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June 5, 2000


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'Josh was an experience in forbearance'

Mansoor Khan Television channels are continuously airing Shah Rukh Khan's playback debut in Mansoor Khan's Josh. Meanwhile, audiences wait with anticipation to see whether Aishwarya carries off her role as his sister instead of his ma cherie. The film should get an initial viewing just for the intriguing casting -- of a kind that audiences have never accepted before. A case in point is the beautifully made Bambai Ka Babu in the fifties, which had the gorgeous Suchitra Sen and Dev Anand in the miscasting of a century. That film had flopped badly. Will Josh fare better?

Mansoor Khan picks up the gauntlet in this interview with Lata Khubchandani.

Wasn't it a risk casting Aishwarya Rai and Shah Rukh Khan as brother and sister?

That was what the script demanded and I was looking at casting the film correctly. It was appropriate to have Shah Rukh and Aishwarya Rai play brother and sister.

Do you think times have changed enough for audience expectations to be thwarted in this way?

That depends on whether they like the film. If they don't, then it may be considered suicidal. But, even then, it doesn't mean they shouldn't have been cast as they have been.

Chandrachud Singh is again at a low point in his career -- isn't he?

When I cast him, Machchis was highly appreciated and he was very sought after. Things change. He is on a low but he can bounce back.

When you cast for your film, Aishwarya was being panned only as a pretty face -- what did it require from you to get her to perform?

When she heard the role, she realised she was very well suited for it. She got a good idea as to the character she was going to bring alive on the screen. It was her character and her understanding of it which made her perform as she's done -- and her performance is very good. I had to guide her, but the rest of it was obviously upto her. She sharpened her skills very quickly from her first film itself. Even during the making of the film, I realised that she's grown a lot.

Josh You have consistently taken Aamir for all your earlier films. What made you switch to Shah Rukh?

Again, I thought he suited the role more. He has a certain screen presence and an out-of-the-ordinary charisma that suited the character I had in mind.

You've got Shah Rukh to sing a song in the film. Was that pandering to commercialism?

It was one of those attitude songs which would work better if the character sang it himself, because he'd give it the correct nuances to the rendering. But we haven't promoted it or hyped it as a highlight in any way.

Josh has been in the making for a long time… Doesn't it look dated?

It could have. But, strangely enough, it is a much anticipated film so it all turned out well. It can happen that, when a film takes too long, nobody cares if it releases or not. But I don't think that's the case with Josh. So I don't think we have to worry.

You've made only four films in over 12 years. What makes you decide on a particular story?

Difficult to say. A story has to have some element of human drama which appeals to me and I can't define what that is. In Josh, I was intrigued by the characters of Westside Story, which is why everybody thinks it is Westside Story. But it isn't.

It was only the characters which fascinated me -- two young street gangs, a boy and a girl whose brothers are the street gang leaders... I tried to make a story around it. I took it on as a challenge to see what story I could add to it. Something came up in my mind which ultimately became the script of the film.

It has never mattered to me whether the film will be a conventional formula film -- there should be something in the story which I like. For instance, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander was very close to my heart. It was a story about a loser who learns to work hard and win. I wanted to make a film of that kind.

Have you identified what is it that should appeal to you enough to make a film?

I'm character driven. Basically, the character should appeal to me enough to work a subject round it. So the character of Sanjay Lal in Jo Jeeta… was very clear in my mind. I added the brother's character. As long as those characters are shaping up well and there is a good interaction, I feel I can tell a good story. In Jo Jeeta..., I wanted to make a film about the test of human endurance and how a person faces upto odds.

Josh What, in your perception, is Shah Rukh's plus point as an actor?

He is incredibly charismatic on screen. When he is on the screen, all eyes are on him. I don't know what that quality is that attracts the audiences, but it is there. He also has an indefinable kinkiness which I've used in this film. You feel the character is slightly kinky, slightly off, and you like that. I've noticed this even otherwise and he was my first choice for this film anyway.

You've been in the field of film-making as long as Aamir Khan has. Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak was the first film for you both. Do you get a sense of having made it here?

I don't see myself as this great lover of cinema or a committed film-maker or any such thing. When I feel I have something to say, I make a film. I'm not crazy about films or anything.

Of the four films you have made so far, which is the one that has made you most proud?

Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander. Though QSQT was the bigger success, that wasn't criteria enough for me to be proud of it. For me, Jo Jeeta… had more flesh and blood to it. It broke newer ground than the earlier film.

Have these films been learning experiences for you personally?

Yes, definitely. Jo Jeeta... and Josh have both been experiences in endurance. When making Jo Jeeta..., we almost reshot the whole film -- that required some strength and commitment. Josh was an experience in forbearance again because I had to wait for the actors' dates and had to sustain my perspective and my motivation. But both were multi-charactered films and, in many ways, they are alike.

Akele Hum Akele Tum was much simpler, but it was more drenched with emotion than these two. There was a child and that was interesting. But the film didn't do well and I realised that you cannot change mindsets like 'Women don't walk out on their husbands,' etc.

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