Vidhu Vinod Chopra Curated

Writer, Producer, Director, Editor & Lyricist

CURATED BY :  

This profile has been added by users(CURATED) : Users who follow Vidhu Vinod Chopra have come together to curate all possible video, text and audio interview to showcase Vidhu Vinod Chopra's journey, experiences, achievements, advice, opinion in one place to inspire upcoming directors. All content is sourced via different platforms and have been given due credit.

  • As a producer, what kind of script you look for?

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  • How you balance your Film making?

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  • Who are the actors you would like to work with?

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  • Would you call yourself a fearless filmmaker?

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  • Would you want to make remake of Parinda?

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  • What is the potential for Indian actors in Hollywood?

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  • What is the toughest part in making Broken Horses?

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  • Why you take long gaps between your movies?

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  • What things you need to unlearn while making Broken Horses which is a Hollywood movie?

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  • What things you need to unlearn while making Broken Horses which is a Hollywood movie?

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  • From where you got guts to make a Hollywood movie ?

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  • Will you making another part of Munna Bhai?

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  • How did you decided to make Sanju?

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  • How were your Kashmir days?

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  • How did you choose the casting of Wazir?

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  • How did you become lyrics writer?

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  • Do you prefer making technical films?

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  • What were the obstacles and opportunities you faced during your journey in Bollywood?

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  • Do you feel privileged that people respects you a lot?

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  • Since you are writer, does it gives some impact on direction?

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  • How emotional journey was it for you while shooting Shikara?

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  • How emotional journey was it for you while shooting Shikara?

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  • Do you feel pressure as a filmmaker to meet the expectations of audience?

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  • What's so much good about RD Burman that you always seem to appreciate him?

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  • Why do you use foul language on your sets?

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  • What message you wanted to give from Shikara?

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  • In hindsight, any film you feel you could have done it much better that what it was?

    That you feel with every film. The moment you start feeling that ‘jo maine kar liya woh greatest hai, then you’re dead’. But with Shikara, I don’t think I could have done any better than this. Two things that touched me are ones that Abhijat Joshi said and Irshad Kamil said.

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  • Which is the closest film to you apart from Shikara?

    I would go with Lage Raho Munnabhai because of Gandhiji. I also like 1942: A Love Story. There was such exceptional music at that time. It’s tough to get melody now.

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  • Has the star-driven cinema changed? Is it different today?

    I’m still striving in cinema. I’m still the same who made Parinda. I don’t really know what happens outside. I don’t want to corrupt my cinema. I don’t want to colour my mind. Hence, I don’t see movies. I have only seen Lagaan and Gully Boy in the last 19 years.

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  • You have worked with Hirani on quite a few films. He too has strong opinions. Any conflicts?

    No, people listen to me. You know where the Jadoo ki Jhappi came from. It's crazy. SLB was my assistant. He got one kid to cut my promos. It was a terrible promo. I abused that boy. After 2-3 days, I was bowled over by the new promo. SLB told me that the same boy had cut it. I went ahead and hugged him. That's how Jadoo Ki Jhappi happened.

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  • Are you a hands-on producer?

    Producer is a bullshit term. I should be called Co-Creator because I'm not merely the producer at all.

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  • To make a film like Shikara, you're clearly not looking for money or awards. Where is it coming from?

    It’s for my mother (who left Kashmir after the ouster of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990). She had come for Parinda premiere and she didn't return. How would you feel? Imagine, she couldn't back to her own house. Now, she is no more. But immediately after her death, I started writing this film in 2008. So it is like a tribute to her. I wouldn't have made this film if I was not a Kashmiri. I would have gone back to Munnabhai, 3 Idiots or something like that.

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  • How did you find these your leads for Shikara- Aadil Khan and Sadia?

    It took us 2 years to find them. I must have easily auditioned 200-300 people. What's surprising is that this girl Sadia was helping us find girls in Jammu. And then Indu Sharma, who was casting, showed me her girl's picture, saying let's try her. There was something about her that was magical. When I spoke to her father on phone, he didn't believe that it was me on the call. It was so funny. Then, when I did a Facetime with him and when I said 'Bhai, Khuda Haafiz', I saw that the entire village had gathered in the background. For the main guy, I needed a voice like Mr Amitabh Bachchan’s. Honestly, yeh mera best talent spot hai, kyuki maine ispe jaan lagayi hai.

