He was awarded the Padmashree in 2012 for his contribution to Indian cinema. His films in Malayalam have found great acclaim and have been applauded though his Hindi films have been branded comedic and haven’t found the same reckoning as his Malayalam films. Director Priyadarshan speaks to Manju Ramanan in a candid interview
You have two personas – the Hindi film-maker and the Malayalm film-maker and they are both different?
Laughs… You can say that I switch over between two kinds of films. I am not the same director when I make my
Hindi films. There is a lot to consider there. In Malayalam I am a free bird as far as creativity and the process of film making is concerned. I might have a certain cinematic sensibility as a director but if it is not needed in a certain film, there is no point in expressing it.
Why do you see a gap between the way audiences from the South and the Hindi film industry have received you?
Hindi cinema needs its dose of entertainment. Malayalam cinema doesnt always. I started out with Viraasat that was well accepted but somewhere during Hera Pheri, my branding changed. The Mumbai film industry commonly dislikes serious subjects because it caters to an audience of big screens largely – people who want to be entertained and not made aware of life and its complexities. I burnt my hands with Tezz. In Malayalam I can be 100 percent true to my subject. In Hindi I cannot be completely true to what I want to make because of the complusion of wanting to entertain. Audiences want lighter moments in a film.
You have remade some of your Malayalam films with success in Hindi. Why do you think that worked?
I have made all kinds of films. Right from a Virasat to a Kala Pani to Hera Pheri – I have done all kinds of films. Some worked, some didnt. I make the films I liked to watch when I went to theatres as a young man.I play to all galleries of audiences. Khatta Meeta for example didnt do too well because audiences in Hindi are not keen to know about the trials and tribulations faced by a PWD officer. They prefer a Rowdy Rathore.
You have been part of the comedy genre in Hindi though?
I remember when I was in flight with Kajol and spoke to her about Hera Pheri and she said I have gone mad casting Paresh Raval who was known then more for his negative roles, Akshay Kumar and Suneil Shetty who were known for thier action roles – in a comedy. She was right. The madness worked for me and them. Today the film is a significant part of their careers. They have improved and polished themselves after the film. I never had a problem or a baggage that these were not actors who had done comedy before ( though Paresh Raval has). Their look was correct, they were convinced about their roles – then I had to just mould them into their characters.
Do you see your Malayalam cinematic sensibility come to your Hindi films ever?
No, it will never come to Hindi cinema. If you have to survive in the HIndi film industry, you have to make a commercially successful film and not necessarily one that has critical acclaim. For instance a state award will usually be conferred on a sensible film but popular awards are always taken by commercially successful films. But it is good because it encourages commercial film-makers.
The North-South divide is blurring? How do you see it.
Actresses have been accepted well both sides but it hasnt been the case with male actors. While we talk of actors like Kamal Hassan, Rajnikant and Mohanlal who have not been that big in Hindi, there has also been an actor like Amole Palekar who tried Malayalam cinema in his hey days and wasnt successful. Suneil Shetty though is an exception. Though he s from the South he is a Mumbaiker.So is Vidya Balan – both have never been part of South Indian cinema.Madhavan though is an exception.
How do you see new scripts coming into Hindi cinema?
Largely speaking, I dont see change. In fact it is deteriorating. People are watching films and making films. They arent reading books and making films. The literary value to films is going down. The reason why I admire the versatile Sreenivasan. His sense of research is amazing, yet he writes a role that is relatable and identifiable to the common man. It is not important what you write, it is important how you do so. I liked Kahaani though.
So, is the industry star driven or performance driven ?
It is indeed star driven. I myself need a star to survive. I am waiting for revolution to happen.