Wednesday, April 12, 2006
When it comes to photography, Subi Samuel needs no introduction. His work speaks volumes. From photography, Subi is now set to start his filmography as a producer with his debut venture, Alag. While every filmmaker in Bollywood keeps claiming that his film is Alag (different), Subi has gone ahead to the extent of titling his film Alag.
A film with 50 minutes of special effects (yet without an inflating budget) that talks about a superhuman who doesn't have a single strand of hair throughout his body, Alag does seem to live up to its title.
IndiaFM presents an exclusive conversation with the man who had the power to convince the male lead of his film to shave his eyebrows and also get in stars like Shahrukh, Abhishek Bachchan, Priyanka, Preity, Bipasha and many others for a music video for his film.
You have won a lot of accolades for your photography. In terms of photography in Bollywood, which is your favorite work?
Like you said, I have been in the business for a very long time. So it's not easy to pin point one particular picture. Off hand, I can think of 10-15 photographs which are my favorites. I had shot one of my earlier works with Sushmita, where she is biting a chain. That is undoubtedly one of my favorites. Then there is a picture of Aftab, where he is a dwarf. It's a classic. I shot with Amitabh Bachchan and Abhishek Bachchan together. The sheer magnitude of having them together makes that my favorite. They are just monkeying around in the photograph. It's not your typical portfolio pictures. There is one picture of Hrithik in which he is holding a photo frame of his face. You can't actually see his face. So there are various pictures. It is work that I am proud of.
Stars like Sushmita Sen swear by you. You must be feeling great!
On the contrary, it is a very humbling feeling. You have to live up to the reputation that you have built. More than the stars, what is humbling is when people come and tell me that they have been following my work. People tell me that for 5-6 years, they have been observing what I do. I used to follow works of great photographers, when I was studying. In fact I still follow the works of Rakesh Shrestha, Gautam Rajyadaksha and greats from the international market. I think I have a certain responsibility to my work. I can't just dole out jazz and expect people to follow my work.
Your contemporaries are launching calendars left, right and centre. Do you also have an annual calendar?
No I don't do that. I guess I have just not been motivated enough. I used to do exhibitions which I haven't done this year. That's because I have a bigger exhibition in the form of my film now! The last two years, I did an annual exhibition. For me, that was a high. It was a great moment.
From photography to film production, how did the shift happen?
It's not a complete shift. I'm still doing photography and intend to do it for as long as I can. I was just having a casual, friendly meeting with a friend who mentioned the script to me. The more I heard, the more I got involved. I started having discussions about the character. What was supposed to be a casual meeting turned out to be something that changed the course of my life. And now, here I am producing a film!
How did you zero in on Akshay Kapoor and Dia as the star cast?
Alag is an amalgamation of a lot of friends who believed in a project. There are at least 4-5 people in the cast and crew who haven't charged me a single penny. So it was sheer conviction and belief. Akshay Kapoor was chosen purely because of his talent. He was chosen from a lot of established people. We wanted someone who has the potential, talent and discipline that was required for this role. Also, we didn't want the actor to have a set image. I could not envision an established character playing the role of a boy with special powers who has no hair on his body! Including eyebrows!
Tell us something about that!
The character had to be someone who does not have any hair on his body. We wanted someone who would do that. Also, he could not go out and party in case the press got some photographs, in the initial stages of the film. Akshay was willing to do all of that. He was disciplined and committed. He got involved and brought a lot of improvisations in the character. He has a lot of potential. Not for a moment would I regret the fact that he is in the film.
Akshay and Dia's careers have not been on a high of late. Did that affect your decision?
No it didn't. I am not your typical 'Lets go by market standards' kind of person. The trend right now has been to do comedy films. Of course there was the fear that Alag being a sci-fi film would directly be pitted against Krrish. I would imagine that the costume budget of Krrish is bigger than the budget of my film! But you don't get cowed down. Having said that, how many of us actually knew Toby Maguire before Spiderman? Or Christopher Reeve, for that matter. The audience tends to identify with the character!
As for Dia, I think this is her best performance, by far. She has not performed with such maturity in any other film. It's a tailor made role for her. She is playing someone who is empathetic towards street kids. She is young enough to be paired opposite Akshay and yet mature enough to be sensitive to Akshay and others like him. In the film, she runs a home for destitute street kids.
Tell us about the storyline of the film.
It is a very emotional film. It attempts to trace the life and experiences of a boy who is immensely gifted mentally, physically and emotionally. Alag sketches the life and will of this special boy and what he needs to do to survive in this world.
What about Ashu Trikha? How did he become a part of the project?
He is more like an older brother. It was an obvious decision. The script came to us through a friend of ours. We used to have random, candid discussions in my studio where the story started developing. If I have someone like Ashu Trikha at home, there is no need to go for anyone else.
What is actually Alag about this film?
Mine is a film which has about 50 minutes of special effects. Mine is a film where the hero is completely bald except for a song sequence. Although it is about special powers of a character, it does not deal with a super hero. He has special powers but still wants to be accepted by society. There are a lot of things that you don't see every morning. There is a scene in which he is interacting with a 1000 butterflies. No one has envisioned stuff like that.
There are two sides to a film being different. It could even hamper the box office prospects, considering the different theme.
Doordarshan was ruling the roost till MTV came in. If MTV had said that it does not want to do something different, it would not exist today
How was the experience as a producer?
It was a lot of fun. Like I said, it was a lot of friends coming together. So we connected. Either there were my friends or Ashu's friends. There was not a single person on the entire unit who was not a buddy. We would constantly be pulling somebody or the others leg.
So tell us some prank.
There were loads! There was a very intense scene in which Akshay and Dia kiss. He's crying and there are some intense dialogues. Akshay had a mouth full of garlic. We had already canned the scene. But we had ganged up and kept on re-shooting! Diya kept on doing the scene with the same intensity! Akshay just burst out laughing. Then the first time we shaved Akshay's hair, he was shocked and traumatized. I personally shaved his eyebrows. It was great fun! And we've got all these great moments on camera.
What according to you is the USP of this film?
It is the emotional story of a super human being. It is the journey of this person that we have tried to capture. I can't pinpoint one single aspect as the USP. There are so many things I am proud of. It would just sound like an emotional outburst. There are a lot of things that I take back home from this film.
Tell us about the music of the film.
I think this is one of Aadesh Srivastav's best works. Others who have heard this are also of the same opinion. This film will just cement the fact that he is a talented music director.
You have planned a music video with a great line-up of stars. What is the video like?
The stars have come together, purely to help me. I'm glad that they are willing to come together for this. It speaks volumes about their big hearts. Because none of them are sitting home, free! I really appreciate their effort.
Who all will we see in it?
There is Shah Rukh Khan, Arjun Rampal, Bobby Deol, Abhishek Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra, Lara Dutta, Bipasha Basu, Sushmita Sen and Preity Zinta! They are all singing lines about the character. They talk about why he is so different.
By when will we see it?
It should go on air by the second week of May. The movie is scheduled to release by the end of May.
You are also planning another project, soon after Alag. What is that about?
I haven't announced it yet. I intend to do so around the release of Alag. My negotiations with the female cast are on. So as of now, I will not be able to discuss casting. It's a comedy film, heavily doused with romance.