Rohit Shetty Curated
Indian Film Director
CURATED BY :
How do you plan a scene in your film that gives the high to your audience? Do you think build-up is important?
Critics usually pan your movies. How upsetting was it ?
I don’t take them seriously as so far they haven’t given me a reason to do so. I believe when something is made from the heart, it connects easily. My films do not promise anything more than just some silly laughs. It’s not for those who analyse movies as case studies. It’s not for cynics and self-proclaimed intellectuals. A true intellectual is critical and analytical in the right and healthy sense. It’s a treat to get feedback from such beautiful minds, but sadly India largely lacks professional critics, like in the western countries. A lot of hard work goes into making a film, whether I do it or another director does it, and I strongly feel that they should give us that much credit. Don’t make us look like buffoons. Critics change their opinions every Monday. They text you excitedly on Friday, the next day, you see the reviews. Who cares? What we genuinely wait for nowadays is the audience’s reaction. Audience is my king.
How will you carry forward your father’s legacy ?
There isn’t anything so big for us to carry forward. Yes, I will keep his name alive by working hard with a lot of honesty. Somewhere up there, he’s happily watching us.
Your personal story is quite inspiring. Is there a lucky mascot from the past that has always been with you ?
I’m God’s chosen child. I don’t worry or carry anything extra to feel the strength. I’ve always felt the power of God beside me. Your strength lies in instilling honesty, truth and sincerity in you. On the physical level, I always keep my team with me. They’re my lucky mascots. They guide me, keep me grounded and criticise me. I don’t get to show my gratitude to them, but through this article, I want to thank them. They’re extremely valuable to me. They were the first ones to see the first promo of Chennai Express (CE), and rejected it straightaway.
More success means more power and more money. Are you getting better with money and enjoying the power ?
In our line, more success means more money for the producers (smiles). Yes, a little bit of power comes along with success and helps everyone if a film takes off. But nothing is permanent in any business and things are more transitory in show business. So, honestly I want to make some money fast.
You’ve entered the exclusive club of brand names now. That must feel good, right ?
Well, I was always proud of being who I am. But with seven back-to-back hits, I slowly see my name being taken with more respect. But honestly, in my personal space, I’m yet to figure out what exactly being a brand ensues. I’m aware that there are many pros and cons and most certainly it is a big pressure to live up to the expectations. Actually, it’s a bit scary or maybe my unfamiliarity with this space is making me talk like this.
How does it feel to be the man of the moment ?
The opening of the film was fairly unprecedented and it left all of us happy. But I’m realistic enough to understand that six months down the line another blockbuster will come and smash the records of our film. Now, coming to your question, I do not feel that I’m the man of the moment. There’s a lovely saying by Michael Jordan that ‘talent wins games, but teamwork (and intelligence) wins championships.’ CE is clearly a team effort. We have all worked very hard on it.
What is a Rohit Shetty formula ?
They will never come to know. For me, the most important thing is why am I making the film and for whom I am making the film. It has to be entertaining whether the person is laughing or crying. It has to hold the audience. For me it has to be a happy film because that is my audience. It has to be a family film. These are the few things I keep in mind.
Who among your contemporaries do you admire ?
Imtiaz Ali, Anurag Kashyap, Anurag Basu, Gauri Shinde, Zoya Akhtar. There are many. Shoojit Sircar. I have not seen Madras Cafe which I am sure is very good but I've seen Vicky Donor. Such a great director he is.
What makes you say you are not cinema literate ?
When I see films like Lagaan and Rang De Basanti, I feel 'Why can't I do work like this?' Then you think and realise you need to learn more to make this kind of a film or write this kind of a film. Also, somewhere down the line, you need to be brave. I'm not brave enough right now. Emotionally speaking, I think about the producer because my films are very high budget films. But yes, one day I hope I will be like a brave director or a brave human being where I will not be bothered about market forces.
What's the ideology behind blowing up of cars in your movies ?
“I do it for kids. Ask an eight-year-old kid or see his face when he sees a car being blown up. They come to me, ask me what I am doing next. They loved ‘Singham’ because there were so many cars, and that’s why there was no blood, because I knew they will come to watch my film. And if you see ‘Bol Bachchan’, I know they will come, so I cater to them. I don’t want them to get uncomfortable, that’s why the heroine isn’t in a bikini. It wasn’t a planned thing, but now I know they are my audience.”
How you get to know the pulse of the audience ?
“When I am shooting, I am inside the theatre, when I am in the editing room, I am inside the theatre. I always try to feel what they will feel. I see a film not as a director but as the audience. If I am entertained, they will be too. A lot of people in the industry take themselves too seriously. They lie to themselves and that doesn’t work.”
