On the sets of the Hindi film production, Deewana Huya Paagal, in Dubai, there is little of starry airs but enough and more of footnotes that are vintage Bollywood. Rajeev Nair writes
Does it make news now? Do the flirtations of Bollywood in Dubai deserve headlines anymore? Bollywood is becoming routine in the city. The shows, the private functions, the product launches, the shooting schedules… the Indian Hindi film industry is making a splash out here.
Suniel Shetty premieres his home production in the city; Shah Rukh Khan makes a young Dubai girl’s dream come true as he makes her dance to his tunes, live on stage; Salman Khan does a marathon run; Sameera Reddy judges the best “item dancer;” Celina Jaitley launches a jewellery piece….
Extra artistes gyrate to Anu Malik tunes by the Children’s City; the Big B watches Bo Derek and a bevy of pencil-thin models stroll the beach of the Arabian sea in the backdrop of the Burj Al Arab; Akshay Kumar shakes a leg with Kareena Kapoor in the amber deserts; Madhavan sings his heart out to Namrata Shirodkar at the Hard Rock Café; an old villa in Bur Dubai is where Diya Mirza stays; Thushaar Kapoor takes Kareena for a ride, er…, on a motorcycle at the Emirates Hills; and now, Akshay Kumar sheds glycerin tears in the courtyard of a Jumeirah villa….oh, oh, Bollywood has made Dubai its second home.
From film premieres to stage shows, and community events to commercial takes, Bollywood is marching through Dubai’s roads and deserts. Talaash, Dil Vil Pyar Vyar, Om Jai Jagadish, Hera Pheri, Tumsa Nahin Dekha, Boom, Fida, Jeena Sirf Mere Liye, Stop, and Hawas – now, add to that incomplete list of Hindi films shot in Dubai, Deewana Huya Paagal.
Familiarity, if the adage is right, should breed disinterest, a little contempt too – a sort of “I have seen this before…so big deal…” But with Bollywood, more is the merrier. More stars can be more fun, more tantrums, more airs, and more attitude. With Bollywood, anything goes. After all, isn’t it the turf of the survivors?
You have little say in the overall scheme of things. Singers, here, could end up as actors; actors become producers and directors; music composer turn script-writers…
The writer of Deewana Huya Paagal, Neeraj Vohra, who has to his credit hits including Rangeela, Awara Paagal Deewana, Hera Pheri and Josh, started off as a music composer for the first film of Lagaan-director, Ashutosh Gowariker. He isn’t complaining. “The industry decides your fate,” says the wise man.
In the case of Akshay Kumar, the actor, fate decided that he be one. He was dabbling in the hospitality sector before he was spotted by Bollywood for his looks and stunt skills. Now, on-screen, he is going to play the role of a chef. He confirms the news, and adds that shooting will start next year. For him, now, the script is the priority. And friendships too. “I invest in human relationships,” he adds.
Akshay has a good going now. His current release, Aitraaz, is doing well, and audiences await his biggie with Amitabh Bachchan, Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Sathiyo. He doesn’t feel he was playing second-fiddle to the heroines in his current hit. “It is about doing the right film and working with good directors. My priority, today, is my script and the role.”
If years have taught him the need to be choosy, teenybopper sensation Shahid Kapoor, two films old, has already decided not to be in a hurry. He picks roles that suit his age and looks. “What is basically important to me is that I must be excited by the script and the character. The genre of the film is not really important. When I hear a script, I must instinctively feel that I should be part of the film.”
For outsiders, the struggles, the efforts at decision making, the frustrations are hardly discernible. They laugh at comedy actors, expecting them to be wisecracking all the time. They stare unblinking at the upcoming stars; they are in awe in the presence of the achievers.
All three of the lot can currently be found in Dubai. Shooting for Deewana Huya Paagal (DHP), in Dubai, are the immensely talented Paresh Rawal, Johnny Lever, Asrani, and Mohan Gokhale – all gifted actors who have demonstrated a flair for comedy. Youthful exuberance comes from the relative newcomers, Shahid Kapoor and Rimii Sen. Then there are Akshay Kumar and Suneil Shetty, stars in their own right, with an appreciated sense of comic timing.
Producer Feroze Nadiadwala regards the film as a family, comedy, action entertainer – which most Bollywood productions tend to be, anyway.
Bollywood? Did we say Bollywood? In the Hindi film industry, the fad is to condemn that usage. It is derogatory, the industry argues, to celebrate a tag that has been derived from the name, Hollywood. How can such a huge industry depend on the West for its name?
But inspiration, as the industry knows and prescribes, should not have borders. It is a free world out there. Pay a few green bucks, you can even legalise a desi Pretty Woman.
