In 2002, Vipul Amrutlal Shah debuted as a director with a multi starrer film, Aankhen. In 2005, he turned producer with his next film, Waqt – The Race Against Time.
This year, he is looking forward to the release of Namastey London, which is the first of his 10 film deal with Adlabs. In an exclusive interview with Businessofcinema.com’s Rohini Bhandari, the producer-director, who is also a businessman, talks at length about his forthcoming film and what makes him tick.
Can you tell us something about your British brat meets Punjabi boy film – Namastey London?
This film is about the new age global Indian attitude – ‘Proud to be Indian’. One side of the story says ‘You don’t have to lose your identity and become somebody else, you can win over any situation by staying within the framework of Indian culture’.
The flip side of the story is the NRI culture, which considers the adopted country as a homeland and rejects Indian culture. So, the film is about an NRI girl who meets a boy completely Indian at heart and what follows…
How was this film conceived?
Once, during a casual chat, Akshay (Kumar) related this incident that had happened with a friend of his, and instantly I said that this is a story for a film. I told him how I had been looking for a story that would combine elements of both worlds.
So what started as a four line story idea was worked upon by Suresh Nair and me and has culminated into a 135 minute film.
Isn’t the film’s duration a trifle short?
If international films can be told in two hours, I am sure even we can. There are seven songs in the film; four of which are background scores that help the narrative move forward. So, those extra 15 minutes are for the three picturised songs in the film.
What made you select London and Punjab in particular?
When you talk about NRI community destinations, the first thing that comes to your mind is London. Also, India shares a great love-hate relationship with England due to its 300 year old history that’s tied up with India. London was also the first place that people started moving out to in those days.
In London, there are three prominent Indian communities- Gujaratis, Punjabis and Tamilians. A Punjabi man is far more dramatic in a love story than a Gujarati. Punjabis are very impulsive, whereas Gujaratis are far more balanced, and in a film you want the guy to think from his heart and not the mind. So, my film had to have a Punjabi family.
You had signed Peter Field (cinematographer, Da Vinci Code) for Namastey London, but looks like the deal did not come throughÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦
Ten days prior to the shoot of the film, Field got a call from the Casino Royale team saying they wanted him to do some patchwork job on the film. He told me about it and said that if I would release him, he would be able to work on Casino Royale. I could not stop him from working on something so big!
After that, I realised that no film cinematographer would be readily available. So I had to look for some ad film cinematographer. Jonathan Bloom is a respected name in the London ad world, I am told.
I just consider that Peter field was never destined to shoot my film.
Did the success of Waqt impose any market pressures on you while making Namastey London?
If a person thinks that he has become a brand and that he has to live up to certain expectations, then that’s a trap he is falling into. I like to believe that every film is my first film and the audience doesn’t know me and what I am capable of.
I started my career with theatre with an ambition of earning Rs 1000 per show, which was the highest ever at that time! I never knew I would get into films. If a film doesn’t work, I will accept that as fate or a lack of effort on my part.
Last year, you signed a 10 film deal with Adlabs. Can you throw some light on the same?
The idea was to work collectivelyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ the figures have been put out for business purposes. The bottomline is that you cannot make goods films till you don’t have good scripts. We have found certain good scripts and I am making those films. So, the contract says we would make 10 films, and I added a clause mentioning “provided we find good scripts.”
I will be producing some of these films for other directors as well. I already have some talented directors on board.
You have worked with Mr Bachchan in your previous two films. Why is he not a part of your third film as well?
He was ill last year and his date diary had gone for a toss. I did not want to add pressure to his already cramped diary.
I had originally planned to do a hardcore action film with Akshay and Amitabhji, so I had to put that on hold and took on Namastey London instead.
You debuted with a suspense thriller film, Aankhen and shifted genres to films that deal with emotions and human relations. Which one works better for you?
Anything that is new, works for me. I am first a director and then a producer, so if the director in me is pleased about a film, so is the producer. After Namastey London, you can be rest assured that I will attempt neither a thriller nor a family film, not even a romantic film!