The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘My film is the dinner and SRK the dessert’
A Kuchh Meetha Ho Jaye poster, and (above) actors Arshad Warsi and Mahima Chaudhury
in a moment from the same film

How easy is it for a film journalist to make a film'

It is a big step. The dream of making a film is always there. But journalism is a completely different ball game altogether. There is a lot of logistics involved in film-making and the most difficult is to get the money.

After moving from Delhi to Mumbai, my fascination for films grew in a big way. And as a film journalist I had to spend a lot of time on the sets interacting with all the film people of the industry. So my aspiration of making a film was a gradual process. I was fascinated with the art of film-making rather than the end product. I wanted to tell a story and to tell it well.

So your interviewing stars and directors made up for your lack of a formal training in film-making'

I have always maintained that my training has been done by all the Mumbai film-makers. I picked up the skills on the sets and then honed them. It hasn't been a problem that I didn't learn the technique formally. Also, my role as a journalist did help me in getting a fair idea of what the audiences would want or like to see in a film. While I can never say that I am right, I did have a fair judgment of which way the wind was blowing.

You always wanted to make Kuchh Meetha Ho Jaye'

The idea of Kuchh Meetha Ho Jaye first struck me around five years back. Then I started working on the idea. At the same time I was working as a journalist ' I didn't want to leave the profession. While I was toying with other ideas, the Kuchh Meetha' idea was always there. In fact, there was another film with Abhishek Bachchan which almost materialised. But it had to be Kuchh Meetha', I guess.

How did you get Shemaroo to produce your idea'

I think it was the novelty of the theme, which Shemaroo liked. They were venturing into film production for the first time. They were looking for a non-commercial subject. So my concept of six separate stories happening simultaneously at an airport impressed them enough to shell out the Rs 3.5 crore budget for the movie. I also had a very commercial approach to the topic which suited them just fine.

Add to that, I got my actors at a very reasonable rate. I used my personal connections as a film journalist to get hold of my cast. I exploited my friendship with them. The producers are also happy with the way the film has been shot. We shot in Malaysia for a 28-day start-to-finish schedule. And that was quite something with an ensemble cast of 18 members.

An entire film shot at an airport. Isn't that The Terminal'

There are only two similarities between Kuchh Meetha' and The Terminal. Both the films are set in an airport and the names of both directors start with the letter 'S'.

Seriously speaking, there are no similarities in the two story lines. My film is about how a simple delay in flight can change relationships. It's about six separate incidents running parallel at a small, lazy airport. Although shot in Malaysia, because of the convenience of logistics and good looks, it is shown as an Indian airport. The film has also been shot in real time. It's in fact inspired by cinematographer-director Santosh Sivan's condition, when he was stuck for 12 hours at the Rome airport due to a flight delay.

Newcomers Mahima Mehta and Shravan Chabbria in Kuchh Meetha Ho Jaye

Don't you fear that other film critics or industry veterans will lambast your film the way you had criticised many films as a journalist'

I never criticised any film. The films got what they deserved. I was doing a job then and I am doing a job now. My point is if the film is bad, go ahead and blast it. I think we give too much importance to the critics fraternity. These days the audience decides what they want to see. At one time, two critics in Mumbai were given demi-god status mainly because of the publications they were attached to. Today, things are much more transparent. There is not that much value for a critic or his critique. It is the word-of-mouth publicity that counts which again depends a lot on the multiplex mania and television talk. The audiences now have a wider sense of a particular film playing at the theatres.

Your film also marks the return of Arshad Warsi as a leading man. Was it a post-Munnabhai decision'

Arshad is not really the leading man of my film. There's an ensemble feel to the cast. There are 18 actors in that ensemble. Everyone from Sachin Khedekar to Irawati Harshe to Jaspal Bhatti to Sandhya Mridul to Parvin Dabbas. We also have two newcomers in Shravan Chabbria and Mahima Mehta. The only other film which I can remember tried something like this is Monsoon Wedding.

In true Bollywood tradition of the leading man, we are indeed using Arshad as a tool in our promotions. But it's also a fact that he is very important to the script. I had discussed my film with him before Munnabhai happened. The formalities happened after the film. After Munnabhai, he is, of course, a favourite with the audiences.

Writer-director Samar Khan

And the Shah Rukh Khan special appearance in your film is the worst kept secret'

(Laughs). While writing the film around three years back I had told Shah Rukh that there is an interesting cameo and I would like you to do it. He had said yes then. And hats off to him that he has kept his promise. However, I don't want to use him as the USP of the film. It's not an SRK film. My film is like a dinner and he is the dessert. If you don't like the dinner, you won't stay back for the dessert and the dessert can never save the dinner.

Do you foresee any problem with Cadbury's over the title, like Pepsi and Dil Maange More''

No there should be no problem with Cadbury's. We have already had our meetings with them and we have mentioned their name in the credits of the film. Also, the title was registered quite some time back. And these are completely different domains.

What's next after Kuchh Meetha Ho Jaye'

I really haven't thought about anything. I am waiting for the April 15 release of my film. I don't have the right to make another film if I am not accepted.

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