Director Gautam Vasudev Menon who re-enters Bollywood with “Ekk Deewana Tha”, a remake of “Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa”, talks about the fresh treatment to the film
One of those rare filmmakers in the South who is not afraid to speak his mind, Gautham Vasudev Menon, has to be constantly reminded not to say anything that may touch a raw nerve in Bollywood now. “You don't want to upset people there too,” one of his partners cautions, urging him not to mention films he doesn't like, during our interview.
Gautham laughs it off. “Sit with me alone, and you'll get a very different interview,” he says. He's only half-joking, but given that his company is just setting foot in the Hindi film business with “Ekk Deewana Tha”, the remake of the much-acclaimed “Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa”, Gautham tries hard to steer off controversy this time around. Excerpts from the interview.
How are you finding the move to Mumbai?
Don't make me out to be a hotshot Mumbai director. I'm not. We shot in Mumbai in 60 days spread over five months. We also shot in Goa and Kerala. The first chance I get to come back to Chennai, I'm on that flight.
How different is this film from the original?
It's a new film in the sense it's got Prateik, who's a little more endearing and vulnerable than Simbu who played it very aggressive because I had written it like that. But when I was working with Prateik and got talking to him, I realised that more than the aggression, the vulnerability comes through. So, I let him play it like that. It's the same film otherwise, in terms of structure. We are keeping the climax a surprise.
Did you decide to retain the same music as well?
I left it to Rahman sir. He changed the singers because people would've already heard the Tamil songs and when they listen to the Hindi, there should be something fresh. He said let's do a new song. He's really busy, so I got the original songs done first with Javed saab. Rahman sir said he'll turn ‘Kannukkul' into a rap version. And then one day, when we were working on some other song, he asked Javed saab if he could put together something in a certain format. Javed Saab wrote the lyrics in 20 minutes, which he really liked, and he composed ‘Kya Hai Mohabbat'. We are shooting it now.
Does the original haunt you or is it easy to let go?
Initially, I was hell bent on shooting abroad in New York and Malta because the visuals were nice, but I realised it may be not just the visuals, but also about the feel. I stopped being stuck-up about my film, and opened up to do different things with it. Comparisons will be there, but I've grown over that to say I really don't care about comparisons. There's a whole fresh audience that hasn't watched the original film, and they might just like this for being a fresh story with great music.
Do you watch Hindi films?
I watch all the big films — ‘Agneepath', ‘Don 2', ‘Ra.One'... I liked ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara'.
Do you think you need to do things differently for a Hindi audience? ‘Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein' didn't work for them. What's your learning from that film?
I think the audience is the same everywhere; I want to be proven wrong. I'm waiting to see. For ‘RHTDM', we didn't shoot in Mumbai at all. The original was a simple Chennai film. So, when the producers made me shoot in Durban, I couldn't do it. The time is right for me to do Hindi. Things are more in my control.
You've cast an American actor as an Indian girl, a controversial choice.
I liked Amy Jackson in ‘Madrasapattinam'. We have worked on her look and made her look Malayali Syrian Christian. I was sure I wanted a new girl. It could have been anybody, but I thought just like she walks into his life, she should walk into the audience's lives and hearts. Her lip sync is perfect. I spent very less time on retakes with her.
Do you think Hindi films treat romance differently?
That was my pitch to Fox Star. It's a throwback-to-the-old-world kind-of film. In Hindi, we have been seeing this modern romance over the last two years. The concept of love as what people see it and know it is what I'm trying to make. I haven't seen that in Hindi. Not that there's anything wrong with these new-age modern romance films. But the way those films are handled, the clothes the actors wear... is not natural to me. I prefer a modern ‘Dev D' any day to how love has been handled in all these modern love stories. I have tried to bring a bit of realism.
What plans do you have for your company Photon Kathaas nationally?
Nationally, we can't beat the mass film system. You want to work with big stars, so we want to make a ‘Vettaiyaadu Vilayaadu' with an SRK or a Salman…