With expectations riding high on Kites, DEVANSH PATEL met the film's director, Anurag Basu, in this special interview
HE HAS defied both critics and commercial box office to rake in success and he doesn't break the rules 'just to break the rules'. He is the new school in the age where old fools still exist in movie-making. It is difficult to capture Anurag Basu's presence in print.
The last time I met him was at the red-carpet world premiere in London's Odeon Leicester Square where his highly acclaimed film Life In A Metro was screened and starred the Celebrity Big Brother winner that year, Shilpa Shetty.
A who's who of the British film industry graced the red carpet. And there was Basu in his loose denims and a plain black shirt.
He doesn't look like those 'lost-out guys' who make cinema but rather an active and sometimes hyperactive middle-aged film geek.
Having made some diverse films that put him on the ladder of success, Anurag is now on the verge of the most difficult phase in film-making - a phase of ground-breaking cinema, where he needs to prove his mental strength as a director and a period that will boost a lot of aspiring filmmakers to make stories where language is no barrier.
In short, a phase where Bollywood will be rewritten.
Q: Does the use of Spanish, Hindi and English language in the film make Kites ground-breaking? A: The film just took shape naturally. Initially we thought that the film was targeted at Western audiences but then we found out that love, as the subject in the film, speaks no language. It is universal.
Our Spanish actress, Barbara Mori, didn't know Hindi and Hrithik Roshan, didn't know any Spanish.
So we didn't force any language on anybody. After seeing 70 per cent of the film, my producers, Reliance Big Pictures and Rakesh Roshan thought that the film was ground-breaking because it will appeal to everybody across the globe.
Q: Why did a director and producer like Rakesh Roshan opt for you to direct Kites when he could have directed the film himself?
A: Until today I have a question in my mind as to why did he take me as a director for Kites.
Rakesh Roshan had seen my film Gangster. During that time, Life In A Metro had not been released.
He called me and said: 'I've got a story for Hrithik in mind. I want you to direct it'.
At that time, I said: 'No'.
Knowing Hrithik's star status, I always wondered why would Hrithik do my film?
I was a small director who was busy with an ensemble cast film titled Life In A Metro.
Plus, I had also heard that he is doing a Raj Kumar Hirani film, Aditya Chopra's film, and so on. But Rakesh gave me an idea to work on.
Then when I met him at the 2007 Indian International Film Awards (IIFA) in
Yorkshire, he told me: 'Have you done something about the idea, Anurag?'
That's when, on the flight on the way back to India, I started writing the script.
Kites isn't the usual Film Kraft film which we're used to seeing.
Hrithik took a walk around his hall and instantly said 'yes' to the film.
Q: Are we going to see a different Hrithik Roshan emerge out of Kites?
A: Yes, you are. As an actor, Hrithik has always played difficult characters.
He is very natural. He prepares a lot, reads his script, does his rehearsals and then comes on set.
For this film I didn't want that. I wanted to throw him in the middle of the sea this time with no preparations.
I wanted to see what happens if Hrithik is unprepared. It was very difficult.
I wanted an imperfect Hrithik in Kites and he is very good in that. We had a ball.
You'll see a completely new Hrithik.
Q: Are you a changed director after Kites?
A: I never change my approach to film-making.
The budget of Kites was nowhere near the budget of the films I have directed in the past. It is a biggie.
As far as technology is concerned, yes, I have learned many things from the film.
Like the action sequences and all. I wanted to do such scenes.
Also, thanks to Rakesh Roshan, there were no budget constraints in Kites. I am a little spoiled after making the film (laughs).
Q: More than the audiences and the critics, it's the film fraternity that has a huge expectation from Kites.
Are you and the cast chewing your fingernails? A: Everyone associated with the film is tense right now.
We have all challenged ourselves. I have challenged myself by directing a film like 'Kites', Hrithik has done the same by selecting a different approach to acting, Rakesh Roshan has taken a challenge producing this film and Barbara Mori has taken a huge challenge doing an Indian film. It's a big risk but taken with confidence and courage.
Our comfort level is uncomfortable at the moment (laughs).
Q: Tell us something about the beautiful Barbara Mori.
A: I tell all my actors not to act. I want them to be themselves and their characters in the film.
Barbara Mori doesn't act either. She is so natural that you will fall in love with her.
She doesn't do any scene or shot if she isn't convinced. She isn't a fake.
Q: How difficult was it to converse with Barbara Mori?
A: People from the West have their agents and all coming in the way of narration.
So when I went to narrate the script to Barbara in Los Angeles, I wanted to do it in the traditional Bollywood way.
I narrated her the story with my bad Hindi accent mixed with English.
But her English was worse than mine.
While looking at her while narrating, I thought she was the best choice for Kites and she said 'yes' immediately after the narration was complete.
She had seen my film Gangster before our narration.
Q: How does Hrithik communicate with his director, we want to know?
A: He comes to the set and hands over himself to the director.
Nobody knows this but there is a director in Hrithik's mind. He can sense the whole film.
Most of our actors in the industry have got a selfish approach but Hrithik thinks about the film as a whole.
On the second day of the shoot, I briefed Hrithik on how he should act in that scene but missed out small details.
When I took the shot, I noticed that he had done exactly what I had missed out while briefing him.
That is Hrithik Roshan for you.