Five years after her quirky comedy Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd. charmed us, Reema Kagti is ready with her Aamir Khan-Rani Mukerji-Kareena Kapoor-starrer Talaash, that hits screens on November 30. A t2 chat…
Everyone is looking forward to Talaash…
That’s a really wonderful thing to hear. I know that many are really looking forward to the film and the promos have really piqued their interest. Everyone’s saying it’s looking interesting and intriguing at this point. I think we did well going in with a dialogue promo because that’s standing out among the rest of the trailers that are on air.
How did Talaash happen?
When Zoya (Akhtar) and I were writing the screenplay, we always had Aamir (Khan) in mind though things were quite premature. I also knew that the film required the protagonist to swim and we all know that Aamir couldn’t swim before Talaash (laughs). When we finished the screenplay, we approached Aamir during Ghajini and he told us he was busy and wouldn’t be listening to scripts for a year-and-a-half at least. At that point, we did approach other people… a lot of names have been spoken about and I don’t want to get into that all over again [Shah Rukh Khan was approached for Talaash]. Eventually, we went back to Aamir two years ago when he was willing to listen to scripts. I narrated Talaash to him and he signed on. So in a very long and complicated way, it has all kind of come together.
I would also like to say that Talaash is a suspense drama, not a thriller. I know that most films with suspense end up being thrillers, but this one’s different in the sense that the core of the film is very emotional. There is the gripping, edge-of-the-seat element but it’s not a thriller.
Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd. was in 2007. What took you so long to make your second film?
It wasn’t something that I wanted consciously. I was, in fact, working very hard and hoping that it wouldn’t take so much time, but these things happen and I don’t know what to put it down to. It happens to all actors and directors… it’s part and parcel of the job, I guess. It didn’t really affect me because I am not really in competition with anyone here. Having said that, Talaash is a great second film for any director.
Honeymoon Travels was a breezy comedy with strong undertones, while Talaash is a suspense drama. Was this change of genre deliberate?
It was not at all conscious. It happened in a very organic way. I love the story of Talaash and it’s very special to me because it is Zoya’s and mine first collaboration ever. The story came to us when we were still ADs (assistant directors) and one day we were bouncing ideas and Talaash just came to us. We took it to Farhan (Akhtar) and Ritesh (Sidhwani) who really liked it, and Zoya and I worked on it further and Talaash became what it is today.
From an ending similar to Kahaani to parts being inspired by the Aarushi Talwar murder case, there have been all sorts of stories about Talaash over the past few months...
Because it’s a suspense drama, I can’t really tell you anything about the story but yes, I can tell you that Talaash is totally an original story. We haven’t consciously borrowed it from any film or written material. Once you see the film, that will be the majority opinion and I am very confident of that. I keep hearing so many stories but there’s nothing that really can be done. Let people watch the film and then decide. Also, if so many stories and conjectures are floating around, I am quite happy because at least I know that my film is being discussed.
Did having Aamir around put extra pressure, given that he is also a co-producer here and was entitled to creative inputs?
Honestly, the pressure that comes from having Aamir on board is not something that I think is negative. People have expectations from an Aamir Khan film and I have been aware ever since he came on board that the focus will be on him. All of us have put our best foot forward and I have made the film that I set out to make. Having Aamir in the film has only enhanced and bettered that experience.
There has been talk of Aamir’s interference and his creative differences with you…
I can honestly tell you that my experience with Aamir has been very good. I found him to be supportive and cooperative. As an actor he is wonderful… he took the trouble of doing exactly what the film demanded of him. He brings an enthusiasm and sincerity to the sets that’s very inspiring. He never makes you feel that he’s one of the biggies (laughs). He brings a lot to the table both as an actor and a producer, and in spite of being who he is, he was extremely open to ideas from a second-time director like me. I always found him respectful of my vision for the film. Yes, he had his inputs but all of those were to enhance what I was already doing — at no point of time did he and I think different. And honestly, my actors are supposed to give me inputs… filmmaking is a collaborative art and I am not a director who likes to function in a vacuum.
You worked as an assistant director on Lagaan and Dil Chahta Hai. How have you seen Aamir evolve as an actor and grow as a star?
One of Aamir’s very strong points is that he has a vision. The film industry was going through a bad patch in the ’80s and by the time it came to the ’90s, it was like you had to make a bad film to be successful (laughs). I feel that Aamir, through his body of work, has truly brought quality back into the equation. More than any other actor, he’s worked towards bringing in good and meaningful stories and concepts into our films, without sacrificing the element of entertainment. He’s set the bar high, right from his first film (Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak) to now… he’s pushed the envelope of filmmaking and is willing to experiment much more than any other actor.
As a producer, he backs relevant projects… who would think that a film on farmer suicide would have the kind of reach that Peepli Live finally had? He’s a trendsetter and in an industry like ours where people generally like to play it safe, Aamir automatically becomes very special.
You wrote the film with Zoya, Farhan has produced Talaash, but they are also directors themselves. Did they pitch in with creative inputs or stay within their designated roles?
Apart from being the co-writer of Talaash, Zoya is also my best friend. When she speaks to me about the film, it’s an honest reaction. The process through the filming of Talaash was that I would sit with the producers and we would watch each cut as and when it happened. Everybody had their say and it was a very democratic process. I am grateful for the inputs and I weighed and considered each one of them because they came from people far more experienced than me. I never felt, even for a minute, that anyone was trying to undermine me as the director of this film.