The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Salaam-e-Ishq is full-on Bollywood’

What is the official reason of not making your second film with Karan Johar'

I think enough has been written and said about why I have not made my second film with Karan Johar. Dharma Productions is a great production house. It’s a wonderful place and I never thought that I would leave it. But misunderstanding and miscommunication have led to me being where I am today. Karan and I didn’t speak to each other at one point when we should have. Today I have started my own production house but I know very well that I would not have been able to make Salaam-e-Ishq the way I have made it if I hadn’t made Kal Ho Naa Ho. I will always be grateful to Karan, Yash Johar and Dharma Productions.

And Salaam-e-Ishq does come from that school of film-making…

Most people would say that. It does come from the Dharma Productions school of film-making which is grand, little more fantasy-oriented than daily life. But when you watch Salaam-e-Ishq you will notice certain touches of realism. Whether it is Govinda’s taxi driver character, whether it is Anil Kapoor’s mid-life crisis or whether it is Akshaye Khanna’s whole commitment issue... Those are the doses of realism that I have tried to incorporate into this world of Indian cinema but it does come from the Johar school.

After Kal Ho Naa Ho, everyone knows that you can direct a film. But that was written by Karan. So is Salaam-e-Ishq a challenge for you the scriptwriter'

That is the greatest challenge as far as Salaam-e-Ishq the film is concerned. Kal Ho Naa Ho, you have to be a dunce to have not made it the way it was made. It was wonderfully written and structured by Karan. All I had to do is what I do very well and that is to find the correct locations, mount and film and give it a certain language of technique to it. I could do that only because the script was so detailed.

So, for Salaam-e-Ishq the challenge is the writing. And not only because there is no Karan in this film, but also because of the subject we have tried to tackle. Here are six love stories with 12 different lives which at one point of time have to start coming together. It’s not as if it is episodic, going from one short story to another. I have taken the Love Actually structure where we are cutting into all of the tracks constantly. So how do you maintain the emotional graph of the film where each track and each character has an emotional graph of its own'

Does it bother you that many-stories-in-one films like Yuva, the Darna films and Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota haven’t found favour with the audience'

I would be lying if I say that I am not concerned. But then Salaam-e-Ishq is a very light film. Yuva had a very high dose of realism with chawls of Calcutta and student politics. Yun Hota... also has to do with terrorism and all. The advantage with Salaam-e-Ishq is that at the end of the day it’s a frothy romantic comedy. It’s full-on Bollywood. I am not trying to be “different” at all. All the characters will make you laugh when they are supposed to make you laugh and make you cry when they are supposed to make you cry. It’s vintage Dharma Productions school of film-making.

So you admit you are trying to play safe with a successful formula and the biggest of stars in your cast'

You can always go wrong. You never know what happens on that fateful Friday. At the end of the day it’s six stories put together by Saurabh Shukla, Suresh Nair and myself, which we felt needed to be explored in a film about love. You do try and minimise the risks but I think there is a certain amount of risk involved. You might go in thinking it’s a Salman Khan film and you will discover that he has equal footage as John Abraham, Anil Kapoor, Akshaye Khanna and Govinda. And you might come out feeling cheated.

You feel a huge line-up of stars eats into each other’s following and might backfire'

The star presence is given but it is not just about stars. Anybody who has been following Indian cinema regularly would agree that Salaam-e-Ishq also has very good actors. Anil Kapoor, he is a brilliant actor. Govinda, even Mr (Amitabh) Bachchan has said he is a superb actor. Akshaye Khanna, you can actually watch and hear his brain ticking all the time. Salman Khan, you can’t have someone in the same position for 20 years if he doesn’t know what is required of him in a film. The only thing you need to do as a director with such actors is to say “stop”. When you watch Salaam-e-Ishq, you will get bombarded by wonderful acting.

On January 25 you have a release date after four years. How do you feel'

I have got a fair dose of acidity at this point. As I speak, I am pacing up and down the corridors of Anand Dubbing Studio. The hallowed halls here have posters of Guide, Tere Mere Sapne and Hare Rama Hare Krishna which are staring at me. I just hope I can have a poster of Salaam-e-Ishq here which I can proudly look up to 10 or 15 years down the line.

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