As “Tell Me O Khuda” gets ready for Diwali release, director Hema Malini calls it an emotional ride.
Hema Malini dons many a cap with sheer grace. From playing the role of a young widow in “Andaaz” to her Filmfare Best Actress Award winning performance in “Seeta Aur Geeta”, to critically acclaimed films like “Khushboo” and “Ek Chadar Maili Si”, Hema Malini has come a long way but the aura still fails to fade. It feels like yesterday when we fell in love with the ever talking ‘Basanti' effortlessly riding her tonga through the loops and alleys of ‘Ramgarh'. In New Delhi recently for a promotional event of her second directorial venture, “Tell Me O Khuda” starring Esha Deol and Arjan Bajwa, we talk to the one and only ‘Dream Girl' of more than one generation.
It's been 16 years since you last directed “Dil Ashna Hai”. What is “Tell Me O Khuda” all about?
“Tell Me O Khuda” follows the story of Tanya (Esha), as she embarks on a journey to trace her origin. She symbolises today's youth who is on a never ending quest to achieve her near impractical dreams and ambitions, but at the same time sets off in search of her father. The movie is about every emotion that follows this journey of self-discovery. It's a very family-oriented film and I'm sure it's going to strike a chord with everyone alike, especially girls and their fathers are going to be deeply touched by the film. It is very emotional and I can assure you, once you come out of the theatre, you'll have a smile on your lips, and a tear in your eye.
It has been speculated that “Tell Me O khuda” packs in a lot many surprises?
The film has a very beautiful camel race, where these three youngsters, Esha, Arjan and Chandan, having no idea of Rajasthan competing against big and experienced camel racers, and how they ultimately win it. So it has a lot of action and excitement for the youth. At the same time we have roped in seasoned actors of the likes of Rishi Kapoor, Vinod Khanna, Farooque Sheikh and Dharamji. We have put in some comedy, but the underlying tone is emotional, which is not shown in a very high-toned drama kind of way. The film shot at different locations ranging from Turkey, Rajasthan, Goa, Mumbai to Bangkok. The title itself is very catchy giving the essence of the entire film – youth and tradition!
In this era of promotions where Shah Rukh Khan is going all the way to promote “Ra.One”, where does your film stand?
We are not competing with anybody. Both “RaOne” and “Tell Me O Khuda” are entirely different films, belonging to entirely different genres. We cannot compete with him (Shah Rukh Khan) in terms of promoting our film, because his is a very big budget film. He has to sell it too. Not that our film is small, but then we are doing everything in our capability to promote it. I feel if the story is nice, it pulls the audience no matter what and how. India is a vast country with a vast population. Concentrating on only one movie is ideally not fair. There has been a sudden downpour of comedy films lately, but then such baseless comedy is doing good at the box office, simply because not many good films are being made.
You are a seasoned classical dancer. Do you think this aspect of Indian culture is losing is its sheen with the advent of ‘item numbers'?
Absolutely! Esha is a very beautiful Odissi dancer, I could have used her very well in my film, but then at the end of the day who is going to watch it? Today it's all about “Munni Badnaam Hui” and “Shiela Jawaan Hui”! I mean who calls someone “Chammak Challo”, maybe somewhere in rural areas, that too a good 40-50 years back, but then these lyricists today blatantly use such names and frame a song. If you promise to bring me an audience, I would definitely like to make a dance-centred film. There are no producers today for such a concept. Even on television, I agree the kids have an enormous amount of talent and are dancing extremely well, but then the way they are being used to sell the show is sad and heart breaking.
Do you see a change in the level of direction now, from the time you directed “Dil Aashna Hai”, or the time you yourself acted for that matter?
There has been considerable change in direction thanks to technology. I feel it is a blessing and should be utilised to the best of our advantage. But then there is this ‘baad mein ho jayega' attitude, where if anything goes wrong, it can be fixed accordingly in post-production. It becomes an expensive affair but today producers are willing to shell out any amount to get it right. Earlier you had to do it correct on camera, but then there's a huge difference in quality. Those were the times! It was not so hi-tech, just a simple filter, proper lightings, proper picturisation. Also heroines then were far more beautiful. Today you hardly see a heroine for more than a second, just blink an eye and you have the second shot.
Esha started off quite well, but somewhere down the line she hasn't seen the best of times at the box office. What do you think is the reason?
Wrong selection of films! She could have been a bit more selective. But then you have all these big directors coming and signing her, you'll always think they will do the right thing, you can't expect that they are making some trash. That's where it goes wrong. Also luck is an important factor. You have to be very successful to be happy in this field, and when you are successful you are overburdened by expectations. And when you are unsuccessful it emotionally disturbs the child a lot. Here you make or break in a second because you are in the eyes of so many people. That is why Dharamji and myself were quite apprehensive about Esha acting. She is a very good interior designer, a football player, a good dancer…but she wanted to act.