If cinema is about technique and entertainment, Vipul Shah has been able to deliver consistently. After getting his timing right with Waqt, he entered the big league with Namaste London . He is keeping his London connection going with London Dreams. He insists it is not about some superstition but the demand of the script. “Every year youngsters from Punjab go to England legally or illegally to make a name in the world of what they call underground music or grunge.” Vipul has achieved a casting coup by bringing together Salman Khan and Ajay Devgn after Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. Again he gives it to the story. “It is about two childhood friends. One of them diligently pursues his musical dream while the other is a maverick. The problem begins when the maverick gets more adulation; his friend who has assiduously pursued his dream begins to feel threatened and jealous.” No prizes for guessing that Ajay plays the intense, meticulous one while Salman plays the irreverent child at heart.
“At the core, they play to their strengths, but I have styled the characters against their image. Ajay is not known to be part of musicals, but here we have turned him into a stylish rockstar with earrings. On the other hand, Salman is considered to be trendy but here he plays a son of the soil.”
The plot is being compared to a wide range of films from the Oscar winning Amadeus to the obnoxious Shaka Laka Boom Boom. “A section of the media thrives on easy comparisons. In Amadeus the two protagonists don’t know each other, and are big names in the industry. If jealousy is the similarity, then my film is closer to Baiju Bawra or Abhiman , where the two protagonists at least know other. Some people have said it is another Rock On! because it has musical concerts. Then why not compare it with Amitabh Bachchan’s Yaarana , it also had a music show!”
Vipul says he has devised a simple three-pronged formula. “First, the script should be entertaining but the entertainment should be sensible. It should have something for the mind. To me Sholay, Lagaan, Waqt... all in this category. Secondly, I go for family entertainers, films which a son can watch with his mother without getting embarrassed. And, thirdly, audience should be able to take some message with them.”
So what’s the message of London Dreams? “When you go up the ladder in life, it should not impact your relationship with your relatives and friends. I am seeing this happen. Believe me, despite moving from theatre to television and now, films, I still have the same circle of friends — JD, Atish Kapadia (he wrote Vipul’s first two films) and Deven Bhojani.”
Vipul recalls how when he acted in plays at Prithvi theatre, he would critically observe other actors during the performances. “I used to find faults with their make-up, costume, and even dialogue delivery. It is there that I realised I should direct, and my friends backed me.”
Going by his formula, his production Singh is Kinng doesn’t pass muster as sensible entertainment. “See, I liked the concept but every film bears a director’s stamp, and it had the stamp of Anees Bazmee,” he evades.
As a producer, he looks for variety. His next production is Barnali Shukla’s Kuchh Love Jaisa, which has his wife Shefali Shah (she has just won the National Award for the best supporting actress) and Rahul Bose in the lead.
“It is an interesting tale about what happens when a housewife and a criminal meet in a restaurant.” Meanwhile, he is set to move on to Action Replay with his favourite Akshay Kumar and Aishwarya Rai in the lead. And yes, the comparisons are already on!