What is your brand of cinema ?
“I am still that eight-year-old boy sitting in a Gaiety (an old single-screen theatre in Mumbai’s Bandra suburb) and the red curtain would go up and the censor certificate comes up and my heart would start thudding. I want to make those kind of films till I die. Those kind of films will always work. You need to tweak them, but then what was ‘Singham’? It was the same kind of police drama that Jeetendra did in the 80s. Critics and some people think times have changed, but I don’t agree. The same thing will work and it has been working since the 40s. We all got scared when the multiplexes came, but I made all my films during the multiplex era.”
What are your views on commercial cinema ?
“How does an industry function? It used to hurt when people ran down my films. I used to feel inferior. I wouldn’t go to parties or award functions because my cinema is not considered good enough. But now I keep my head high and I am proud of what I am doing. How does an industry function? On revenue. These so-called cinema lovers, few actors and directors and producers … how will they make a film if there is no revenue? And how is revenue generated? By movies like ‘Singham’ and ‘Golmaal’. They say a movie has made 1.1 billion rupees but is senseless. But imagine, that money has gone to a corporate house which will fund their films. How are so many theatres surviving? How are so many single screens surviving? Because of commercial films. You cannot be heartless and ungrateful. One year there should be no commercial film in the industry and then let’s see if the industry functions. It won’t.”
What are your views on humiliating reviews ?
“When you read reviews, it’s humiliating — If you have a hotel or a fast-food joint, you cannot judge the person who eats there and say he only likes this food and not Italian or Chinese food. We have so many flavours in our cinema. If it is entertaining, they like everything, whether it is a ‘Kahaani’ or a ‘Taare Zameen Par’. “But these movies haven’t got as much flak as a ‘Golmaal’ has. Earlier I used to get angry, crib about it. If you don’t like the film, you analyse it and say you didn’t like the direction or the acting or the editing. In India, they make fun, which I don’t like. First of all, you see the film for free. When you read their reviews, it’s humiliating.”
How you started your career ?
“My first movie was almost ten years ago. I started working on that film in 2001. From the time I was an assistant director to the time I directed my first film, it was almost ten years. I assisted in a lot of films. The time came when I felt I should direct a film and I told Ajay (Devgn). I was an associate in his company, we did ‘Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha’, we did ‘Raju Chacha’ together, and it was understood that I would direct one day. During ‘Raju Chacha’, I wrote the script for ‘Zameen’ and that’s how it all began. ‘Zameen’ didn’t do well — but you learn from your mistakes. Learn how commercial films should be portrayed, you know who the producer should be.”
What do you think is the future of the mass entertainer in Bollywood ?
If it didn't have a future, it cannot be a fluke that the film made more than 200 crores (2 billion rupees). And it cannot be a fluke that people are watching it twice or thrice. There are so many niche films which haven't done well. A good film will do well, whether it is a "Newton" or a "Bareilly Ki Barfi" or a "Golmaal". Just because a commercial film has come, niche cinema won't work - that will not happen. We talk about Amol Palekar, but what was he making at the same time that Mr (Amitabh) Bachchan was a superstar? Whether it was Naseeruddin Shah or Omji (Om Puri), who all came in at the time... "Naseeb" was being made the same time as "Ardh Satya". It's just a panic button. There should be a GST on giving suggestions like this. Then maybe people will stop. (laughs)
The industry is now increasingly talking of concept films, high-concept films, etc, what are your views ?
The problem in the industry is that there are 15-20 directors, three-four production houses and seven-eight actors. The rest of them, nobody is working, so they are talking. (Laughs) Everybody is talking. The new problem in the industry is that there is too much bakwaas (nonsense) happening. Everybody who has a 4G or a 3G (phone connection) is a critic or knows about cinema. Nobody knows what the audience wants. Nobody is going through the history of cinema, nobody is thinking about what was happening earlier. Just because three films with big stars didn't do well, it doesn't change anything.
Yeah, you don't seem. Do you see yourself becoming a production house like Yashraj film ?
I don't know but I want to. My dream is to have a studio like Yashraj, that's my dream. I want to be progressive, I want the industry to progress. Once they stop all this bitching and fighting and gossiping, and everything comes together, I think we can do a lot. We are in a country which has 120 crore people. Only three crore are watching films. We are not working on that. We are just fighting.
Why so much rage ?
I am a kind of a person if I have a problem with someone, that person will know for sure. I am not into backbiting, gossiping and bitching. When I hear things about me or people talking shit about me, I really get wild because I don't do that. You know me for so many years, you know that. I will ask what he is doing or what she is doing or what is happening. I wish everyone would just mind their own business.
Is it difficult to be a producer as well as a director ?
