The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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'For a dad, son comes first'

It's been more than 15 years since you produced Hum. Where were you all this time'

After Hum, I made the Bengali film Bondhu starring Danny Denzongpa and Tapas Pal. Then I made the same film in Hindi with a different actor in place of Tapas. But at that time, I didn't get distributors to release the Hindi film. Now, necessity being the mother of invention, I ventured into television and turned that film into a TV series called Ajnabee for DD Metro. From there on, I got sucked into the world of television and made three or four major soaps like Usool and Tulsi. I myself never realised how all these years went by.

So what brought you back to celluloid'

I knew I had to get back to films at some point of time. I made this 42-episode French television series Cest La Vie (This Is Life), which is the original of Dil Jo Bhi Kahey. That enjoyed 87.6 per cent viewership and was a big success there. So it was already tested for a small market. My son Karan, who plays the lead in Dil Jo', also played the lead there. Hence, we decided to make the Hindi film which will see me debut as a director and Karan as the hero.

Wasn't it boring, scripting the same story again'

When I was writing the Hindi script, I had to block out the French tele-series from my mind. It was left in the sub-conscious level only. I just disconnected from what had happened. So writing the film was a major exercise and it took a lot of time. At every stage I was ensuring that it was different from the television series despite the story being the same.

What is the story'

It's a love story between an Indian boy Jai (Karan Sharma) and a British girl Sophia (Annabelle Wallis), which is opposed by cultural conflicts. There is also another angle in the form of Bhoomika Chawla. While the romance is the base of the film, the cultural demarcations form the core. Amitabh Bachchan plays the understanding bridge between the mother (Revathy) and the son, who are on two ends of the spectrum.

Amitabh Bachchan and Revathy in Dil Jo Bhi Kahey, and (below) Karan Sharma and Annabelle Wallis in the film

You have got one of the best teams in front of and behind the camera'

Oh yes. I have this fantastic technical team with Shankar Ehsaan Loy scoring the music, Javed Akhtar writing the lyrics and Binod Pradhan doing the camerawork. As far as the cast goes, I have had the privilege of working with Amitji and Revathy in the same film. Dil Jo Bhi Kahey is so much about the two of them and they say so much without saying anything. It's quite a simple film actually but without the two of them, it would never have had such a big impact.

What was it like directing your son'

We had done TV together. While writing the film, I used to bounce ideas off him so that by the time we started working, it would have all seeped inside him. When we started shooting, Karan was quite there, knowing what to do and when. I also had to work with Annabelle, who too debuts with the film. The thing with newcomers is that once they are secure with you, they are great to work with.

Where did you find Annabelle'

Since we wanted a foreign face, we hired a casting director from London, who would get actresses to read out three important scenes in the film. Finally, after auditioning around 80 to 90 people, we shortlisted Annabelle. What I liked about her was the spontaneity and her absolute ease with the camera.

So what would you call Dil Jo Bhi Kahey ' the directorial debut of Romesh Sharma or the launchpad of Karan Sharma'

For a dad, it's always the son first. At the same time I always wanted to make a film. In the 1980s, I had planned a movie with Anil Kapoor which couldn't come through and I subsequently got into this roller-coaster ride on television. So although it is very much Karan's launch film, it's also a big moment for me, personally.

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