‘We don’t take a star cast because we need them; we take them because the film needs them’ – Ravi Chopra

As BR Films enters its 50th year, what would you recall as the highest points?

There have been a lot of high points and success has been regular to us. That is the reason why we’ve lasted 50 years. In the initial years when my father made black and white films, which I consider to be the classic years of B R Films, were really the high points, followed by Waqt (1965), Ittefaq (1969) and Mahabharat (1988). Baghban (2003) was yet another high point.


What has been really nice is that my father made films with a difference and people accepted that difference.


How significant has Baghban proved for B R Films?

Baghban brought us back. It was like the second coming of B R Films. When we started Mahabharat, we went out for about seven – eight years, and I wanted to come back only with Baghban. I delayed the film for four years, because we wanted to come back with Baghban.


My father was to make Baghban, but he was unable to do so. So it was his wish that I make the film. But we could not agree on the climax — he wanted the climax to take place in the court and I wanted it to be the way it was. After several arguments and discussions, I shot the climax my way and he liked it a lot.


You’ve had a successful innings on television. How do you plan to retain it?

We’ve done over 2000 hours of television programming. Television is still going on and I am not going to stop it. We have Viraasat and Apradhi on air, and we are going to start two more programmes. I will only look after the creative part.


I don’t see myself directing a TV programme in the near future, because I am busy with films. I also can’t direct these dailies because it takes up a lot of time and doesn’t interest me much, because after a point you are doing the same thing again and again.


In terms of turnover, what contributes more- television or films?

Turnover wise, ultimately, it’s a 50 – 50 situation. At the moment, except in the year a film is released, television is bigger. Currently, we have a turnover of about Rs 15 – 20 crore from television, and in the year we release a film, our turnover becomes Rs 25 – 30 crore.


So in a normal year, a film is much smaller. But once when we start doing three films and six television programmes a year, as per our plans, both will be equal.


From a trend of one film in three years, you are now planning to produce three films in one year. What brought about this change?

As a company when you grow bigger, your overheads also start increasing and one film alone cannot take that. Moreover, everything is getting more and more expensive.


The perfect scenario would be when you start three-four films a year. If you have one film, you have a 50 – 50 chance, but if you have four films you have a 70 – 30 chance, so the success ratio becomes better. Today, I have overheads of Rs 4,000,000 a month and no one film can bear this overhead.


Ultimately, you have to scale the model up because if you want the right people to run the company it’s going to cost a lot of money.


What took BR Films this long to realize this and bring about the change?

This process started in the 1990s and that is one of the reasons we went to television. We were not in a position to scale up the film production, but we were in a position to scale up television, so that later television can look after the expenses if necessary.  


Can you tell us something about Baabul?

It’s an emotional story about the rehabilitation of a daughter-in-law by her father-in- law. It’s about how a father-in-law comes to play the role of the bride’s father. 


In fact, the film’s release was delayed by eight to nine months. It was due for release in May this year. Even the budget went overboard by Rs 2 – 3 crores. 


Salman Khan dies in the film; do you think this will be accepted by his fans?

Salman’s death is one of the most beautiful moments in the film. I don’t think the audience will have a problem in accepting that. In spite of his death he stays in the film throughout, even in the last shot.


Baghban, despite having many characters, had only three stars. Comparatively, Baabul seems to have fewer characters and more stars. Why so?

Baghban was a story of a family and the most important characters were my central characters played by Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini.


Baabul is the story of a ‘samaj’. We needed that opulence and that is why we have a larger ensemble and these characters were necessary. We don’t take a star cast because we need them; we take them because the film needs them.  


What prompted you to venture into distribution of films?

We have been into distribution in a small way in Delhi, Punjab and Rajasthan. You have to have your hand in distribution, otherwise you get nothing.


Water was a stray case. John was shooting a song with me, after which he was going to watch Water. So I went along with him to see the film. I loved it and asked him when it was releasing. He said it’s not, because distributors were scared to buy it. That’s when I thought of buying it. I told him that I am not scared as I’ve seen it and there’s nothing derogatory in the film. I plan to release Water in January. Actually there is such a rush of films and Water needs nurturing, so I want to release it in an easy week.


What is the progress with Bhootnath?

We have finished shooting the first schedule. It is the story of a grandfather and a small child. I plan to release it next year in May during the vacations, as the film is for children. Vivek Sharma came to my office with the script and I liked it so much that I called Amitabhji and met him that evening itself, and things fell in place.


What is your film Pappu Paas Ho Gaya about?

It is courtroom drama comedy about a person who in spite of being a lawyer has never been to a court in his life, and he gets a murder case in his hand.


I am not sure if I’ll use that title any more, because somebody else has made a film titled Aur Pappu Paas Ho Gaya, even though I have the title registered in my name. Cadbury, which has Amitabh Bachchan as its brand ambassador and has used this line in its ads, has not had any problems with my film title. However, I am thinking of changing it.


I am still battling the case in court against the makers of Aur Pappu Paas Ho Gaya. I don’t want people to be confused about the title.


What else is planned for the celebration of the 50th year of B R Films?

The main celebration will be with the release of the colour version of Naya Daur. I am also making a coffee table book called The B R Story, which will be signed by my dad and will be presented to everybody who has ever been a part of BR Films.


I plan to release Naya Daur on 26 January because that date is very pertinent to the film as well. In case there is a rush of films in that week, I’ll postpone or prepone it by a week or so.


What prompted you to release the colour version of Naya Daur? Was it the response of the audience to Mughal-E-Azam?

My work on Naya Daur started much before the release of Mughal-E-Azam. It took me two and a half years and Rs 3.5 crores just for the colorization and background score of the film.


Frankly, I didn’t do this film with the idea of money. I did it with the idea of recovering all the money that I have spent and if this works, I will do it for all of my father’s films. The younger generation is not watching such films and if these films come back in colour, they will be remembered for that much longer.


I am not selling the film to any distributor. I am giving it to them to release it on an 80-20 basis. All the money that I need, I will be getting from satellite and home video. Money is not important here.

Rohini Bhandari

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