Vinod Chopra in conversation with Subhash K Jha.Recently you had a very special guest to watch your new film with you.
Yes, Ralph Fiennes was here for his Unicef work. It was a private visit. He saw my Ekalvya with me. There was just the two of us. He sat two seats away from me. He was
so moved. At the end of it, he applauded spontaneously. On an impulse he went with me to Mr Amitabh Bachchan's house.
For once Mr Bachchan seemed
completely moved by the compliments. Here was one of the greatest actors in the world praising Mr Bachchan telling him his performance in Eklavya was among the best
he has seen. For once I think Mr Bachchan took me seriously. I keep telling him Eklavya is his career's best.
Your coming together with Mr Bachchan for a film has been delayed by many years.
Yes, in fact ever since I graduated (from the Pune Film Institute) ...We've been trying to work together since 1987. Words fail to convey how I felt after working with him.
Imgiane an actor of Amitabh Bachchan's caliber going on location seven days in advance to rehearse.
When I made the request I thought he'd think I'm crazy. I can
tell you one thing. You've never seen the Bachchan of Eklavya before. Considering he's been around for thirty-five years that's saying a lot.
He was very uncomfortable with the beard he had to wear for your film.
Yes, but that's what makes him a great actor. You know, all of us have to bear with a lot to create what we believe in. Striving for excellence is never a comfortable position
to be in.
Saif has grown quite a lot as an actor in Parineeta. Has he reached another level with Eklavya?
Oh absolutely. I also think he was outstanding Omkara too.
Eklavya is your first directorial venture in seven years ...
That's right. My first since Mission Kashmir came seven years. But it doesn't seem I've been away. I was busy with Munnabhai. I could've delayed it for my directorial film.
But to me there's difference between what I direct and what I produce.
Really, I felt no lacuna. As long as I was making good cinema I'm happy. As it is I never
make 4 and 5 films a year. I like to give one film all I have. And I gave Munnabhai all I had. Eklavya took almost five years to write.
Yesterday when Ralph Fiennes
said Eklavya was Shakespearean I was very touched. I put him on to Abhijat Joshi who wrote the film.
Jayaji says she can't slot Eklavya?
Neither can I. I can only define it as an endeavour for the entire team to strive for excellence. At the risk of sounding immodest I'd like to say most people haven't seen
anything like this.
Are you happy with the brand name called Munnabhai?
We shot a trailer for the third part. It's called Munnabhai Chale Amrika. Ralph and I went by helicopter to Nitin Desai's studio in Karjat (outskirts of Munnbhai) and
shot the trailer. I'm proud of what we're doing.
And I'm happy that our cinema has gone where it deserved to be. But when I make a film I don't think of how far it'd
go. To me what matters is how far I'll go. I think I've gone quite a way. I'm totally satisfied with my work in Eklavya.
Any regrets about your talented protégés like Sanjay Bhansali and Pradeep Sarkar moving on?
I love it. Some kids decide to stay home with their parents. Others move on. Parents have to support their children in what they decide to do. As Khalil Gibran said, "They're
like the arrows and you're the bow."
I can only give them a sense of direction. Beyond that I can't keep them back. All I want is they should go out and make me
proud. When Sanjay makes a good film I feel happy. Of course I've the right to scream at him if he makes a bad film.
At a recent awards function there were
seventeen people who went up to the stage and thanked me. But my job isn't to look at others. My job is to look ahead at what I can do.
When are you directing another film?
Raju Hirani and Ram Madhvani are directing films that I'm producing. Ram was with me on Mission Kashmir. He's making a huge fantasy like Lord Of The Rings for me. Mr Bachchan will star in that. And if all goes well I'll direct another film this fall. I've a couple of ideas.