If publicity and industry buzz is anything to go by, U, Me Aur Hum should be one of the moneyrakers of 2008.
Ajay Devgan’s directorial debut releases this week and Businessofcinema.com spoke with the actor turned director to understand his experiences as a first time director and to find out more about the film that stars his wife and actor par excellence Kajol as the female lead.
Devgan talks about the music, script and the title of the film…
Have you always wanted to be a director?
I started out as an assistant director to Shekhar Kapur and I always had plans to be behind the camera. My father wanted me to be an actor and I didn’t mind being one. But the other side of the camera was always my passion and it came to me very easy.
Back then I used to make my trolleys and cranes with my own bare hands. The shots I used to take then as an AD were shots people said they couldn’t take in their own movies. Back then I used to think how to take technically superior shots, but in my movie (U, Me Aur Hum), I’ve focused on what would be the best shot to suit a particular scene. That’s the growth.
What or who was your inspiration in direction?
I’m not inspired by anyone. Everyone has their own technique of saying things. I think film-making is all about storytelling. Everything depends on how well, how true and how ‘real’ you make it. I’ve tried to transfer whatever was on paper to the screen to the best of my ability. This is quite difficult because there’s always a resolution loss. That’s why I think that if you come close, on screen, to the vision you have in your mind, you’ve achieved something and I think we’ve come that close.
You’d settled on the Hindi version of the title, the way it is now. What was the idea behind the title?
We had initially planned it in Hindi, Kajol started the idea. But then Robin (Bhatt) came up with U, Me Aur Hum. He said it would be better in this Hinglish form and more catchy. So it is.
U, Me Aur Hum – what I’m trying to say is that you have to be a ‘U’ and a ‘Me’ and then become ‘Hum’ together, only then a relationship can work. What we do when we fall in love with someone and they become ours is that we try to change and mould them into something that we want. But the question is, if you didn’t like the person the way he or she was, why did you choose that person then? Let the individuality be; like this dialogue from my film ‘aap pyar karte hai kyunki koi aapko achcha lagta hai. Lekin nibhta tab hai jab yeh jaan le ki jo aapko achcha lagta hai, use kya achcha lagta hai.’
It’s not just about you, it’s about the two of you and that’s what my movie talks about. The bottom line is that at the end of the movie, you come out smiling.
What about the story made you want to make it?
It was an idea that I had which made me direct it and not the other way around. It was a story that was with me for 2-3 years and we worked on it a little and it took shape and then we directed it. The story touched my heart with its positivity.
The intention of any movie is to entertain. If in that space, I have managed to say a few things that you like about yourself after the movie, then I have accomplished something. From day one, my intent has been that if a couple, after watching the movie hold hands and smile at each other or a single person comes out of the theatre and misses his partner, then I have arrived.
This movie is very unlike your screen image which is serious, brooding…
I don’t think I have a screen image. People have been saying this for the last ten years but then, even a Golmaal works. So I’m very happy that I’ve done various kinds of roles and it’s not like only one kind of role has worked.
Promotions for the movie started pretty early, from almost 14 February. What is the reason behind it?
I think for a decent film you need that much time and I think we went easy on our promotions. For all practical purposes, the main story, the drama of the film was opened two weeks ago. Earlier, we were just trying to promote the music because music takes longer to sink in.
The idea is not to sell the music, but to sell the film. If your music gains exposure only after the release, how does it help your film? Today almost all music that is popular becomes so after the release of a film and not before. Parag Desai and Rahul Nanda did the promotions and publicity for the movie.
Your film has India’s first helicam sequence. How important was it for the movie?
The Helicam sequence was not important, the storytelling was. Like I said before, the idea is to see how it enhances the storytelling, how well it holds the scene and audience and it was important to see, visually, how to make something look beautiful.
Helicam was important only because storytelling was. I’d thought of it for other movies I acted in, but nobody else ever thought of using it. It’s quite a tedious process to get it here and then there’s the cost involved. This was my own production and so when I thought of using it, I planned for it and therefore I was able to get it.
The music of the film is being touted as different and imaginative. How did the creation happen?
If you’ve heard the music of my movie then you know that the lyrics are not meaningless. The songs say what my movie is trying to say. So, in effect, if you’ve heard the songs you know what my movie is about. I think that it’s very important that every department in the filmmaking process should resonate with the story that the movie is trying to tell.
All the credit for the music goes to Vishal Bharadwaj because he’s someone who understands storytelling. After the narration, Vishal found the lyricist, Munna (Dhiman), from Chandigarh, on the basis of what the movie required, according to him. I used to give my input in terms of what kind of situation required what kind of song and then I’d hand it over to Vishal. He’d come back to me with four options for each song and then we’d sit and select the final one.
Was Kajol your first choice?
She didn’t give me a choice!! When I narrated the script to her, she said she wanted to do the film and that was that. Before I even planned the film, she was already there. On a more serious note, Kajol is any director’s first choice. She was always a great actress and she’s grown in every which way; she understands cinema better now and you will see so in the movie. She plays the most difficult character in the movie and the most difficult role she’s played till date and has portrayed it brilliantly.
U, Me aur Hum was also screened for Ravi Shankar Prasad and L K Advani: any particular reason for the same? What was the reaction?
Mr. Prasad is pretty close to our family and he wanted to see the movie, so he organized a show for Mr. Advani also. It was his invitation, not mine. Even I was only invited to the show. Everyone who saw the film liked it and it was an experience for me because it was the first reaction for me and we got a seven minute long standing ovation.
At the end of the movie Advani ji said that when the movie started he didn’t know why such a movie was being shown to him but when the movie ended he was happy and said that it left an imprint on his heart. The first half of the film is quite commercial, with humor and the message of the movie unfolds quite slowly, towards the second half. I was apprehensive about how such senior personalities would react to the movie.
Considering the kind of movies senior people like, if I’d made my entire movie like that, the audience wouldn’t watch it because they like the commercial aspect in a movie. I’m not here to prove anything. I wanted to make a commercial movie and not something only to win awards and in that space whatever I wanted to say, I’ve said.
What are you future plans? Any plans to direct again?
As I told you, this was a script that fascinated me and it was not like I want to direct a movie and therefore I should start looking for a subject. When the thought comes to me again, be it tomorrow or two years from now, I will do so.
For the time being, I have no plans whatsoever. I’m committed to 3-4 films as an actor and I will be doing those. But if somebody comes to me with an interesting script and it inspires me, I will produce it.
Your last few movies haven’t fared too well at the box-office. What do you have to say about that?
Halla Bol didn’t do so well because it was predictable. The audiences are changing so fast and Halla Bol started four years ago. In fact, shooting for Halla Bol was finished before Omkara began. This delay made the film dated. The reaction to Halla Bol was that it’s too old.
Even Sunday did average business, people liked it. But it’s ok, I don’t analyze anything. After Friday, I will even forget U, Me Aur Hum. I believe that if I keep looking back then I will not be able to look forward.