He probably had the best debut film as a director in recent times. Dabangg not only went on to become the biggest hit of 2010 but it also became such a big brand that a sequel was announced soon after its release. But the man in question, Abhinav Kashyap, had other plans. He wanted to make a different film with a different set of people. No one knows why. And he won’t tell. But all the hullabaloo and heartburn that has been caused between the Khan brothers and the Kashyap brothers is too well-known. Abhinav treads the thin line as he answers a few blunt questions from Koimoi.com, while also talking about his next film with Viacom 18, and why he will never do a film without stars.
The controversy over your refusal to to do the Dabangg sequel has assumed mammoth proportions.
It is unfortunate. It would have been better if the controversy hadn’t happened at all. Someone instigated someone else and someone made irresponsible statements, which led to hurt and counterattacks. I was not a part of the whole process at all! The two people really involved in the issue are me and Arbaaz (Khan). So whatever talk was to happen has already been done by us over the phone. Now, what interest do the others have in our lives?
Are you hurt by this episode?
I am okay. I have spent 15-16 years in this industry. Technically, Dabangg might be my debut film, but it’s not that I do not know what all goes on in this industry. So, it’s not that I have been hurt. Someone else might have felt so… but I am sure, no one had such intentions. All is well now.
How are your relations with Arbaaz Khan and Salman Khan?
Right now, very good.
Tell us about PROJECT 18, your next film that you are co-producing with Viacom 18.
The film I am writing is in the love story-action space. This story would be based in urban space, not in the rural. It might even be based abroad.
Is this one of the pre-Dabangg scripts that you had written?
No, this is a new script. I have kept some of my older scripts on the shelf right now. See, pre-Dabangg, I was a small-time filmmaker trying hard to raise Rs.1 or 2 crore to make a film. So, I wrote the films accordingly. Most were small subjects. Now, life has panned out in such a way that it has given me the chance to make bigger projects with more viable monies and a bigger star cast. So I would like to explore that opportunity. Hence, I am developing new subjects.
How did you zero in on making a film with Viacom 18, as opposed to the Dabangg sequel?
My relationship with Viacom 18 is based on trust. The deal that has been struck between me and Vikram (Malhotra, the COO of Viacom 18) says a lot about the kind of person Vikram is and the faith he has on me, and vice versa. Vikram’s style of functioning and thinking is better than the styles of the other corporate heads. It is probably so because he does not come from a film background, and as such, he is able to relate to the ground realities much better. All the parties involved in this project believe in the same goals.
You are also launching your production concern, Movie Temple Productions, with the new film.
Movie Temple is a partnership firm started by Sanjeev Gupta and Himanshu Mehra some time back. Himanshu was also my chief assistant in Dabangg. That’s when he first mooted the idea of me joining them by taking a stake in the company.
But you could have agreed to Dabangg 2 and still have done this project…
I had to say no to Dabangg 2, because it came in the way of doing this film, as Dabangg 2 would be shot around the same time when we would go on floors with Project 18. Dabangg 2 was earlier supposed to start around March 2012. I thought that I would finish writing this film and then write Dabangg 2. But Dabangg 2 got preponed. And that can’t be shifted because Salman Khan is far busier than I am. And his dates had been locked. Now, I had to step back (from Project 18) which I was unable to. So, I opted out of the Dabangg sequel.
But the way in which things got thrown around in the media gave a very different impression.
See, I don’t want to upset anyone else’s applecart because I can’t keep to their timings. They can go ahead and make it. All my blessings and support are with them. In fact, I am very happy for Arbaaz. If he becomes successful, it doesn’t take anything away from me. So why should I be insecure? It would have been different if Arbaaz had kicked me out, saying, ‘This guy’s not good enough.’ But no, Arbaaz gave me respect and I was always his first choice. The media can write what they like but we never believe the media. So if anyone is to be blamed, blame me.
You had promised to do another film with Arbaaz.
I always do one-film deals with people. Even with Arbaaz, there was a one-film deal. Then, he signed me on for another film. The deal is still there. We might work on the film after 2-3 years, whenever. Nothing has changed. I just opted out of Dabangg 2. I have not sworn to never work with Arbaaz.
You made it big in the industry after years of struggle. Did you ever try to seek your brother, Anurag Kashyap’s, help? Or did you consider pitching him a subject?
My brother is not a hero, yaar. I was looking for a hero. I had started out (my struggle) by looking for producers. Then, when one producer sat on one of my scripts for nine months, I gave up that direction. Then, I started looking for a hero. For first-time directors in our industry, getting the hero on board is the most important thing. Even for Dabangg, I had approached many people with the script. Finally, I met Salman and he agreed.
At what stage of writing the script do you start thinking of the casting? Now that you are making your second film, is getting a star as important as it was back then?
I start thinking of the casting after the first draft of the script is completed. There is no casting without stars. A star is a star because s/he is loved by the people. And when people love the stars, who am I to say that I would not take a Shah Rukh Khan but someone else? Among the top-line stars, there is a choice of about 10 or 12 people. But the wish is always to go with the biggest. If the script suits a star, and the star likes the script, then I will go ahead with the casting. It’s a mutual thing. Aapas mein baith ke suljha lenge!
You were offered many projects after the phenomenal success of your first film. On what basis did you reject them?
Whom did I refuse? Who approached me? Everyone offered me money and asked me to do a film with them. When I asked them, ‘Where’s the film?’ they had no answers. That I would not work on others’ scripts has been my standard answer, because people get very attached to their scripts and then they do not want any changes made. I cannot work in an environment of such animosity. However, I kept meeting industry people so that no one thought of me as an arrogant person. Big, well-established producers called me over for discussions and I readily obliged. When they asked me how much money I would charge, I refused to quote any figure. In fact, one person insisted that I keep the Rs. 50 lakh that he was offering me! But he had no script!
How is the new film developing so far?
At the story level, I am sure that the film will be shot at an urban centre. It could be in Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad or any other metropolitan city. But I want to avoid (shooting in) Bombay because it’s a very common ground. I have just started writing the screenplay. So when the story starts taking shape, I will decide the locales. I am happy with the team that I have got and I want to start shooting after October this year. Once the casting is finalized, and the financials are okay, we will be all set to roll. It’s as easy as that!