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  • What inspired to write a story like Munnabhai MBBS?

    The idea that Raju had was wonderful. It's about a gangster with a heart. He is trying to tell the doctors to have a heart. It was fascinating. You need to give your patients human warmth rather than a cold, sterile injection.

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  • What's the craziest thing you did in love?

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  • What's something you did in love and it went wrong?

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  • Why you are termed as angry man?

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  • How does it feel when during broken horses, your entire crew is dancing on your tune?

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  • What's difference you feel in making Hollywood movie compared to Bollywood?

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  • What makes you to make a Hollywood movie ?

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  • What would you say to youngsters who look up at you? How can they keep their dream alive?

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  • You made your first film, Sazaye Maut, in 1981. But you got recognition only with Parinda (1989). Were you worried during that period?

    Not at all. Even when I was struggling, I knew that I will become successful. There was no doubt in my mind that I won’t succeed even when I made Sazaye Maut and Khamosh (1985), which I even distributed. There was no insecurity. Even to eat rajma chawal for eight annas, and not for 12 annas, my ex-wife, Renu Saluja, and I used to happily walk for four kilo metres. It was never like, “Kya hoga (what will happen)?” The thought of failure never came to my mind. I feel it’s a miracle that I am a successful man without making any compromises. How many people manage to do that? Even today, I don’t have an iota of fear.

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  • What give you guts to come to Bombay?

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  • What did you learn from your first two marriages?

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  • Are you romantic?

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  • Are you somewhat spiritual?

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  • Out of Writing, Directing and Producing, what you like the most?

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  • Why did it took 11 years to make Shikara?

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  • Did you make Shikara for your mother?

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  • Do you believe in first disappointment and then seeing things work?

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  • How does that filmy keeda born in you?

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  • How did you make your first movie- Khamosh?

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  • How do you make money out of creativity?

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  • Which movie is your best work till now?

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  • Did you ever thought if you couldn't make it to FTTI, what will you do?

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  • Is film making in your family genes??

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  • Being a pass out from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTTI) yourself, do you feel there is a lack of training in the industry today?

    There is huge lack of training. We are planning to open a kind of film school, similar to Werner Herzog’s Rogue Film School. We are planning to go, as a company, to small cities in India and train people in cinema. One of the members from our team, Saurabh Singh who will be at Cannes representing the Vidhu Vinod Chopra productions, is actually heading that project. We are looking for partners from the rest of the world to make this happen. A kind of a gurukul (traditional schools where the pupils stay with their mentors and almost worship them) where people from all over India would come, learn cinema and finally make it. It will give a different dimension to the Indian cinema and produce immense talent.

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  • Are Indian film personalities attracted by Hollywood’s greater international reach?

    I learnt English when I was 15 years old. I was like the monkey from Jungle Book, who says to the man cub that I want to be a man because I am already a king here. So for me it’s like going into new area and going out of my comfort zone. That is what drove me. Some people actually don’t give a damn about Hollywood. Some actors really want to work in Hindi cinema. They are very happy doing that. I too love what I do here. I am not going to pack my bags and live in Los Angeles (LA). I did live in LA for almost a year, but I just missed India so much. I will make movies in Hollywood but I would live in India. The reasons people get attracted are varied. Some may like to go out there because then the world is your stage. Some people have done so much that they want to go out of their comfort zones. When I was in Hollywood, nobody knew who I was and they were judging me by my script. I felt like I was out of the film institute all over again.

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  • Hollywood films have varied topics and also are technologically richer. Where is it that India is lacking?

    It’s the funding. If you look at their budget, you would have your answer. If we get budgets like that, we can do it as well. Broken Horses was as good, if not better than some of the Hollywood films

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  • How was broken horses received in India and internationally?

    It was released the same day as The Fast And Furious and I think the distributors didn’t pick the dates right. So it didn’t do well financially when it was released. But now, the other day, Hrithik Roshan tweeted that “I am proud to be an Indian when I see Broken Horses ”. Many people who saw the film, went out of their way to appreciate it in the press. People like James Cameron, Alfonso Cuaron, Hrithik Roshan and many people praised the film. But financially it didn't do very well. I made PK the same year as Broken Horses, which was the biggest hit of all time. It’s not the box office that drives our company. It’s really the story that we tell.

