‘I would like to be known as an unpredictable brand’ – Nikhil Advani

Is your forthcoming film Salaam-e-Ishq a love story?
The film is about love. It’s also about what you should not do when in love.


Most people think the film is about what you should do when in love, because somebody’s gone and translated it as Salaam-e-Ishq- A tribute to love.


Salaam-e-Ishq has very little to do with love. It has more to do with what not to do when you are in love. I detest the tagline ‘tribute to love’… my film is just Salaam-e-Ishq.


The songs being aired on TV so far portray the film as a very happy one. But since your film is also about the darker side of love, is the film sad and emotional as well?
That’s what love is about, isn’t it? Love has two faces, it brings a lot of joy and happiness. The emotional song Ya Rabba, sung by Kailash Kher, will go on air within a week. That will show the sadness in the film. The film is happy and then goes into the aspects of sadness, but eventually it ends on a very happy note and a big celebration.


Then why did you choose the title Salaam-e-Ishq, especially if the film talks about what not to do in love?
Because at the end of the day, what’s the solution to the problem called love? Everybody has a problem when they are in love. The only solution to this problem is more love.


It was my wife who suggested the title when I narrated the concept to her, and I thought it was a good idea.


Then why is everyone around saying that Salaam-e-Ishq is Love Actually. Isn’t it true that your film has been borrowed from Love Actually?
It’s not just Love Actually, it’s also Magnolia, Short Cuts, any Woody Allen film like Hannah and her Sisters also has a lot of tracks. So, the structure and narrative has been borrowed from these films. But the interesting thing is that after seeing the film, the audience is likely to identify with the film. The audience will walk out, liking at least one love story or may be even all of them.


Let me also clarify that a story telling technique is not borrowed from another film; it’s borrowed from the script of that film. My script demanded that kind of structuring and narrative.


Just because Love Actually released one year prior to my film, everyone has noticed it. But poor Pete Anderson – no one is talking about the films being influenced by Magnolia.


Since you say that the audience will walk out liking at least one love story from the entire film, isn’t that playing safe?
Of course, it’s called playing safe. I’m starting my own production company and Salaam-e-Ishq is a Rs 320 million (Rs 32 crore) film. But we have also pushed the characters to the edge, we have taken chances with the music, I have taken chances with the way the film will look visually. So it is definitely playing safe.


But look at the other end of the spectrum. There is a huge fan base for Salman who will say, “Salman’s film is releasing, but Salman is only 1/6th of the film.” So that’s where I am not playing safe.


It’s an ensemble film in its truest sense. Akshaye Khanna has a role equal to Salman’s, Sohail’s and Govinda’s and Priyanka’s, so in that sense, I am not playing safe. At the end of the day, the film is one story, that is Salaam-e-Ishq.


In fact, many people will even walk out saying it’s a Karan Johar film. Karan Johar is the master of this genre, he knows what he is doing.


Why did you co-produce Salaam-e-Ishq?
I have learnt production under Yash Johar and that gives me a very big high. We don’t have a studio system in our country as yet. Yash Raj is probably the first of its kind that is churning out films like a studio.


There is a difference between writing a good script and executing a good script and that execution can happen only when you have certain kind of control over the budget. So that you are able to say that ‘I know this location is expensive but I want it and can compromise on something which is also expensive but less important’.


Since you know what is important in your film, it is important to have that control. Right now, I hope I will be able to produce all my films in future but if Salaam-e-Ishq doesn’t do well, I’ll be knocking on every producer’s door for a job (laughs).


Since you say that Salaam-e-Ishq belongs to Karan’s genre of filmmaking, which of his styles have been adopted by you and will be seen in this film?
Everything. It’s not only his style of filmmaking; it is also Aditya Chopra’s style of filmmaking. It’s a style of filmmaking that even audiences today are comfortable with. Even when I shoot six couples in different locations, I need to understand what the audience is comfortable with.


Having said that, if I don’t push the boundaries and take the characters to the edge, then I will not be doing anything new. There is a strong dose of realism within Salaam-e-Ishq. For instance, Akshaye Khanna is speaking the mind of every man in his thirties, Anil Kapoor is thinking the mind of every man in his forties, John is like a real hero, Salman plays a larger than life, rich Bollywood forester.


So Salaam-e-Ishq is an amalgamation of a style adopted a lot of directors from Mani Ratnam, Gulzar, Karan Johar and also a lot of Hollywood films as well.


Were all these 12 actors your first choice?
Most of them were. Only John and Govinda weren’t. I hadn’t considered anybody for that role, not even John, who had this Dhoom persona and I was not sure if he would want to be a part of a film with five other heroes. But when he heard the subject, he agreed.


Govinda was suggested by Salman Khan. I didn’t know that Govinda was keen to make a comeback. So these were the two people that fell into my lap.


We have worked on moulding the characters to suit the actors. For instance, Govinda and Anil don’t play 20 year old boys in the film, they play 40 year old men, John is playing a cool guy who is forced to discard his image, Salman Khan playing himself as a poker faced guy.


Akshaye Khanna is going to surprise with his performance. His role is going to be hated by women, because he is actually speaking the mind of everyman in this country at his age who gets engaged to a girl and backs out of a marriage at the last moment. But all men are going to hoot and say that finally, we have a man who is speaking our minds.


Do you think that your name has become a brand in itself? A brand that creates a lot of expectations and makes a product more saleable.
No, not at all. My distributor and my publicist wanted to design posters of the film as ‘Salaam-e-Ishq – A film by Nikhil Advani’. How can they do that?


I am not going to say that Nikhil Advani has become any sort of brand. Even if I would, I would like to be known as an unpredictable brand. I do not want to be stereotyped. I would rather be like a Mac, who comes up with something new every time the world thinks they have reached the peak!

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