'Alibaug' is about my life, says Sanjay GuptaOct 13, 2006 Subhash K. Jha
Mumbai, Oct 13 (IANS) After "Zinda", Bollywood filmmaker Sanjay Gupta is set to direct a semi-autographical film "Alibaug" which focuses on a "critical phase in his life".
"I'm directing a simple small film called 'Alibaug'. It's based on a critical phase of my life. It has no big-screen stars, but the crème de la crème of actors from television," Gupta told IANS in an interview.
His friend and business partner Sanjay Dutt will make an appearance in "Alibaug".
"Sanjay freaked out when I told him the concept. We remembered how 'Kaante' was supposed to be a Rs.15 million film and was to be shot in a 'chawl'. It instead went to Los Angeles. That's what happens when Sanjay comes on board.
"I wanted 'Alibaug' to remain small and real. I'm still scripting it. It was inspired by a trip I took to Alibaug recently with my niece and her friends. The peace and happiness I experienced proved I had exorcised the demons within me. I had reached a kind of plateau with dark films with 'Zinda'. It reflected my state of mind. 'Alibaug' will be much lighter. It will make audiences smile. I had to reinvent myself."
Gupta has never been more revved-up about his plans. His production company White Feather, which he partners with Sanjay, has moved into a posh spacious new office.
"I've never been more work-oriented - I'm doing a shit-load of things. And I'd rather not talk about it now."
However, after some persuasion Gupta opens up: "We're on to really big stuff. We've signed an excellent line up of directors - Apoorva Lakhia, Hansal Mehta, Ananth Mahadevan, and then Shyam Benegal, Sudhir Mishra and Meghna Gulzar.
"Shyam's 'Chamki Chameli' (based on the musical 'Carmen') has a fabulous script. With a budget of Rs.90 million, it's being re-worked with a completely new star cast. I'm meeting and signing a whole cross-section of directors. We're living in exciting times. And I want to be part of that excitement."
Gupta has suddenly become massively prolific.
"As a producer Yash Chopra isn't my hero, Shashi Kapoor is. He thought too much from his heart and lost money. I don't want to lose money. But I love his choice of films. My 'Chamki Chameli' will be like what Shashi did in films like 'Kalyug', 'Vijeta' and 'Junoon'.
"'Kalyug' was originally conceived with Amitabh Bachchan. Can you imagine where the film would've gone? I want to take Shyam Benegal and directors of his calibre to that level where they'll have the stars and the box office clout."
He stops for a breath.
"Post 'Zinda', Sanjay and I want to take White Feather to another level. We're taken a lot more seriously as a production house now. We can use our clout to get talented directors to work with big stars. Can you believe Meghna Gulzar had been trying to get through to Sanjay for four years? I'm making that possible. Meghna or any other director who works for White Feather has to first make himself or herself completely free of other projects before coming to me."
There is more.
"I'm doing a series of 10 short films all 10 minutes each. This is a very unique, very secret signature collection. I now have a pool of original stories and directors. I'll personally do three-four of the short films. But all of them will have stars.
"What separates this concept from Ramu's (Ram Gopal Varma) 'Darna Manaa Hai' is that all the stories belong to different genres, so the stories never get boring. You know I'm right now like a bomb ready to explode. The atmosphere in our office is so conducive to creativity. We've tons of creativity coming in and out. We're meticulously planned. Every film that I'll produce has a specific crew and time-frame - there'll be no overlapping.
"And I'm there hands-on for every project. I won't be interfering. But at the same time it won't be like my 'Plan' where I never went on the sets."
But how much would someone like Benegal allow Gupta to intervene?
"Shyam is someone I'll learn from. I'll be a parasite on the sets."
Gupta is excited about the young talent around him.
"I've asked all the directors who are contributing to my short stories to write what kind of music they want. Then I've various lyricists like Neelesh Mishra, who's writing the songs for 'Alibaug', and Virag Mishra, who wrote the title song for 'Zinda'.
"Thank god our lyricists have moved away from the 'ishq-mohabbat-pyar-iqraar' clichés... and the music directors - right from A.R. Rahman and Anu Malik to Himesh Reshammiya and Sandesh Shandilya."
"This phase is designed to end by mid-2007. There's lots more in store," said Gupta.
"Luckily, the big players in the entertainment business seem to believe in what we're doing. 'Zinda' was personally very satisfying for me, though I had the Kolkata distributor accusing me of making a black-and-white film. How stupid is that! We want to grow beyond such mind-sets within the industry."
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