Not really because things have changed now. You have a corporate house funding you. And you need to draw a line when you are a producer, you should not go overboard and at the same time, you should not think paise bacha lete hain iss film mein, that's not right. You should not compromise on that. It gives you a bit more liberty. At the end of the day you are a producer so you can you can push the boundaries where budgets are concerned and you'll see that in Singham Returns. I think it's one of the costliest films I have made.
Are you a difficult person to work with ?
I am not a difficult person. But I know what I want. I don't think I will be able to share the film. I cannot make film with anybody. But I take inputs from everyone. I think that's one of the reasons why my films work. Because when my final cut happens, my whole staff sees the film. My peon also has seen the film. Everybody has seen Singham Returns in my office and they have given their suggestion and then we work accordingly. Like when we made the first draft of Chennai Express promo, they rejected it. One of my team members said 'aap ka picture nahi lag raha hai saab'. Then we had to work again.
You are the highest paid director today. Did you ever think that would be the case ?
I never thought that and I really don't know whether I am still the highest paid. But I don't think about that. I keep working and you know as they say that your work should speak for yourself. I think that's what is happening and I thank God for that.
Is there a sense of aloofness, because it is constantly at the back of your mind that you feel people are only nice to you because of success?
I would say 80 to 90 per cent of industry functions that way. I don't understand why. We are such a big industry and we are so popular but we don't have unity. If a film flops, people will celebrate and they will start sending messages. If it is a hit, nobody tries to forward that to say, 'go and see that film.' Though we call ourselves educated we don't have that mentality. We don't think about progress. We need to change that. Hopefully the new generation has come in and I think things will change gradually.
How much of the writing is you?
It's a team work. I can't say that I have my inputs like 50 percent. I write the film and then they do the screenplay and dialogues. It's just a team which works well together. We give them a draft. Yunus and I write together, then they come with their draft and then we all join together. That's how we come out with the final draft of a script. Do you feel like a less of a misfit in the industry now?I don't know... I am not one of those who goes out socialising, parties and bitching around, gossiping. I am not into that. I love my office, I love my team, I love my house, I love my family when I am there, that's it. I don't care and don't know what the industry is doing. I'm here, people are calling me, people want to work with me because I am successful. Tomorrow if it's not there it should not come as a shock to me.
You know the pulse of the audience. Is it also because you watch every film, keep yourself updated ?
I watch every film. I try to go to a theater and I have not been to a gone for the last three months because of Singham Returns but I see as many as I can I keep observing people, whether they are laughing or they are crying or they are reacting to a particular scene. So that's how I know what they want to see on the screen.
What is the reaction that you get from people that you meet ?
They come to me with a smile as if.. I don't know like I am Johnny Lever. Even when some autowallah gives a cut to my car and if I look at him with anger, he will smile and say Rohit bhai and then even I melt down. So it's like they are happy to see me, and my films. I am talking about the audience, I am not talking about the industry.
How is it that you managed to have hundred percent hit track record?
I don't know. It's just that I don't leave my connect with the audience. Maybe the niche audience or for the richer people think that I have changed but not my peons or my office boys or where I go to the gym or people I meet or where I stay.... I keep a connect. I talk to them. I listen when they talk to me when I am at the airport, mall or to a public place. I listen what they tell me what they liked or what they didn't like.
How can you remain so unaffected in the industry everything is about collections ?
Because nothing is permanent. I have seen ups and downs, I have seen my dad working. I have seen the way the industry functions. I know why this person is sweet to me. I know why everybody wants to work with me. I can't let that go to head and think that all are my friends now and I have arrived and now things are not going to change. Two flops and I know that nobody is going to bear with me.
How do you feel when the police force appreciates your work?
I feel really proud, when the entire force sees the film, After watching “Singham Returns,” Rakesh Maria told me, “I am proud to be the commissioner of the city after watching your film.” The law is more important than we think. If there is no red signal on the road, we all become like animals! The day a police station closes down, it will be a jungle! Let’s not delude ourselves that we are all inherently law-abiding!
How do you design a car crash sequence in your film?
What are the lessons you have learnt from your previous films?
How do you handle the pressure of being Hindi Cinema's most successful director?
What are your views on piracy ?
What is the importance of getting more screens across the country ?
Do you think OTT media is going to overtake traditional cinema ?
Would you like to explore the digital medium for film industry ?
Do you think people really love you as a director ?
People usually think that the film you make excites children more, basically you target family audience right ?
Being a very successful person you have maintained a very earthy & casual approach towards life. How ?
As a film maker you really excite and invest in a sort of hyper masculinity ? What's the reason behind ?
How do you manage to come up with unique ideas ?
How do you celebrate your success?