MUMBAI Director Abhishek Kapoor is ready with his new film "Kai Po Che", nearly five years after he burst on to the Bollywood scene with the unexpected success of "Rock On".
"Kai Po Che" is the only Indian film among 31 features to be screened in the Panorama segment at next month's Berlin Film Festival.
The film, based on Chetan Bhagat's "The 3 Mistakes of My Life", is about three friends and their dream of setting up a cricket academy in India. "Kai Po Che" opens in cinemas on February 22.
Kapoor spoke to Reuters on the difficulties of making a film based on a book and why he thinks Bollywood is cheating audiences.
Q: Was adapting the novel for a film difficult?
A: "I've made two movies before this and they are both original screenplays. When you adapt a book for a screenplay, I learnt that it's a totally different beast to handle. I learnt that because when I read the book I found it very fascinating. The book went into many different areas -- it's a vast book, it's an epic book and it had very interesting characters, but when I started to adapt it I realised that it was much deeper a process than I had thought. I had to tell the story in two hours and there had to be a trajectory and a graph to it. It was a difficult process, it took me two years to crack it -- to figure out what I wanted to include from the book and what I wanted to leave out. There is a time, when you are in the middle of it and you are exhausted. It's called the ‘belly of the whale' moment. You are lost and after doing ten drafts, I scrapped it."
Q: How did you get past it then?
A: "Well, you just break it all down again and start to rewrite, rearrange and ask the relevant questions all over again. So you start all over again. At that stage, maybe the fundamentals of the script were wrong, so we had to break it down and start all over again."
Q: In that process, did you veer away from the book?
A: "Not really. It is the book. There is more now than in the book. We've added more dimensions than in the book -- one character has been written afresh. I am not the best judge of that right now, because I am so immersed in it that I have lost all objectivity. Maybe after people have watched in theatres, they will be able to tell."
Q: As a film-maker, do you face opposition when you want to cast lesser-known actors in your films?
A: "Everybody's got to struggle until you prove yourself. I had done well with ‘Rock On' so putting something together for the second film was a lot easier."
Q: Your first film didn't do so well, your second one was a success. Does that make it easier to deal with failure?
A: "I can only speak for myself. I have seen failure for many years -- I was an actor and I failed there. Then I made a movie and failed there. So I've seen failure for 13-14 years, which is a lifetime. You just get so used to it and it's so dark and so toxic that it is very important to validate the time you spent in failure. All it needs is one success. And after you see that success, everything else is wiped out. But what it does give you is the ability to face failure again. I have that sense of fearlessness in my head that I can try new things. If I believe in a script and a film, I can go to lengths to make it."
Q: Would you be happy if "Kai Po Che" makes a billion rupees at the box office?
A: "I don't think about that. What I want is for ‘Kai Po Che' to make a place in people's hearts. Four years later, people still talk to me about ‘Rock On'."
Q: Is there something about male bonding that attracts you in a script?
A: "Not really. I made ‘Rock On' which was about friends and this film again has friendship as a theme. But they are different films. You cannot take a shot from ‘Rock On' and put in this film. It's very different in the way that the characters interact, their social strata, everything."
Q: Do you think Bollywood can make a film without crowd-puller elements and still earn money?
A: "It's too early to tell. I think we are still stuck in that Bollywood space where we give the audience the same thing and say ‘audience ko yehi achha lagta hai" (the audience only likes this), which I think is the biggest lie which we use to our advantage. The Indian audience has no form of entertainment but our films. Even if you give them absolute nonsense, they will still lap it up. If there is a roof that leaks, they will prefer to sit under the leaking roof rather than sit outdoors in the rain. If you ask me, I still feel that we cheat the audiences immensely."
(Editing by Tony Tharakan)