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  • With Broken Horses you entered Hollywood, how different was it from directing a Hindi film? How accepting was the industry to an Indian director?

    It was very different. I enjoyed Broken Horses thoroughly. The industry there is wonderful. I loved to work with the crew. My camera man, Tom Stern who shoots all big films was like a brother to me. My actor Vincent D’onofrio, whom you might have seen in Jurassic World, always said I am your brother from the east, which meant from the east side of New York. I had the best time of my life. I am hoping to go back and make another film, once I have a good script.

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  • On what basis you think Indian producers choose their scripts? Is it the bank-ability or the perception of the audiences?

    I am not a regular producer so I cannot answer that for you. Since I write and co- write my films, I don’t believe in this whole thing of bank-ability. When I made Munnabhai MBBS (2003), nobody went to see it in the beginning. It was such a crazy idea that we had empty theaters on day one. But by the time Sunday came, people were in a flurry. I don’t say let’s make a bankable film. I have never done that in my life. It’s another thing that some of the films that I have done are the all-time hits of Indian cinema. The driving force is not money. The driving force is getting a story to reach out.

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  • All your films have fared commercially well, and they also have something substantial about the society. How do you choose your subjects?

    We work hard. I make one film in four years. I have in the last 30-40 years done only 10-12 films, so my average is three years per film. We spend a lot of time in writing and researching. Only when I am extremely happy with the script, do we open the window for making the film. For me movies are not projects. They are not at all about let’s go out and get a big star etc. I enjoy life. When I spend my life making a film, I really want to have a good time doing it. For me the journey is far more important than the bucks that it finally makes.

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  • From director to now a producer, what challenges did you face in your journey? What have been your key learnings over this period?

    I am still a director, I am going to be directing a film this year. I also write a lot. So I write, produce and direct. I started many years back and now I am finding that the audience here and abroad is more receptive to different ideas. Films like PK (2014) actually did a business of more than INR 1 billion (EUR 13 million) in a place like China. It was fascinating to see. Even 3 Idiots (2009) did huge business in China. We are now making it in Chinese. It has already been shot in Mexican. The world is becoming one and our cinema is crossing borders in a big way. We are already talking to some Hollywood studios to remake 3 Idiots in English. Imagine setting up the film in Harvard. We are looking at our story actually crossing borders and going somewhere else. In Cannes, our CEO will be talking to many companies for remaking it. For the first time we are releasing PK in Turkish. We did 3 Idiots in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan. This tells how big the market is and how small the world has become.

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  • The film industry has also grown in terms of scale, technology and reach so how do you perceive it?

    Everything has grown and so has cinema. The most interesting thing about cinema now is that you don’t have to be in the cinema hall to watch a film. The films are moving out of theatres. I have found television and the digital platform fascinating.

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  • Being in the Indian film industry for over three decades, how do you see the industry today and how has it grown?

    We are in a very nice and healthy place where all kinds of cinema is coming up. Some very interesting films are doing good business. We are definitely better off than before. If we have more theaters, like China, the industry and our business will also grow accordingly. But it is a good time to make films in India.

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  • Do you believe in God?

    I remember my father used to go to the temple every morning. I was very small once when I told him, ‘Tussi mandir jaana chhod do (Stop going to the temple).’ He said, ‘Are you mad?’ I told him, ‘You should not go as you don’t believe in God and you are wasting your time. If you believe in him then you must believe that he will look after you and your worries.’ He slapped me lovingly and said, ‘You have become my guru.’ I believe in God and truly believe that I am blessed. He has brought me where I am today. I don’t worry. I believe in not only God but in goodness, myself and my cinema. You have to have great belief in being able to write an English film, go to Hollywood, get the monies to produce it, get the actors and put it out there. I could have made a fool of myself and people could have laughed not just at me but at all people from Bollywood.

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  • You have had many spats with people in the past. Did that upset you?

    No, as I have never done something that I didn’t believe in. If you are doing right, then why will you feel shit? Abhijat Joshi said to me while I was shooting Broken Horses, ‘Have you realised that in 33 days not once have you screamed or lost your temper?’ I told him, ‘It’s because I didn’t have to.’

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  • Do you have any regrets in life?

    I wish I had gone to UCLA to study cinema. My education before FTII was nothing. I wish I had gone to Harvard. But I also feel that due to a lack of formal education, I am a very free mind. That’s what made me make a movie that I didn’t know where it would go.

