MUMBAI From a struggling director with Bollywood dreams to the man at the helm of the third "Munnabhai" film, it's taken Subhash Kapoor less than three years.
The former TV journalist hit pay dirt with his second attempt "Phas Gaye Re Obama", a 2010 film set against the backdrop of global recession, about a bankrupt businessman who is kidnapped by a motley group of gangsters down on their luck.
The unexpected success of the film opened many doors for Kapoor, including that of producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra who was on the lookout for someone to direct the third film in his popular "Munnabhai" series.
Kapoor, 40, spoke to Reuters about his new film "Jolly LLB", his thoughts on slapstick comedy and why he agreed to be a part of the "Munnabhai" series about a Mumbai gangster and his bumbling sidekick.
Q: How different is "Jolly LLB" from "Phas Gaye Re Obama"?
A: "‘Jolly LLB', unlike ‘Phas Gaye Re Obama', doesn't have a funny premise. In ‘Phas Gaye Re Obama', the premise was funny, that a guy who has lost everything to recession gets kidnapped by a gang hit by recession. In ‘Jolly LLB', it's the story of an underdog - it's the story of a Meerut-based lawyer who wants to become the most famous and the most expensive lawyer in the country. He comes to Delhi in search of that case and he gets involved in a case with India's existing popular and expensive lawyer. Fundamentally, it's not a comic film - it's a satire."
Q: Is it easier to make films when your previous film is an unexpected hit?
A: "It definitely gets easier. The way Bollywood works is that once you show quality and that quality is backed by some good numbers in the box office, then people like it. Within a week of ‘Phas Gaye Re Obama' releasing, I was offered 20-25 films by people in the industry - everybody wanted to work and wanted to know if I had a script ready."
Q: How did that feel? Especially since not too many people knew you before that film.
A: "It felt good … I don't know how else to describe it. But for me, the biggest high is making the kind of films I want to make and being allowed to do that."
Q: What do you think about the "Golmaal" brand of cinema? Is your brand of humour different?
A: "I love the ‘Golmaal' movies. I loved all David Dhawan films. I enjoy watching ‘Dhoom'. I have nothing against them - but I find myself incapable of making them. My brand of humour comes from the everyday, mundane, and to be able to find something funny in that. It is part of that milieu, that environment - I haven't planted it there. I won't throw a banana (peel) in the courtroom so someone can fall and people can laugh."
Q: But do you think audiences will take to your brand of comedy, given that they're used to a staple diet of slapstick comedies?
A: "It's changing, I think. Slowly. You have to accept the fact that people at large like them. The fact is that these films are clocking big-time numbers 100 crore (1 billion rupees) and plus. I want to acknowledge the fact that there are masses at large who are liking these products."
Q: You are directing the next "Munnabhai" film. How did that happen?
A: "I got a call from Vinod Chopra and after a couple of meetings, he offered me ‘Munnabhai'. I didn't jump at it. I took a couple of weeks deciding and figuring out whether I have a story to tell. Whether I will be saying yes to the project because it's huge and it's ‘Munnabhai' or am I going to say yes because I have a story to tell with these two characters. The day I felt that, I went back to them and said yes."
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