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October 3, 2001

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Extortion threats forced him to go underground after his last film, Ek Rishtaa - The Bond Of Love. Now, director Suneel Darshan is back with a thriller.

Talaash will star Kareena Kapoor and the director's favourite actor Akshay Kumar. Raakhee comes back as Akshay's mother (she played his mother in Ek Rishtaa). The film will be produced by Pehlaj Nihalani.

Speaking for the first time on the extortion threat, he says, "It was a very trying time for me. I hope it has passed now. What's really sad is, apparently, there are factions in the film industry which are creating this scenario."

"I did face threats, but didn't give in. Maybe I reacted more emotionally than others. Maybe my colleagues are used to handling such situations more professionally than I. I pray to God it never happens to me again. Cinema comes from my heart. I can't make films if my heart is filled with fear."

"But I'm a positive person. I'm sure the recent developments in the global scenario will curb terrorism. It appears we can't fight extortion in our industry. I had to lie low at a time when I should have made another film," he rues.

"A section of the press had a field day misreporting the threats to me," Darshan complains. "According to them, one section of the underworld actually snatched the overseas rights for Ek Rishtaa. That is an absolute lie. It never happened."

About his decision to cast Kareena instead of elder sister Karisma, who has been part of almost every Suneel Darshan film, he explains, "Talaash demanded a younger girl. Besides, I have already signed Karisma for Mere Jeevan Saathi, a love triangle, with Akshay and another girl.

"Karisma was game for any role I offered. But to have the same actress in two simultaneous films wouldn't have made much sense," states Darshan, adding, "Natasha's role in Mere Jeevan Saathi was written with Karisma in mind. I plan to start the film soon."

Meanwhile, Kareena, Darshan says, is "very excited" about Talaash: "I'm very happy to be directing both Karisma and Kareena. Both are tremendously talented."

Darshan, who says he makes films for Indian audiences, states, "Everyone is busy making dil, mohabbat, pyaar (love) films, targeting their films at the international market, thus throwing the entire Indian motion picture economy into a major crisis. "The industry is currently going through a grave crisis. Let's give them the cinema they want."

He adds, "Ek Rishta was originally dismissed by the Bombay trade experts. Now, BO figures place it as the highest grosser this year after Gadar and Lagaan.

"The Bombay press treated Ek Rishtaa badly," he claims. Some critics felt the director couldn't handle the overpowering cast in Ek Rishtaa. Darshan disagrees, "It was primarily the story of a father and son. I concentrated on Amitabh Bachchan and Akshay Kumar. But every other member of the cast had a well-etched role."

Asked if he had made a conscious decision to experiment with a different genre after Ek Rishtaa, Darshan says, "Not at all. In fact, after Jaanwar, I wanted to make Talaash before Ek Rishtaa. The script is totally commercial."

Indo-Asian News Service

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