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  • How different was it working in Hollywood?

    In our system there is a lot of warmth, but a lot of inefficiency. The actor will come late, give me a hug and say he got late in traffic and I will say nothing. In Hollywood, they are very cold but amazingly efficient. There at 4.30 am, I would be sitting in the desert and my actors would be ready with makeup on and their lines knowing exactly what to do. In Broken Horses, I took the warmth of my culture to the efficiency of their culture.

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  • Why do you have two sides to you, one of a kanjoos and commercially savvy producer and the other of still being a simple small town man with his passion for cinema intact?

    The point is that when they say business savvy, imagine in Munna Bhai there was a possibility of Shah Rukh Khan, but I put Sanjay Dutt there. I became business savvy as the film became so big. What if it hadn’t? I did the same with Ferrari Ki Sawaari, but it didn’t do well so who is business savvy? So, in retrospect, it’s easy to say. Munna Bhai released and it was a flop. But I called Raju Hirani at that time and told him, ‘I have Rs. 11,000, let’s make another movie. Fortunately, Munna Bhai finally made a lot of money. I had initially paid Sunil Dutt Rs. 11,000, then 1 lakh, then 5 lakhs, then 11 lakhs and when I offered to pay him Rs. 21 lakhs, he said, ‘I am remembering my father, he would give his mooch ka baal in exchange for taking a loan.’ He finally did not accept Rs. 21 lakhs. I am very clear that I make cinema I feel strongly about. It’s a miracle that most of the cinema I have made has become so successful, so people think that my brain works so well, but also see Eklavya that I made, knowing fully well that it could never make money. If I was business savvy, I would not have put my five years, behind making Broken Horses, I would have made 4 Idiots. I am involved in every project and film that I own, be it Munna Bhai, Ferrari Ki Sawaari or 3 Idiots.

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  • Do you have friends in the industry?

    No, as for me friendship is a big word. It means that I can kill someone for my friendship. By that definition, I don’t have any friends in the industry. Friendship in the film industry is like the dialogue I wrote in Parinda, ‘Yahan har rishta dhande pe tika hai.’

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  • Why your movie is called Broken Horses?

    It’s an interesting term of the West, where when they tame a wild horse, they say it’s a broken horse. So, in the film, the character of the older brother Buddy is a broken horse.

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  • At it’s core, Broken Horses is an emotional story about the love between two brothers. Does it have any connection with your real life?

    I am very close to one of my older brothers, Veer Chopra, who actually paid my fees at FTII. He used to earn Rs. 1,100 out of which Rs. 250 went towards my fees. Had he not paid it, I would not have gone to a film school. There is a lot of Veer in Broken Horses, just as there was in Parinda. Broken Horses is violent, aggressive and childlike and I feel that I have gone back to my old days of Parinda and Khamosh.

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  • What made you make a Hollywood film like Broken Horses?

    The fact that it was a big challenge. It’s the first time that an Indian has written, produced and directed a Hollywood film. You like it or not, Hollywood has always looked down upon our cinema as just song, dance and drama. This is my answer to them. I wanted to tell them that we too can do what you do, if not better. We choose not to do it and choose to sing songs as that is our culture, but don’t think we are fools. I feel personally, it’s a movie that will make every Indian proud. But of course, the only thing Indian in this film is the spelling in my name.

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  • What was the lowest period in your life?

    Surprisingly none. Coming from this small town, there is a strange kind of arrogance and confidence in me. There is a lot of Munna Bhai in me. But I think when Renu parted with me, was a low. We were married for 5-6 years and the reason we parted was that she did not want to have kids. Even after separating, we remained friends and she kept editing my films, but she was clear that she did not want kids. We then formally divorced. I felt very low when she died of cancer. She was a good woman and she didn’t have to go so early.

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  • Who do you love the most in the world today?

    My wife Anupama Chopra (she is his third wife). She has changed me. I have been with her for 20 years. I was a very arrogant, difficult, volatile and violent man. I am a much better human now living with her. She has brought out the best in me. She makes me want to be a better person and for her, I am constantly trying to be a better person. Can you imagine at the institute, I used to carry a big knife with me as I was anti ragging. I wasn’t showing off. I would have actually killed anyone who would have ragged. Ragging stopped as they all knew how violent I genuinely was.

