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When `F' did not turn out unlucky

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SAFE DISTANCEKunal Kohli: `Politics and films should be kept separate'
SAFE DISTANCEKunal Kohli: `Politics and films should be kept separate'

Films starting with F are unlucky, some warned the director of the controversial `Fanaa'. But Kunal Kohli went with his instinct and pulled off a coup

Kunal Kohli always goes by gut instinct be it sticking by the title Fanaa for his swooningly romantic film or choosing Poland to stand in for Kashmir. "Aamir (Khan), Adi (producer Aditya Chopra) and I were at a story session when Adi came up with the title and I liked it," Kunal explains. "There were those who said it will not work because of the negative connotations. (Fanaa means `annihilation' in Urdu and in the Sufi tradition means `destroyed in love'.) There were others who said films starting with the letter `F' are not lucky for Yash Raj Productions. But I instantly liked the name and went with it. I believe in going by your first reaction."

Runaway hit

And it has proved perfect for Kunal, what with Fanaa doing super-whacko-sonically well, the initial hiccups at Gujarat notwithstanding. "I have spoken extensively on the issue and would only like to say that politics and film should be kept separate."Moving on to subjects things like the serendipity of capturing the picture postcard beauty of Poland on film, Kunal says: "It is the only country I visited when I went location hunting. There were security issues about shooting in Kashmir as well as logistics issues like snow-moving machines and stuff, which were not available. I did not want the clinical feel of Switzerland, so Poland it was."And there was no language problem. "Poland has a well-developed film industry and big Hollywood productions have been shot there, including Schindler's List. Some of the world-renowned cinematographers are from Poland." About what attracted him to the story, Kunal says: "The sheer romance of Shibani Bhatija's story swept me away. There is a story and there is the treatment. I could have shot Fanaa like an art film, but I wanted it to be filmi. Hence the song in the rain, the shayari - all of which gave a mainstream feel to the film."Not to forget the stars - Mr. Perfection Aamir Khan and the diva-est of them all, Kajol. "I always wanted this cast. I will not say it was easy... " And for the first time, he hesitates, searching for the right words. "What can I say, they are not the kind of people who say `yes' to a project easily."Ask him about Aamir's involvement/interference and Kunal waxes eloquent. "I don't think these allegations are fair on Aamir or the directors. Aamir has worked with enormously talented people and you cannot take away from their work. He is the kind of actor who is 100 per cent involved in his work. Which director would be unhappy with that? He does not interfere; he only makes suggestions that one is under no pressure to follow. Like he suggested that in the first half Rehan should be edgier, which I felt was right and so we went ahead with an edgier interpretation. But there were other suggestions that Aamir made, which I felt would not work so we did not incorporate those. I think Aamir and Kajol brought Rehan and Zooni alive." An interesting bit of trivia is that Tabu's character "was originally written as a man. But I felt it worked better as a woman."For all those who wondered whether Fanaa was Zooni's story or Rehan's, he clarifies: "It is their story. If it was Zooni's story alone, I would have called the movie Zooni, right? I think the reason why you feel it is Zooni's story is because her character is a very strong one and in mainstream Hindi cinema, one rarely comes across such characters."While Fanaa is different from Kunal's bubbly Hum Tum, he admits he "wanted to do something different, but I did not go looking for it. I could have made Fanaa another Hum Tum. That is what I mean by treatment. I could have set the film in London. But I felt that this film needed to be rooted in the soul of India."Though Fanaa is the box office darling now, Kunal admits to trepidation. "It was a scary subject and in the second half, there is a kind of tehrav (stillness) which I wondered would be accepted in this day and age of lightning cuts. But then it is silly to pander to what we assume to be public taste without giving them a choice. The fear was there but you have to do what you have to do."For Kunal, who does not want to be formulated in a phrase, would the next project be dark and gritty? "The three movies I have made so far (Mujhse Dosti Karoge, Hum Tum, Fanaa) have been love stories. I believe there is enough grit and darkness in the world without us adding more vis-à-vis cinema. My next project will also deal with human relationships. Basically it would be something I connect with... Something that allows me to tell a story - that is all I want to do: tell stories."MINI ANTHIKKAD CHHIBBER

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