There’s something about Priyadarshan that makes you smile even when he is miles away. Perhaps it’s his refreshing candour. He admits that for him Bollywood is all about entertainment and not achievements. Excerpts from an interview:
This year, your Malayalam period historical, Marakkar: The Lion of the Arabian Sea, won you your second National Award for Best Feature Film after Kanchivaram in 2008. What makes this Golden Lotus special?
What makes it special is that for the first time, my son, Sidharth, and I will be winners on the same dais. He bagged a National Award too for the same film as visual effects producer while I got it as the best film director. That makes this award truly memorable because I don’t know if this double honour will happen again.
Every parent wants their child to follow in their footsteps and shine. You must be so proud of Sidharth today?
I don’t have anything left to ask for now. God has been very kind. This is so much more than just making money or a successful film. Cinema is my livelihood and now it’s become a livelihood for my son too. Now, my only prayer is that the children should do well.
I think cinema is more than just a livelihood for you. Through three decades, you have distinguished yourself as a professional, passionate and prolific filmmaker who now boasts of an impressive repertoire.
Well, I have worked in four languages — Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Hindi — and in 39 years, I have made 95 films of which 27 were in Hindi. In fact, I have directed the maximum Hindi films after David Dhawan, more than Raj Kapoor or Yash Chopra. It wasn’t planned, it just happened. Yes, it took a lot of effort but I don’t grudge that because the experience was always enjoyable and that joy has taken me forward.
You once mentioned that you preferred critics giving your film one star because when they gave four or five, the film was a box-office dud, and when they ran it down, it turned out to be a superhit. Do you still think along those lines?
(Guffaws) But it’s true, I got four-and-a-half, even five stars, for Kanchivaram, along with a National Award, yet the film flopped while there was so much criticism for Garam Masala and Malamaal Weekly, but they were big hits. I don’t make films for intelligent people. I make films for the common man who wants to laugh when in the theatre and go home happy.
So, I don’t understand why these intellectuals have to interfere. But you don’t only make comedies…
No, I decide what kind of films I want to make for what kind of an audience. That’s my choice. I didn’t make a Kanchivaram which depicted the struggles of the unorganized, marginalized silk weavers in Kanchipuram, with the same attitude as a Hungama 2. The former was a social commentary, the latter you can leave your brains behind, laugh heartily, go home, sleep, and forget it by the next morning.
But for someone who has proved time and again that he can go beyond nonsensical comedies, isn’t it exasperating to be labelled the ‘King of Laughs’?
See, I am doing serious films down South. Having lived in villages as a child, I know how villagers behave there. But I don’t understand the culture of Uttar Pradesh or places up North so I don’t attempt anything realistic here. I make comedies that will make people from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and even globally, laugh. I play safe here. For me, Bollywood is about entertainment, not achievements.
With Hungama 2 gearing up for a Disney + Hotstar premiere on July 23, what do you remember of Part 1 after 18 years?
I remember that it was a comedy of error with all the characters thinking something else for something else. It’s the same treatment in Part 2 which is not strictly speaking a sequel. It’s a new plot but because the treatment is the same, we are calling it Hungama 2.
From your repertoire of blockbusters, which includes Hulchul, Garam Masala and Malamaal Weekly, which other film could lend itself to a sequel at a time when there is such a dearth of good content?
Definitely Hulchul, it’s one of my biggest hits. I have an idea in mind, but I am waiting to see how people react to Hungama 2 and accordingly, I will plan Hulchul 2.
Akshay Kumar recently posted a picture with you from the sets of Raksha Bandhan and instantly, speculations were rife. Did you drop on him to discuss another film?
I went to his house to narrate a script and he took me with him to the Raksha Bandhan set. Yes, we are doing another film together. It was to start this year but has been pushed to the beginning of 2022 because of the pandemic.
You’ve been asked this many times, I’ll ask you one more time: What’s happening with Hera Pheri 3 ?
I was happy doing the first one, I don’t want to do anymore Hera Pheris. Does that answer your question?