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  • You have been married several times. Are you a romantic person?

    I was 19 when I married my first wife Renu Saluja in FTII. I have always loved women and had many women. I have always been a romantic at heart and have had many affairs in Kashmir, but now when I look back, I realise that I must have been crazy getting married at just 19. I remember Renu and I used to go to this yoga class and one day the yoga teacher asked me, ‘Why has didi not come today?’ I was so embarrassed that I did not have the courage to tell her, ‘She is my wife.’

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  • How did you come into films?

    My parents originally come from Peshawar in Pakistan. I am a Punjabi Kashmiri born and brought up in Srinagar. I went to DAV School in a blue shirt and khakhi shorts and studied only Hindi and Urdu till Class VIII when I first learnt my ‘A for Apple’ lesson. There was a cinema called Palladium in Lal Chowk, Srinagar. Every time as a kid I passed by it and saw the posters on it, I wanted to be there. My father was a very honest insurance agent and that is why we were very very poor. But he gave me great values. He would say, ‘Galli ka mochi banna, but become the best mochi.’ And that always stayed with me. He introduced me very young to Khalil Gibran and Mirza Ghalib, so my entire childhood was spent in that. I finished my BA and then went on to join the FTII to follow my passion of becoming a filmmaker. Hrishikesh Mukherjee selected me as he liked the short stories I had written in Hindi. I had not studied English, so did not even know who Shakespeare was. Ritwik Ghatak slapped me when I asked him who Hamlet was, as he thought that I was fooling him. I suddenly realised at FTII how I knew nothing and my time spent there became the biggest learning for me. After graduating from FTII, my struggle was very less. I was on fast track as my diploma film Murder At Monkey Hill had won a National Award and got nominated for an Oscar. Amitabh Bachchan was a huge star even at that time. I remember he came to Natraj Studio, saw my film and said, ‘When do we work together?’ We got to work together many years later in Eklavya, but that is why I am so grateful to him as he was the first big star in the city who had said that he wanted to work with me. With the support of NFDC, I made my first film Sazaaye Maut.

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  • Who came up with the title, Munnabhai MBBS?

    There is saying by Akira Kurosawa, 'Filmmaking is actually based on its individual human talent that works in its co-operative work forms.' So the workforces cooperated, individually we are all talented. A still from Munnabhai MBBS, Raju Hirani is very talented. [Cinematographer] Binod Pradhan is very talented. It is very difficult for me to tell you who came up with the title. Raju Hirani and I had several discussions. In the beginning Raju wanted to call the film Jeeo Mere Yaar and I hated it. Then we came up with Munnabhai MBBS. That was appropriate --whether Munnabhai becomes a doctor or not will remain an MBBS. Like it says, Miya Biwi Bachchon Samet.

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  • Does Munnabhai MBBS have any resemblance to Patch Adams?

    No, I saw Patch Adams only last month. I saw it only because someone mentioned the same thing to me. With due respect to Patch Adams, and I am not saying this for the sake of it, Munnabhai MBBS is a far superior film.

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  • What was it like to have someone else direct what you had written?

    Oh, it was crazy. He [Raju Hirani] was the boss! I used to write a scene and think this is the best scene I have ever written. Next day, Raju Hirani would come and politely tell me the lines I had written were bullshit. Then I would write all over again. It was a humble experience.

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  • How different is Munnabhai MBBS from most commercial comedies?

    No one is running around the bush here. No one is going to Switzerland, New Zealand or Australia. There is no car chase. Well, there is a cabaret at a hospital. This is the first time my film has a cabaret. So we had a big debate about whether or not or how to do it. A still from Munnabhai MBBS. But it doesn't have the clutches of a commercial film. I believe it has the potential of becoming the biggest hit we have had in our company. It's like when I did Parinda, it didn't have a smuggler in a red muffler and coat. Because never before have you seen a don in a kurta pyajama and chappals.

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  • Munna Bhai was your first attempt at comedy. What was the experience like?

    It was like a breath of fresh air. I loved it. Frankly, it is a cliche, but I am very proud of this film. I am very proud I had the courage to go ahead with a movie of this kind.

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  • Do you prefer directing dark films?

