Subhash Ghai tells Harshini Vakkalanka that he now has multiple roles to play — director, producer and educationist — and is eager to do more
He is famous for naming his first few films — “Kalicharan” and “Vishwanath” — after cricket players. He is known for launching stars like Madhuri Dixit and Jackie Shroff. This director, known as the “Showman of Bollywood” for his grand, epic-like movies, began his career as a struggling actor and launched his first film in 1976 under the Sippy banner after it was rejected seven times. In the past decade he has turned to producing under his banner, Mukta Arts, having produced films like “Black and White” (2008), “36 China Town” (2006), “Iqbal” (2005), “Aitraaz” (2004) and “Jogger's Park” (2003). Apart from producing, he has also been quite busy with his institute — the Whistling Woods International Institute for films, media, animation and media arts.
He was in the city to launch the first Cinemax multiplex in Bengaluru along with the star cast of “Love Express”, his latest flick. “Love Express” is the first movie made from scratch by the students of Whistling Woods and almost entirely stars newcomers from the institute. “When I watched the film that they had made, I loved it. One can expect more movies from the future batches of the institute. People want new concepts, new directors and new faces. ‘Love Express' is not the sort of niche film one would expect from students of a film school. It is a commercial film with a limited budget. I think they did a pretty good job,” he gushed at the press conference.
Later, talking about the institute in a private chat, he said that there has been an increasing inflow of newcomers who want to be directors and actors. “Earlier they had no support. They used to come to me feeling bad that they had no family background in films. So I spoke to the Maharashtra government and started a film school campus in Mumbai,” he explained. But why did he switch from directing to producing and now educating? “Directing is taxing. It needs emotional, physical, spiritual, mental involvement. It means that I can't even eat properly for eighteen months. As a producer, I can be creative. I can assign the work to a veteran and sit back. Besides, I enjoy producing. when I was directing, I would only stay in touch with stars and had no time for students. I feel that producing is an achievement in terms of happiness. I have already played my innings, now I need to do something else.”
What does he feel about today's Bollywood? How has it performed in the global scenario? “Why do you call it Bollywood?” he bristles. “It is Hindi cinema. It is local cinema just like any Asian cinema is. We keep on trying to compare. But the Indian and Western way of life is different. Why should we talk the way they talk? Can Steven Spielberg make movies the way we do?” he asks agitatedly.
Phases come and go, but how has Subhash Ghai evolved over the years? He muses: “I started as a struggling actor, then I became a director, a producer and now I'm an educationist. Just as you evolve with age and begin to understand life better, I have begun to understand cinema through a broader perspective. Earlier, I wanted to make money. But now I want to give knowledge and experience to youngsters.”
Just like Alfred Hitchcock, he is known to make cameo appearances in the movies that he directs. Is he one of Ghai's inspirations? Who does he get inspired by? He answers airily: “Inspirations change from one age to the other, as you go on recognising better people in the field. I have been inspired by so many filmmakers ranging from Bimal Roy to David Lean. I keep asking myself what's next. ”
Is the same question — what's next – applicable to his film ventures? He reveals his plans saying that he would be producing two films — a racy one for Abbas-Mustan (who are famous for action-thrillers like Race, Humraaz) and a comedy for Priyadarshan (of “De Dhana Dhan”, “Bhool Bhulaiyaa” fame). He is also set to direct and produce an action movie.
Will the ‘Showman' of Bollywood dazzle his audiences again? He shrugs off the title saying, “I have never accepted the title that the media gave me. They told me it's because of my large canvas...,” he trails off, and calls out to someone, “Thoda chai-wai toh pila do yaar…” It seems that these directorial quirks remain but we will have to wait and see how the ‘Showman' will unveil his grandeur the next time around.
Keywords: Subhash Ghai