As ‘Aakrosh' gets ready to strike, Priyadarshan shares some tricks of his trade.
In an industry where profound and popular seldom meet, Priyadarshan is an exception that needs to be analysed. For three decades, the director has been shifting genres with remarkable results. A couple of years back when his critics had begun to find his work trivial; he shut them up with the National Award winning Kanchivaram. He soon returned to his De Dana Dan ways and Khatta Meetha offerings. Now he is ready with Aakrosh, which he suggests is a return to his Saza-e-Kalapani and Virasat variety. “Ninety five per cent of my contemporaries have retired; I survived because I kept changing with time. Be it technology or aesthetics. I am one of the very few directors from the South who have a pan-Indian appeal.”
But many from his state, like Adoor Gopalakrishnan, didn't go after popular appeal. “It is not a matter of choice; it's a matter of ability.” He says when he makes a film like Kanchivaram he knows from the production stage that the film won't be a box office success. “Such films are for your creative satisfaction but I am equally enthusiastic about my comedies, because I know a majority of audiences go to the cinema for popular entertainment. My critics might say Priyadarshan creates comic capers, but I know how difficult it is to make people laugh. But I do agree there is a sameness to it and that's why I keep trying different genres.”
Priyadarashan says he is prolific because cinema is the only thing he is passionate about from his school days. “Had I not been a filmmaker, I would have been surviving on alms. Thank God, I am good at it!”
He is known to regularly adapt his own Malayalam films in Hindi. One wonders what creative satisfaction he draws from the exercise. “In Malayalam cinema budgets are quite tight. I always felt what I could have been done if the producer had invested some more money. In Hindi I got that advantage. Also, as I said I wanted a pan-Indian audience to watch my work. Even when I was young I used to compare films and actors. What if Prem Nazir dressed up as Dev Anand!”
He gets a fresh script written even for his remakes. “I give the task to the writers who know the North Indian audience well. Sometimes they don't work hard enough and I have to hear that the dialogues sounded like literal translations.”
He has worked with an actor like Mohanlal in 27 films and rates him as the best actor in the country. Even better than Amitabh Bachchan? “I am a fan of only two people in the world. Amitabh Bachchan and Farokh Engineer, but when it comes to versatility, nobody can beat Mohanlal. He could play any character under the sun.”
But how does he dumb down the intellectually stimulating tone of the originals? “Because of high literacy levels, you can have a lot of unsaid stuff in Malayalam films, but for Hindi audience you have to explain most of the things. That's why all my Hindi adaptations have one reel extra!”
Having remade virtually all his Malayalam films, Priyadarshan has now turned to a fresh script with Aakrosh. “I could feel that I was getting repetitive. I needed some fresh challenge when I saw this news story on honour killings. It is an entertainer treated as a crime thriller with honour killing as the underlying theme. Three medical students go missing in a village in a state resembling Eastern UP-Bihar. When two CBI cops (Ajay Devgn and Akshaye Khanna) go to figure out the truth, they come face-to-face with some dark secrets of the society.”
Priyadarshan says the film is not a critique of honour killings. “It is an analysis of the problem, which says killing for whatever reason shouldn't be supported.” Aakrosh will be followed by another thriller, Tez. Priyadarshan says the film about a journey from London to Paris with terrorism as the background is no longer called Bullet Train. Once again Devgn plays the lead.