MUMBAI Reema Kagti's quirky sensibility as a Bollywood director came to the fore with her debut film "Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd" in 2007.
Five years later, Kagti is back, switching from romantic comedy to suspense drama in "Talaash", which opens in cinemas this week.
Kagti, 40, spoke to Reuters about her new film, which stars Aamir Khan, Rani Mukerji and Kareena Kapoor.
Q: This was a script that took a long time becoming a film, right?
A: "This was quite a few years ago. It was pretty soon after ‘Dil Chahta Hai' came out and way before Zoya (Akhtar) and I had written either of our first films. I would say this was about eight years ago. We were sitting and chatting one day and Zoya said something to me. There was the germ of an idea there. We started bouncing it around and Farhan (Akhtar) came into the room and asked us what we were doing. We said ‘we are writing a story'. He heard and said he really liked and wanted to buy it for Excel (Entertainment, Akhtar's production house). At that point, we had just started out -- this was our first attempt to write anything. So we sold the script and went on holiday.
"After we came back, we felt we were a bit short-sighted. This was a story that had stayed with us, and we even tried talking Farhan into giving it back to us, but he didn't budge. Then Zoya wrote ‘Luck by Chance', I wrote ‘Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd' and those films happened.
"And when I was talking to them about what I wanted to do next, I told them I loved the script and could I do it for Excel? They agreed, and that is when Zoya and I wrote the screenplay."
Q: When a script takes so much time to be made into a movie, does it undergo a lot of changes?
A: "Frankly not. The core idea hasn't changed. The time when we wrote the film, mobiles weren't so popular, so we had to update that. But the film we wrote, it's pretty much there. It's the same thing. Obviously, you keep tweaking things."
Q: When you have lots of time on hand, is there a temptation to keep tweaking? Do you know when to stop?
A: "What happened was that with ‘Talaash', was that we had approached many people and it wasn't working out, so I was working on other scripts. In fact, at one point, we took a conscious decision that it's not really going anywhere. We had contacted Aamir as the first pick, but at that time he wasn't even reading scripts because he had locked in the next couple of years. We approached a couple of people, but nothing worked out. Two years later, when we were about to shelve the film, Ritesh just called Aamir as a last-ditch effort and luckily for me Aamir said ‘I am listening to scripts again.'"
Q: Would you have made it if Aamir hadn't said yes?
A: "You know what, I had a deal with Farhan -- because I needed a slightly older actor, Farhan had promised me that he would do it after a few years (laughs). And I think he was serious -- I don't think he was joking. So ‘Talaash' would have got made, but maybe a few years later."
Q: Which are your favourite movies in this genre?
A: "There are many. There is a Korean one called ‘memories of murder'. I watched it many times and it was part of the inspiration for me wanting to make a murder mystery, although ‘Talaash' is in no way inspired by it. There have been so many memorable ones. Ben Affleck's directorial debut ‘Gone Baby Gone' was brilliant. It made me think. There's ‘Chinatown' of course."
Q: Why don't we make more of these movies?
A: "I don't know. Conventionally, the Hindi film industry … it's only in the last three or four years that things are changing and people are experimenting with different genres. People have tried things like this in the independent and small space."
Q: Does working with Aamir Khan add to the pressure?
A: "There is pressure but the pressure is good. In terms of Aamir, the commitment he has, the effort he puts in, he works very hard. It is not like he is doing lip service. He is just trying to make a very good film. If there is any pressure on me, it's coming from that space. As a director I felt very empowered ever since he has come on this project. He brings a lot to the table and most of it is very good advice."