For two years after the success of his spy action thriller D-Day, Nikhil Advani was missing from the Bollywood scene. Suddenly, this September, we will see more of his work than we have in quite a while, with two back-to-back releases. Seated in his Khar office, the filmmaker is in a jovial mood. “When I made flop films, I made them one after another. After a successful film, I took a break—perhaps to digest the success that came after so long,” he says with an easy laugh. First off the block will be Hero, which marks the debut of star kids Sooraj Pancholi and Athiya Shetty, and after that would be Katti Batti, which features the romantic comedy hero Imran Khan after a long time and the reigning queen of Bollywood, Kangana Ranaut.
Advani seems relaxed as he lounges on his couch. The office is rather interestingly done up. The office walls are covered by the obligatory posters of his favourite films and those directed by him. His own cabin, however, offers a peek of what he likes to have around. Apart from his family pictures, its walls are adorned with posters made by the American illustrator Shepard Fairey. Before he sits down for the conversation, Advani speaks of how he collected these posters from New York and how Fairey has gained a huge following over the years. Unlike many other Bollywood insiders, Advani likes to keep up with the wider world.
Advani is currently sailing on two boats, both as director, but the expectations, he says, are different from both films. After D-Day, the director’s natural inclination was towards the romcom Katti Batti, a genre he hasn’t tried since his 2003 debut vehicle Kal Ho Naa Ho (KHNH), which remains one of Bollywood’s best loved romantic comedies. However, in the midst of its preproduction, Salman Khan came to him with an offer to remake Subhash Ghai’s epic film, Hero. Advani, who cannot say ‘no’ to Salman, gave his nod. The film’s trailers bear a slightly jaded look, though. Advani is undeterred. “With this film, all I wanted was to give Sooraj and Athiya the best possible launch I could.” He reveals that Salman has left no stone unturned to that end. “Salman has a very special connection with Sooraj. Even Sooraj doesn’t know what it is, but there is something.” Advani also says that after a point they stopped keeping track of the money that was spent on the movie. “Salman just told us to spend as much as we want but to make sure that the film lives up to expectations. After all, the money spent on the film is equivalent to the one-day collections of any of Salman’s films.”
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September 21, 2015