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Saif is unfit for the role : Shriram Raghavan

Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2007, 13:08 [IST]

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

His first film had the stars, and it did not fare well at the box office. However, Saif Ali Khan and Urmila Matondkar managed to impress the critics with their performance in Ek Hasina Thi. Now, director Shriram Raghavan is all set to make a mark with his next release, Johnny Gaddaar, starring Neil Nitin Mukesh. This time, he hopes to stay put in Bollywood.

How is Johnny Gaddaar different from Ek Hasina Thi?
This one is just the opposite of my first movie. In that movie my hero played the role of a villain. But in my present film, I have five people, who are doing things they are not supposed to. There is a mystery in the film, not for the audience, but for the characters. And I am sure the audience will enjoy the movie.

What's new in this film?
I'm working with Dharmendraji in this movie for the first time. And five minutes into the movie, the audience will forget Ek Hasina Thi.

What was it like to work with Dharmendra?
I have been his fan since childhood. I have seen all his movies, and he mostly played a thief or a smuggler, especially during the 70s. Keeping that in mind, I wrote this character for him. Dharmendraji plays the role of a smuggler from the 70s, who knows the business inside out. Neil plays a young man, who wants to learn a lot, within a short span of time. Dharamji's character tries to advise him, to tell him that the field he has chosen is not acceptable in society, but Neil does not listen to him.

How did you discover Neil Nitin Mukesh?
I saw him sitting, with some of his photographs, at a production office. Ashok, Hritik's PRO, made me meet him later. We spoke for some ten minutes, during which time I found out that he had assisted Aditya Chopra. Then I narrated my script, and he showed interest. Ten days later, he auditioned for me, after which he attended a workshop for two months. I was looking for a Punjabi boy, who speaks and thinks in English, and Neil was the best choice.

Jhamu Sugandh was the producer of the film at the beginning. What happened?
I did not want to bring in his name. Anyway, he was the official producer for thirty shoot days, but he had to drop put due to some financial difficulties. Too much hard work had gone into the film to abandon it, so I sent a proposal to Adlabs, and they agreed.

Were you nervous about this hitch?
Of course I was a little anxious, but I always try to stay positive when things go wrong.

In Ek Hasina Thi, you presented Saif Ali Khan in a new light, like he was never seen earlier. How have you prepared Neil in this film?
I did not present Saif in a different way. He had worked in at least 25 films when I met him. He liked the script and was willing to play the character. Things are different with Neil. I have given him a more contemporary character, someone from the present generation.

Ek Hasina Thi was Saif's first negative role, much before Omkara.
'Omkara' gave Saif better mileage. It's all a question of being in the right role at the right time. You are being generous in your compliment. I believe in team work. My spot boy deserves the same importance that I get, for my films.

Why did you not take Saif for this role?
He's absolutely unfit for the character. He's thirty plus, Neil is young. The story revolves around two and half crore rupees and Neil fits in the story very well. These days, people talk about 500 crores, and if Saif is shown getting affected by such a small sum, it will become a comedy.

What are the hurdles that you faced during filming?
There is a scene where a train coming to Mumbai has some action on it. It is a 12-mimute sequence. We shot in an actual train for this, traveling between Mumbai to Surat and back. We also shot at Pune and Lonavala stations at night. Our unit began shooting at Mumbai Central at night. That was difficult. Parvez Fazal Khan is the man responsible for the action in that scene.

Tell us a little about your next film, Happy Birthday.
I am not doing 'Happy Birthday'. My next is an unnamed movie, produced by Ramesh Sippy. It is a love story, starring John Abraham.

Topics: ramesh sippy, johnny gaddaar, saif ali khan, ek hasina thi, neil nitin mukesh, urmila matondkar
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