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`I like happy endings'

Nagesh Kukunoor insists that Hyderabad Blues 2 is anti-slick and fun

Nagesh Kukunoor: `Stereotypes are not born out of accidents. There are enough people falling into that segment.' — Photo: Sampath Kumar G.P.

ONE MAY have had one's share of quarrels with Nagesh Kukunoor's Hyderabad Blues, released in 1997. But there is no denying the fact that it was a pioneering effort. It told a story not told (at least not loudly enough) till then — about all the confusions of urban youngsters, in their own language. It also went on to create history as the highest grossing low-budget Indian English film.

Now we have a sequel — Hyderbad Blues 2, Rearranged Marriage. It takes off from where the first one ended, six years after the rather dramatic marriage between Ashwini and Varun Naidu. The famous seven-year itch has set in a year in advance...

The film gives you a sense of déjà vu — like all sequels are meant to. The famous line ("Dil pe mat le yaar... ") is back and so are the familiar scenes of the protagonist waking up to loud music in the gali and of things getting tied up in a marriage hall at the end. But is there too much déjà vu? Does everything sound a bit too predictable, tired, stereotypical, and self-conscious the second time over — all things that were there in the first, but overlooked simply because it was the first of its kind?

Nagesh Kukunoor, the director-actor — one-time chemical engineer who chucked a lucrative job because the thought of "settling down with two kids and a dog" terrified him — staunchly defended his film on his recent promotional trip to the city.

Excerpts from the interview:

I was wondering why you stopped short of allowing the protagonist to have an affair and then handling that more complex situation within the frame of a marriage. It's easy when the boy and the girl are essentially "good", isn't it?

It was interesting to take this stand when we are supposedly undergoing a sexual revolution in India. It's a question of a broken trust. Till that point, it doesn't enter Ashwini's head that Varun can potentially mess around with someone. But once it does, it becomes a 24/7 thing. It's about crossing a line that's almost invisible. Many in her place might be forgiving. But here is a woman who doesn't want to compromise... No one is good or bad. There are only shades of grey.

But women in your film are either seductresses or are very virtuous and want to have children after children. And men can't seem to talk about anything but sex. The one guy who makes a feeble attempt at speaking politics is promptly booed!

Have you ever seen a group of men get behind closed doors, without wives or mothers or sisters, and talk about anything but sex?! Anyway, I can't claim to cover all that men talk. I only cover what I think is fun and interesting to watch. Men talked about sex in the earlier film and the pattern repeats itself. Men didn't talk about sex in Teen Diwarein because the backgrounds of characters didn't demand it...

Talking of women, who says Menaka, the seductress, is a bad woman? She is someone who came to have fun and took that too far, that's all. Most movies show the heroine as being all-forgiving. But here, Ashwini goes to the extent of divorcing on a seemingly ridiculous issue! I'm true to the parameters I create for my characters.

But at the end of the film, you feel it's a tribute to Indian marriage. A "we're still married, we're still fine" ending. The first scene raises hopes of a probing into the monotony, boredom, and differences of opinion that crop up in a marriage over a period of time. But the questioning, ironic tone disappears as the movie moves on.

Please! It's not a tribute to Indian marriage by any stretch of imagination! And I don't think the irony went. You know what, I think most of you guys don't like happy endings. Call it boyish optimism if you like, but most of my films are happy endings, and I like to leave it that way. Happy in whatever way you define it... What tribute? I'm not even married!

I feel there is a disconcerting degree of self-consciousness about a number of crossover films. And in an interview you say that your Indianness is your USP. Wonder if the self-consciousness comes precisely from this USP business.

No. I was quoted out of context. When I said Indianness, I didn't mean that I wear it like a badge. It's what is inherent in me. If I live in India, rather part live in India, I am going to talk about my surroundings as I know it best. It's not projecting some part of India for the West. I absolutely don't. Rockford was about my growing up years in a boarding school. Bollywood Calling was at least 70 per cent of my experiences on the sets.

Let's put it this way. The parents in Hyderabad Calling are constantly worried about inti paruvu (family honour). Your own parents, I hear, had no problems when you made a dramatic career shift into an uncertain profession. But people like them won't fit into your film because they are not the prevalent Indian stereotype.

My parents don't fit in simply because they are not funny!

Stereotypes are important to make a film funny?

Stereotypes are not born out of accidents. There are enough people falling into that segment. So, wherever I think they serve my end of generating the right humour, I use them. I have no qualms about that.

I hear you are next making a film on a global theme?

Am I? Which one?!

Ninety Days?

But who says that's a global theme? See, you guys are the culprits. If you didn't misquote me, half the stuff going around about me wouldn't be true! The film is about a guy who gets a tonne of money, and learns on the same day that he has 90 days to live. It's about a man trying to grapple with his own death. An Indian man.

You called Hyderabad Blues anti-slick.

Yes, because in this day and age of pre-packaging, this is a deliberate attempt to make sure I relive the reality of the first Hyderabad Blues. Simple frames, real lighting, a camera that doesn't move much... I use all the basic tools of the trade to move everything else out and tell a tale.


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