    There is Aditya Chopra's Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, which I liked but I cannot make that movie. I am not pitching myself against Raju Hirani or Adi. We are just very different.I still remember the premiere of DDLJ. I said, 'Wow, what a movie!' But if you ask me 'can you direct it?' I could have written it because it is one thing to write, to conceive characters who are all from the heart. It's completely another to make them, direct them in the fashion Raju Hirani has done in Munnabhai MBBS. There are certain kind of films only certain directors can direct.

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  • Why didn't you directed "Munnabhai MBBS"?

    Let me tell you very honestly. Though I think I am a great director, I don't think I am capable of directing this film. This film needed Raju Hirani and only Raju Hirani. I am a great admirer of Charlie Chaplin. But if you ask me if I am capable of directing Gold Rush, my answer would be no. Munnabhai MBBS is a film that makes you cry. I don't think I am capable of handling such emotion. It was great fun to write this with Raju, and I feel he is the best guy to direct it. Watch Munnabhai MBBS and Mission Kashmir or 1942-A Love Story and you will know what I mean.

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  • How you have been able to stay relevant from 80's till now?

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  • Tell us about Rendezvous With Hrishikesh Mukherjee.

    Since I was a ‘first class’ BA student, I had already got an offer from Cambridge University, UK, for a masters in economics. So, when I went for the FTII interview, Hrishikesh Mukherjee asked me why I was there [and not in the UK]. I told him, “I think I am being stupid.” So he asked me, “Are you telling me that every student who joins film school is stupid?” I replied, “Sir, if they have an option between going to Cambridge and doing a diploma from a film institute, and they opt for the latter, then they are stupid.” I added, “I think I am letting my passion overrule my rational senses.” Everyone went quiet.

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  • Who is your inspiration?

    In India, it is Guru Dutt, Bimal Roy, V Shantaram, K Asif, Mehboob Khan and Raj Kapoor. Internationally, I am influenced by Francis Ford Coppola, Federico Fellini, Jean-Luc Godard, Billy Wilder, Michelangelo Antonioni, François Truffaut, John Ford and Akira Kurosawa, who is absolutely my guru.

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  • Why are there such big gaps between your films?

    I work a lot on my scripts to come up with a quality film. I am not a man in a hurry. I want to win the war, not just the battle.

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  • What’s your film-making process like?

    I am so involved with my characters that it doesn’t matter whether I am in a jungle or at a traffic signal. I am not living in the outside world, but with my story and my characters. Where I am is of no consequence. At that moment, I am living internally with those characters.

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  • What’s your film-making process like?

    I am so involved with my characters that it doesn’t matter whether I am in a jungle or at a traffic signal. I am not living in the outside world, but with my story and my characters. Where I am is of no consequence. At that moment, I am living internally with those characters.

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  • Do you watch other directors’ films?

    Only if someone like Anupama really praises a film. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time. I saw Masaan, and I liked it.

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  • Unlike other production houses, yours don’t announce your films in a hurry or sign deals. Why?

    We, be it Raju (Rajkumar Hirani, film-maker) or me, have no greed. Raju is a bigger saint than I am. My wife has no greed. In fact, a jeweller told her, “You have fewer jewellery pieces than Amitabh Bachchan’s granddaughter.” We are happy. I am not a sanyasi (ascetic man), but there’s no greed for Rs 500 crore. Those who have real inner strength, their backbone is erect due to that inner power. Whatever I am, I respect myself. I am happy with myself. I will never sell my soul. I don’t want to sell it for money as it doesn’t matter.

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  • How have you managed to stick to your beliefs?

    I have just done what I believed was right. I didn’t look at anything as something wrong. I don’t want to do ghatiya (sub-standard) work. If I could do it, I would have done it. Maybe, my arrogance comes from the fact that I have never knowingly done rubbish. I may have failed, but I never made a compromise. How can I do something that I believe is silly?

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  • Your directorial ventures aren’t typical potboilers. Why?

    It’s difficult to say why that is. Maybe, due to the lack of any formal education, my mind is totally free. I am thinking of doing things in the digital world, and even on TV. Is it financially viable for me? I don’t know. Have I thought it through? No idea. Would I like to do it? Yes. It’s new and exciting. All I know is that I will make good cinema. There’s no fear in me.

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  • You are a film-maker, and your wife, Anupama Chopra, is a journalist. How has your relationship been?

    It’s been great. It’s the best thing that has happened to me. She is very different from me — she is very quiet, extremely intelligent and smart. It’s been a wonderful relationship, and I am grateful that it has been so great. It’s also because we are very different. I am very proud of her.

