The movie, which remained canned for more than one and half years on account of a dispute between its producer Percept and Reliance Big Entertainment, is set to release end-August. “It is rewarding to see it coming. Finally,” says Kukunoor. “Bahut paseena bahaya is film ke liye (we sweated buckets for the movie).”
Well, the cult director is not talking in figurative sense alone. For, the shooting of the film took place in Pondicherry during summer months. “It was hot and humid,” says a member of his crew. “The situation was worst for John (Abraham),” says Kukunoor.
“His character in the movie has to lose weight with the course of time. So he would shoot in the day, then work out in the evening.” For the facts, Abraham shed 16 stones for the movie.
Asked why it took seven months to reach cinema halls even when the court had allowed the release in January, Kukunoor says he wanted to take no chances.
“So much effort had gone into it that we wanted no diversion of our core audience first from IPL and later World Cup Football. Although my core audience is a mixed bag, but they are also hooked to events like these, so we waited.”
About the last two of his movies—Bombay to Bangkok and 8×10 Tasveer—bombing at the box office, Kukunoor shrugs off. “This is part of the business. Some will work, some will not. This is the nature of game in Bollywood.” However, he admits that he has learned his lessons. Such as if a director does not keep the interest of his core viewers in mind, they won’t support him endlessly.
“I want to attempt different genres of cinema but when critics and audience go to watch a movie, they enter the cinema hall with some expectations. One has to bear that in mind.” This time, Kukunoor has played it safe, experimenting only to the musical part of the movie; Aashayein has about ten scores in its album.
Interestingly, Abraham as well as Kukunoor did the movie for virtually no cost. “We charged nominally since we felt we connected with the movie.” The film is about a young reckless man who comes to know suddenly that he has only a few months to live. The storyline appears strikingly similar to Rajesh Khanna-starrer Anand, directed by late Hrikesh Mukherjee in 1970.
Kukunoor nods at the hint, “I have been very close to Hrishikesh Da and Anand is one of my favourite movies. But Aashayein deals with the subject differently.”
Without delving into the essence of the movie, Kukunoor explains that although it does deal with the subject of death, the central theme is more about joy of living—of being alive. Therefore, expect this to be no tear-jerker, sentimental presentation, he advises. “During my years with Hrishi Da, I learnt the art of bringing smiles on the face of my viewers, sometimes subtly so,” says Kukunoor.
“Hrishi Da used to say that it amazed him why a director could not make his audience laugh even once during the entire length of a film. His words stuck.”