Be true to your film, says Nagesh Kukunoor

Nagesh Kukunoor

Success or failure of a film can’t be controlled, says film-maker Nagesh Kukunoor

In your recent films, you have cast a crop of ‘bankable’ stars like Akshay Kumar in ” 8 x 10 Tasveer” and John Abraham in “Aashayein”. Yet they failed to spark at the BO. Did you think that you could have done something more?
No. The scripts were written a while back and the script always becomes your Bible. The best part about working with established actors is that they guarantee a certain budget and they ensure a certain level of marketing that is required these days to get your film out there. But associated with that, the expectations are ridiculously high and if expectations are not met, there is a cascading effect. The films were made exactly as they were intended. They were not modified because a new actor was on board. Now, the success and failure is not something I control. So, the moment a film doesn’t work, it sparks off a lot of analyses, but there is nothing I could have done about it.

“Aashayein” did not live up to peoples’ aashayein. How do you plan your next?
The film actually got mixed reviews but again, it didn’t change the way I plan my films. A movie’s success or failure doesn’t teach you anything, it cannot guarantee what will happen to your next film. You can have a massive flop and follow it up with a huge success. Alternatively, a successful film may be followed up with a dud! Failure cannot teach you how to approach your next. All you can do from your part is be true to your art. What lesson did I learn from the failure of “Aashayein”? That I should never make another film about cancer patients, starring John Abraham and set in Pondicherry? No! Of course, failure bothers me. But there are no lessons to be learnt from that. It comes with every art form. Judgement comes after the film is finished and, by then, it’s too late.

Do you begin a film with the end in mind? That you have to connect with the audience?
Audience connect is irrelevant. Starting a film with the end in mind is an absolute wrong way to make one. As far as audience is concerned, there is never going to be any agreement because, if I connect with someone today, I may not connect with him or her tomorrow. The only honest thing that a film-maker can do is just be true to the film. There is a saying in the West, “serve the audience, serve the play”. They were referring to theatre but it also applies to movies. You do your best service to the audience when you are true to your belief, your film.

Of late, a lot of big-budget films are not performing well at the BO whereas small-budget films are being appreciated. Is a new trend shaping up?
The budget doesn’t really matter because 90 per cent of what happens in the industry today is based on perception. When a big film fails, there is this perception that all big films will fail. Conversely, when a small film succeeds, the perception is that all small films would succeed. If an analysis is done, we’ll see that the success ratio of the so-called ‘big’ and ‘small’ films have always remained the same.

Have you thought of casting a Bengali actor in your movies? Or maybe direct a Bengali film sometime in the future?
I don’t delve into languages that I do not know. See, Telugu is my mothertongue but I haven’t made a single Telugu film so far. The language I am most comfortable with is English. Hence, I started my career by making movies in English. The second language I am most comfortable in is Hindi. I am shocked to hear directors saying that cinema is just a visual medium. If they feel that way, why don’t they make a silent movie and see if they can guarantee a full house! A film is not called ‘Talkies’ for nothing. I feel that the spoken word is very important and would never do a movie in a language that I don’t understand.

So, would film-makers someday make silent movies again?
Singeetham Srinivasa Rao had made “Pushpak” in 1987 with Kamal Haasan and Amala. But we have moved away from that era now. Occasionally, a film-maker would attempt that but I still feel that the spoken language also forms an integral part of the expressive art that cinema is. But it is sad to see that most actors nowadays speak in the same manner. They have lost the ability to sound different. In real life, all of them have a unique rhythm and cadence to their speech but in film, they all sound the same.

( Article first published in Calcutta Times, The Times of India, 18th Jan 2011)

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