If at all the adage of 'seen it and done all' was ever supposed to hold good, Sanjay Gupta would certainly be a forerunner. In a decade and a half long professional journey, the man may have directed only eight films starting with Aatish (1994) and ending with Zinda (2006). However, in the process he has seen friends turning foes, his very own spouse being lost and regained, personal relationships turning ugly, super success followed by critical acclaim, a long period of being ignored by his very own film fraternity and a long period sabbatical which could have broken anyone's back. Still, the man has managed to stay afloat, albeit with quite some trouble at every juncture.
Sanjay, while you are smiling today, the fact is known that things weren't quite rosy for you during last five years due to which you had to hold on before starting a project. Rumours have it that once your friendship with Sanjay Dutt came to a close, there were quite a few challenges that you had to face from within the industry.
(Says after a pause) There have been a lot of people whom I had known for 20 years and considered them as friends. I had supported them in the worst of their times. However, overnight they turned once my problems with Dutt emerged. I realised that these people were nothing but star-struck motherf$%^*rs who were around me just because of the kind of exposure it gave to them. In a way all of this was a nice eye opener. I am glad that a lot of crap went out of my life.
Well, there were some actors also openly refused to work with you and didn't even come up with any excuses. Is that true?
Arrey yaar, there was a 'fatwa' out on me, as simple as that. Why just the stars, there were even some technicians who had nothing to do with White Feathers, me or my problems with Dutt. Still, they went against me. However, all of this is now a thing of the past. Today so many of these people are not even in the business. I have been in the industry for long and hence understood that this time will also pass by. I had a share of friends whom I lost but theek hai, hota hai.
You just mentioned the word 'fatwa'. Was it really that bad Sanjay?
There have been so many actors who have been open enough to admit to me that they had received this 'fatwa'. They were so scared about the forces external to them that quite a few of them actually cut off all ties from me. However, once they realised that all of this was sheer bullshit, they did come around later. They apologised and said that they were confused. They were forced to take sides and didn't have any other choice because not doing so would have impacted their career.
Who were these people?
(Laughs) Jaane de naa yaar, sabko pata hai. Kyon unka naam loon. They came back with the right earnest and intent and this is what that matters. I appreciate that they had balls to do so.
As has been known, one of the few men who stayed on with you was Manoj Bajpai. Though he has worked in only one production of yours (Acid Factory), he was a pillar of support despite no professional compulsions. Isn't that strange, especially in an industry like Bollywood?
The whole relationship with Manoj is based on honesty and sincerity. As you correctly mentioned, from professional standpoint hum donon ko ek doorse se kuch bhi lena dena nahi hai. However, if you ask me about my 4 am friend today, I would say that it is Manoj. Other than him, most of the cast of Acid Factory has been staying besides me solidly as well over last so many months.
Well, that is quite surprising actually considering the fact that the film was a disaster at the box office.
The root cause of Acid Factory meeting such an ill fate is a couple of monkeys who were sitting in Mumbai Mantra, the company which had acquired the film. They didn't have any clue about distribution or timing of release. When I kick started business with them, I thought of doing so because it was an Anand Mahendra company. I expected sensible people there. However, once I realised these people were totally incompetent on the work front, I shot a long elaborate mail to Mumbai Mantra. I mentioned in bold words that the film would be the biggest box office debacle of the year.
Rarely does one see a film maker being so confident about the failure of his film.
(Laughs) No idiot releases a film one week before Diwali. This is the time when people are busy shopping and taking care of other household things. Par yeh maharathi log sochte they that just because we were getting a solo release, we should bring on Acid Factory. They released it at a worst possible time and that too without correct promotion and marketing. Flop toh honi hi thi. Uske baad kya hua? Ultimately these people were fired and today Mumbai Mantra has shut down. For them it didn't make any difference because they have crores at their disposal. While they were just experimenting, for us it was a world that was shattered.
I am sure you must have been shattered.
I was so disappointed and so were my director and the cast. They had put their heart, body and soul in it. I stand by the movie. It was kick ass. Even critics were more or less positive about the film. But then the sad part was that even my own close relatives were not aware about the film being released. They used to ask that 'Beta, picture kab lag rahi hai' and I had to sheepishly say that 'woh toh aake chali gayi'. Nothing can be more embarrassing than that. Today, I actually want to use this platform to apologise to my team that I let them down by signing up with Mumbai Mantra. Sorry guys, I was helpless.