'Manoj entrusted his faith in me'
So you keep hearing about people from various walks of life seduced by celluloid.
So you've heard countless such stories till they don't raise even a cursory bit of curiosity.
But then, stories are for the telling.
And Hansal Mehta's is a story waiting to be told.
Because only a computer engineer such as he would quit his job and find himself in the kitchens of Khana Khazana. He, in fact, calls the popular Zee cookery series his "baby".
Only a determined person such as he would spend seven years making TV programmes waiting for just the break.
It happened. With Jayate. The film didn't get a decent release, though it was shown last year at the Indian Film Festival, winning him a lot of rave reviews.
Then, a bigger break happened: Dil Pe Maat Le Yaar, a collaborative effort. By three friends who shared a common dream: Hansal Mehta, Manoj Bajpai and Saurabh Shukla, writer of the film, which will be released on Friday, October 6.
In an exclusive interview, Hansal Mehta talks to Runima Borah Tandon about his friendship with Manoj Bajpai and the making of the film.
What is Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar about?
Well, it's a film that traces the journey of the main protagonist, Ram Charan Pandey (played by Manoj Bajpai).
Like thousands of migrants, he comes to live in Bombay egged on by his dreams.
He interacts with people from various levels of society. And each interaction leads to the building of another dream. The film traces how each of these dreams get shattered when a new dream takes over.
Finally, things reach a desperate stage. It's a film that begins with dreams, moves on to a stage of desperation. It explores people's reactions when they are faced with desperate choices.
The upper class is represented by Tabu and Saurabh Shukla represents the lower middle class.
The film has its dose of humour, a little bit of romance and some action. It has songs, dance, everything that a normal filmgoing audience would want.
In addition, it is a film with a mind and will force people to think. It is thought-provoking, entertaining -- basically it has something for everyone.
You say Ram Charan's dreams are shattered. Does that mean it won't have a happy ending?
I'm not saying anything now! You will have to judge for yourself. It's not for me to say whether it is a happy ending or a sad one.
I'll say this: it has a good, conclusive ending. And I'm sure people will come out with different interpretations about it.
You are the first director to direct Mahesh Bhatt. How did it feel to direct a director?
Well, he is playing Mahesh Bhatt. Tabu, a writer, has written a script for Mahesh Bhatt. And so his presence.
When we were writing the script, the character we wanted for the director was Mahesh Bhatt. We were hopeful that Bhatt Saab would agree to play the character. Now, I didn't know him, but Manoj (Bajpai) is quite close to him since they have worked together before.
Manoj was quite confident he would agree, so he asked me to talk to Bhatt Saab.
I rang him up. He laughed and said, "How can you make me act?" I just asked him to leave that to me. That was it.
We struck it off quite well and shot all his scenes in a day. He's done a wonderful job and he has performed like any other competent actor.
For me, he was the boss that day although he said that I was very gentle and patient.
Manoj Bajpai happens to be one of your closet friends. How did you relate to him as a director?
I have an unfair advantage over any other director because Manoj is one of my oldest friends in this industry. We have known each other for the last eight years-- we've been through good times and bad.
We had a dream. We had decided that if one of us made it big, we would make a film together.
So Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar is a dream come true for both of us and for a lot of people around us.
You are also known to be a big Tabu fan. How was your experience working with her?
Tabu is amazing. I feel she is one of the finest actresses in the country today.
I got to know her two years ago when I had approached her for another film. We started corresponding with each other on the email, and got to know each other very well.
So when we actually worked together, there was a great level of comfort between us.
Besides, she is a very comfortable and warm human being, who puts the director at ease. She adapts herself to the environment that she is placed in.
You have given Manoj Bajpai a new image -- of a romantic hero. Do you think it will go down well with the masses?
The problem in this industry is that we bind our actors to an image.
Manoj is capable of breaking the shackles of any image because he reinvents himself in every film, presenting himself in a new light.
His roles in Satya, Kaunand Shool. are completely different from each other.
The problem is, here, you are always known by your last film. And since Shool was an intense film, people have branded Manoj as an intense actor.
I'm absolutely sure that he will be accepted as a romantic hero in Dil Pe and he has done full justice to his role.
What made you choose Vishal Bharadwaj to compose for Dil Pe Maat Le Yaar?
Vishal Bharadwaj is also one of my oldest friends. We have been through Maachis together. He was the first amongst my group of friends to really make it.
I have always believed that Vishal is the only original music director we have in the industry today after A R Rahman.
Vishal has the ability to surprise his directors. He understands the script very well and tries to compose songs that fit into the basic pace and mood of the film. It's a very energetic and fast paced film and the songs reflect that energy.
In an interview, Manoj Bajpai had said that he was taking a big risk with his career by working with absolutely new but talented directors. And if these films succeed he would be very proud of them. What are your comments?
Well, he is definitely entitled to feel proud! He has received recognition for his acting calibre and needs no introduction.
He had also entrusted his faith in me, a director who is attempting a mainstream film. For my part, I think I have returned that faith.
To go back a little, tell us a little about your first film.
Jayate was a film about medical malpractices, and the story of a wasted lawyer.
It has a very inspiring story and brilliantly essayed by Sachin Khedeker, Shilpa Shirodkar and Kishore Kadam.
It has no songs but had wonderful background music by L Subramaniam.
What are your future plans? Have you decided on your next film?
There are a lot of offers coming my way, but I'm taking it easy for now.
I've invested a lot of energy into Dil Pe. I'm can't think of other work just now.
My next film will be Shaadi.com, a story of a modern marriage.
It will offer a nice, humorous look at marriage.
The cast is still under wraps. Let me get out of Dil Pe, and I'll tell you more about it!