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  • Have you achieved what you set out to do?

    I can’t tell you how blessed I feel at this stage of my career. I don’t do too much work, but I am doing exactly what I wanted to do. I am where I wanted to be. I am fortunate and grateful to God and circumstances. But I am also happy that I am where I am, without having made a single compromise. And I am successful. That’s a miracle.

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  • Was your family also interested in films?

    Not at all. My father was an insurance manager. My parents wanted me to become a doctor, as I was a ‘first class’ student. So, I just couldn’t tell my father that I wanted to make films, fearing the beating I would get. When I gave the pre-medical exams, I had answered only two-and-a-half questions instead of five. So, for the first time, I got only 56%. I didn’t get admission anywhere, so I got what I wanted — admission into a BA course. But I hadn’t told my father about that. When I got nominated for the Oscars for An Encounter With Faces (1978), and got a Golden Peacock Award in Delhi for it, where my father was also present, I thought that was a good time to tell him about it. But when I told him, he slapped me hard, saying, “You have spoiled your life.” He was very disappointed. But I was fascinated by the medium. Also, in a strange way, a very negative emotion turned me into a positive person. My eldest brother, Ramanand Sagar, was shooting a film called Arzoo (1965) in Kashmir. He was busy shooting, and I was kind of ill-treated [on the sets]. He told me that I should be removed from the sets. So, I also told myself, “One day, I will show him that I can make films.” We have laughed about this. So, in a way, that emotion also propelled me.

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  • What were your early film influences?

    I used to go to the cinema hall, Palladium, in Srinagar. But we didn’t have money to watch any films. So, we would listen to the dialogues through the theatre’s door. I have watched Ram Aur Shyam (1967) inside the theatre once, but 20 to 30 times behind the door (smiles). I watched an English film for the first time when I was 13 or 14; it was a James Bond movie, which would play at 7pm. Not many would believe that when I went to a film institute, I didn’t know who Shakespeare was. On the first day, when I was asked by a teacher about Hamlet, I said, “Who is Hamlet?” But he thought I was up to some mischief. Later, I read Hamlet’s story in a book that simplified Shakespeare’s plays for children. I started talking in English after watching English films at FTII.

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  • Tell us about your time at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune.

    When I went to the institute, I reacted very sharply to these khadi-kurta guys, who only spoke about Robert Bresson (French director) and Lawrence Durrell’s 1958 novel, Balthazar. I had come from a small place in Kashmir, and I didn’t know who all these people were. I didn’t even know English. I wanted to know more about Guru Dutt and Raj Kapoor, and wanted to study Mehboob Khan. But no one was talking about them. Rancho’s character in 3 Idiots (2009) is also based on the fact that I failed at the film institute. But finally, they had to give me the certificate, as I got an Oscar nomination. I was like a rebel. Then, the great RK Laxman (cartoonist) came to the institute for the convocation. He made a brief speech, and said, “Bad films make good money, and good films make bad money. So, please try and make good films that make good money.” So, I thought, why not make good films that people would watch too? I owe it all to RK Laxman.

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  • Do you have friends in the film industry?

    No. I am quite happy without them. It’s very difficult to be friendly with a guy like me. I am not very easy to be friends with. I don’t say things you may want to hear. I say things that I believe are true. Most of the people in the industry are small people with big egos. They want to hear good things, and if you don’t say good things about them, they say, “This man is arrogant.” I don’t even think I am capable of making friends in the industry, because most friendships here are based on fake emotions and praise.

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  • Anger, aggression and attitude are always associated with you. Why?

    I am not a very well-understood man. If you understand who I am, it’s good, but if you don’t, then you will understand one day. That’s why people feel I am arrogant. As for anger, I lose it on mediocrity — be it bad films or journalism or anything else. I get angry at why people don’t do good work.

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  • What makes you so calm?

    We came from a small town, and look where we have reached. I have a nice office, I’m making the films I like, I have nice cars, and a beautiful home. The biggest tragedy is that the more successful a person gets, the more insecure he becomes, fearing that everything he has will be lost. Even today, I don’t know how much money I have in my account. That gives a sense of freedom. I am confident that today, if you take everything away from me, and leave me on the streets, I can still earn money. I have that much talent.

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