Mirth and merriment, seriously

David Dhawan... hoping to revive the magic of

David Dhawan... hoping to revive the magic of "Coolie Number One" and "Aankhen".  

DAVID DHAWAN is a sad man. Though he makes us all roll with a belly laugh, he is not exactly the happiest man around. He is an emotional being, caring and concerned. But his films underplay it, keeping sentiments on the side burners. He cried in a closet after watching Ritwik Ghatak's "Meghe Dhaka Tara" but could not help himself making through and through comedy films like "Ek Aur Ek Gyarah", now showing at cinema halls across Delhi. His favourite comedy actor may be Govinda but his heart beats for Hrishikesh Mukherjee and films like "Namak Haram" and "Anand".

David is at New Delhi's Taj Palace for the premier of his latest "high energy" film as he puts it, "Ek Aur Ek Gyarah".

Dressed in a casual lemon colour T-shirt and blue jeans, David has just arrived. It is 1 p.m. He has not eaten anything as yet. "Wouldn't you like to have something? Tea, coffee, cold drink," he queries. "I still have middle-class tendencies," he says. And that shows. He likes to treat his guests well before coming down to business, unlike acquired modern etiquettes of not even asking for the same.

For him releasing the latest film just after the "World Cup hangover" was just the right decision. "After all those lamenting and remorse because of the World Cup and the war situation people wanted to have some shift of thought to something light and tension-free." So Govinda was a natural choice to execute the responsibility. "This is my 16th film with him in 16 years. We just know each other too well. I don't have to tell him what to do," Dhawan banks on Chi-Chi bhaiya for a quick-make. With the duo Sanjay Dutt and Govinda, his first film was "Taqatwar" released in 1989. "I know Sanjay since then. They make a good jodi," he states. For Amrita Arora and Nandini Singh as choice for heroines he is clear. "Their roles are not really meaty. So no big heroines would have been ready to do them."

Isn't he tired of making such films? "I am. But can't help it. So far I haven't met even a single person who has come to me saying he felt bad watching my films. They tell me `we feel fresh, tension-free'. How can I tell them your state actually gets into my mind! The audience demands the same films, the Press demands different, what do I do?"

What does he want? "To make a film based on emotions, relationships that nurture it."

Why is he not making one? "I am scared - of the love of audience and the faith they repose on me for comedy flicks. I am sure, even if I had made "Dil Chahta Hai' as it is made today, people wouldn't have found it different from my other films. It is easy to make someone cry in one emotional shot. But is very difficult to make them laugh without being stupid," he says.

But he himself cries watching emotional films. "Once I just saw Ritwik Ghatak's `Meghe Dhaka Tara'. But couldn't help watch the whole film. I was too overwhelmed. After the film, I locked myself in a room and cried for hours together. This film changed my whole life."

It happened in the mid-`70s. Though David then decided to give his audience light comedy but his heart remained there. The heart that just needs a light knock to ooze all his emotions out. "If I were to make an emotional film, I will never give a dark film but a simple one with lots of sentiments." And he has so much in his mind. "Only recently, I saw an Iranian film, `I Forgot My Brother's House'. It is amazing. It is a story of a small boy in which emotions are captured in just one-and-half-hour slot. I also saw 'My Brother Has A Super Brother'. It is a love story of a schoolboy whose girl friend studies in his younger brother's school. He has to resort to his younger brother to see her and talk to her because he cannot express his feelings to her. I loved the film. It is emotionally-charged. I wanted to make a film on it. I had even readied the script. But I could not make the film. It just did not happen," David is restless. It happened in 1978.

And in the first place, he was not even inclined to be in films. "I never wanted to be in films," he reveals. "It just happened. Since my brother Anil Dhawan became an actor. The glamour that he brought home after being one, glazed me too. I plunged into it. Money matters," he is honest. So what did he want to be? "An engineer or a player."

Yes, he was a table tennis player at national level. He represented Punjab team in his college days in 1973 -74. He still plays it whenever he gets time and loves watching cricket.

Does he ever regret being in films?

David takes his time answering the question. "Well, I shouldn't because God has given me name, fame and money which I might not have been able to earn otherwise. What more could I ask for?" Dhawan still wants to say something. "My priorities are still middle-class. I don't actually crave for fame and fortune but family and want to do something for those who deserve."

And his concern shows in his words. "You are giving Dadasaheb Phalke Award to people but don't even know that his sister next door, is living in penury. A few people got to know only when Yash Chopra went to give her money. Isn't it hypocrisy?"

But he himself could not care for his children. He has two sons. Younger one - aged 15 - is appearing in his 10th board exams this year and the elder one - 19 - is in America. He is undergoing a four-year course in liberal arts/films there. "I never had time for them. I used to be so busy in my films. Woh kab bade ho gaye pata hi nahin chala. I regret that I could not spend much time with them. Now my family does not want me to work. I will take a break for sometime," he is pensive, sad and worried for the impressionable age of his younger son. "He can outsmart anyone. I thought he is very innocent. But my wife says. `What do you think of him? He is too smart for his age.' It worries me." But David and his elder son are "like friends. He is technology-savy. He keeps me aware of the latest innovations in film technology."

David himself does not like those still are not technologically aware in Bollywood. "The world is moving fast. We must learn all that not only saves time but also keeps us parallel to the others on the world map. Earlier we had editing machines, we had screen back editing. Now everything is digital. We have to learn it all."

Read a few creases on this Felini's fan and Pune's Films and Television Institute graduate when it comes to discussing video piracy. "Bollywood has no unity on the matter. Earlier we would get Rs. four crore for music right but we get just one crore now. We were wrong when we thought that these figures were inflated. Now if a film runs for a few weeks we think we have done great. From the fifth week, the film gets squeezed. It leaves nothing for us to earn. The Government does not do anything in this regard. It wants everything scheduled which is not possible in this case. It keeps proclaiming that IDBI is here for us, but nothing is concrete."

David can go on and on over the topic. But hold on. There is one thing that can hold him back.

"Subhash Ghai is waiting for you over lunch in his room," his associate declares.

David is polite. He does not ask scribes to leave. "Please continue I can wait." Meanwhile, we wait to know the fate of "Ek Aur Ek Gyarah".

Recommended for you