“That is not true,” corrects the film’s director Vikram Bhatt. “There are a lot of original films being made in mainstream Hindi. Inspiration Hollywood, anyway, is a whole chapter of discussion; it is very difficult to encapsulate it in a nutshell. The writing, production and the way the industry has come about – a lot of things are to be blamed for it. But then, lot times, when you want to succeed in any sphere and there is no model available, you borrow a model. That is not only with films. You imbibe a model that works and then make your own thing, whether it is a mall or multiplex.”
And films too. Bhatt should know.
Vohra, who calls DHP a “roller coaster ride of romantic comedy with thrill elements and heart-touching emotions,” denies that DHP is inspired by any Hollywood film. But is it a purely original film? No. “It is a mix match of many ideas but with a fragrance of original humour and original performances in the romantic angle.” Well…
Shouldn’t the fact that Bollywood (oh, not again) is growing, and reportedly gaining an international audience that is even bigger than Hollywood (as per a recent report) put the brake on plagiarism and promote original thinking?
“I don’t think the Hindi film industry is bigger in reach than Hollywood,” says Bhatt. “But maybe then the population of India and the Asians abroad should account… (for some impressive numbers). No, I think, the reach of Hollywood films is more because if our reach as good as Hollywood, we would be raking in as much revenue. The population of a place is different from the population of the place that is actually viewing the movie. Every one cannot view films so you can, say in India, a population of 100 and 20 watching; and in the US, 50 with 40 going to the movies.”
Bhatt, however, says that not much thought actually goes into such intangibles. “To be honest, all you need is to tell a story. Story-telling goes far back to the primitive ages with people huddled around a fire and one person telling a story to an entire village. That instinct is still alive. Everything is fair when you want to entertain people. One is not looking at viewership and the cultural dictates and the needs of the society. When you have a story, you simply tell it.”
Talk about cross-over film in Bollywood, and Dubai is soon to play host to two Hollywood meets Bollywood productions, informs Nadiadwala, a man hard to nail down. He is all over the place. From planning a production photo-shoot to making sure the visitors to the sets are seated, he is on the move – very unlike money-bag producers who sit back and relax.
“I have planned two Hollywood productions,” says Nadiadwala, “to be directed by mainstream Hollywood directors and to feature Hollywood and Bollywood actors. Things have been finalised; we are just waiting for the right time to announce the project.”
Dubai, it seems, will play host to these productions too. DHP, a lavishly mounted film, is shot in Dubai because, “we are going to show Dubai as Dubai. Some 85 to 90 per cent of the film will be made here.”
Having earlier shot a song sequence for his film Hera Pheri here, he likes the city. “The people are nice, the rules and regulations are very easy to follow, all amenities are here, and it is closest to Mumbai.”
Akshay Kumar agrees: “I think it is a very nicely developing city and it is like going to Europe or US but so very close to you. The kind of things you get here, you cant’ get them elsewhere. I love to be here.”
Nadiadwala has evolved a very effective working partnership with actors like Akshay Kumar and Suneil Shetty, who are repeated in virtually all his films. “It is not about (our) friendship. They are very good professionals. They are always on time; they come down to the hotel lobby at 6 am. There are very few actors who show that kind of respect to their work, and what more can I ask for?”
He isn’t affected by box-office setbacks. His earlier production, Aan: Men at Work, didn’t ignite the turnstiles. “Every film is a different process. People’s tastes change, and we learn from their likes and dislikes. We can’t make the same movie all the time. Filmmaking, indeed, is an educational institution by itself. To make a film that is presented well, you must understand the general taste of the people, the fashion, the technology…you must have in-depth knowledge about every field.”On the sets of a multi-starrer, you almost sympathise with the director. How would he cater to the collective ego of some of the industry’s biggest paid men? Bhatt evokes the metaphor of a sheep-dog to describe his role as a director. “All these actors are talented in their own way. In this film, my role is not about making them act but controlling their acting. All actors are children at heart. They like to be praised and pampered. They don’t like to be said that what they do is wrong. They are to be said that their performance is right but it just needs to be better. Your role is also like a parent. However big the child is (the actor’s star status is), he is still a child (an actor).”
Children, these actors may be, for him. But theirs is, so obviously, a tough life. Imagine having to shed false tears, play the fool, romance your girl, sing a song, well, for that matter, just sit in one place, with hundreds of prying eyes all over you.
It is the price that you pay to be a star.
It is the price that builds your and the industry’s glamour quotient. And it is this curiosity that makes Bollywood big-time news, any time, every time, it makes a stop-over in Dubai.