so big in India now...
Yes, Anna Hazare and the whole drive against corruption is very big now. You get to read about some new scam or the other in the papers every day. The subject matter is extremely topical and the whole media focus over the last six or eight months has been on these stories related to corruption that are breaking every day. So definitely there is a lot of awareness about corruption among the people of this country today.
But as I said, our film doesnt only deal with corruption. Its about the system that the common Indian man has to put up with for no fault of his own. Though the theme seems pretty dark and depressing, its treated in a very entertaining way and is yet very real. Its a very intelligently written film and thats precisely what I reacted to when I heard the script for the first time. Our Hindi film comedies tend to be a little frivolous… the kind that tell you to leave your brains at home. This is not that kind of a comedy. But then again, no one in the film is deliberately trying to be funny. Its the circumstances as such that make the characters hilarious.
But arent you hoping that the film will benefit from the topicality of its theme?
Its very difficult for me to predict whats going to happen on Friday. I really dont know whether it will strike a chord just because the subject matter is topical. If you look at the other side of the coin, there is also the possibility that this may turn out to be a disadvantage because people may just be too sick and tired of reading and hearing about the same thing, na?
What can you tell us about your role?
This is a guy (Bharat) who works as a bank cashier. He is an everyday man, the kind you would bump into on a daily basis. He could be your neighbour, a middle-class man living in a small town. This is the story of his life. The film wants to say that the law of the land should be the same for everybody, irrespective of your social status or financial position. In that sense, it is every Indians story. Its about red-tapism, how a common man is taken for a ride by this countrys system.
How was it working with Rumy Jaffrey as a director?
I have worked with him as a writer (in Aa Ab Laut Chalen), but never as a director. Rumy is someone I have always got along well with. I have known him for years. Hes an excellent writer… in terms of commercial successes, his films will be right up there. When I heard the script for Gali Gali Chor Hai, the thing that struck me first was that it really came from the heart. Its a film devoid of any pretence and that is also essentially what Rumy is in life. He made the film exactly how he had narrated it to me. Its a very simple story very simply told.
You have done 30 films in 15 years. Why are you so choosy?
Some years I have three releases and then some years I dont have a single film. There may be a year when I dont like a single script thats offered to me. No man likes to wake up in the morning and not go to work. If I had my way, I would do more than three or four films in a year. But just because I want to work every day, it doesnt mean that I will accept anything that is offered to me. The level of script-writing in our industry — apart from a few films — is really not up to the mark.
But dont you feel insecure when you see your contemporaries and even the younger lot of heroes far ahead of you in the box-office race?
I would have felt insecure if I wasnt being offered films. At any given point of time, I can do half-a-dozen films based on the offers that I get. Work keeps coming my way all the time; I just dont take it up most of the time.
Have you never felt the urge to be part of the numbers game?
For that you have to have a Dilwale (Dulhania Le Jayenge) or a Hum Aapke Hain Koun! Its films like these that make our actors superstars. I have never had a film like that. Till such time that a film of mine does that kind of Rs 100-crore business, I will never be a part of the numbers game. But then, one has to keep trying, na? I do the films that appeal to me and I keep hoping that they will work.
Do you think that the high bar you have set keep producers away when it comes to offering you films?
No…no…noooo… there are so many films that I have done that have flopped miserably. Which goes to say that I may like a film, but its not necessary that the audience will. There is no formula that I have or anyone else has as to what will work at the box office. Whats important for me is that I should enjoy every film I work in, without really thinking about how it will do commercially. Once you get into that mind space, things automatically work out better.
Films are clearly not the be-all and end-all of life for you and neither are you seen at Bollywoods social dos. What do you do when you are not working?
I dont really do anything interesting. My life is pretty ordinary and pretty boring. I do all the regular things. I do a lot of gardening… I read a lot… I spend my evenings exercising… I swim… I play squash… do yoga. Nothing that I do in life is likely to make anyone say Wow! But yes, the Bollywood party thing… the going out thing… is just not my scene at all. I am just not interested.
Your personal life has always been extremely private…
And I would like to keep it that way. See, marriage is a very dangerous thing. If you get a wrong person, it can destroy your life. One cant be impulsive when it comes to marriage. As for me, I think that I am still too young to get married. I am just 36! (Laughs out loud.) For me, post-45 will be a good time to get married. Right now, I am married to the world! I am married to every woman, why should I just commit to one?