"After Juhi, Mallika is one actress who fits so easily into comedy" - Sanjay Chhel

By Letty Mariam Abraham, Bollywood Hungama News Network

In Bollywood, if there's one person who can prove wrong the saying 'Jack of all trades, Master of none', then, it has to be none other than Sanjay Chhel. For he is the man behind many a hit film that Bollywood has witnessed over the years. Films like Rangeela, Yes Boss, Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani, Khoobsurat, Partner, Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya, Kismat Konnection bears the eternal stamp of Sanjay's brilliant work, as a writer. He has also directed films like Khoobsurat which starred Sanjay Dutt & Urmila Matondkar and Kya Dil Ne Kaha which starred Tusshar Kapoor and Esha Deol. The man is all set to take your breath away with his latest release Maan Gaye Mughall-E-Azam, the most awaited breezy-comedy film of the season starring none other than Madame Mallika Sherawat alongwith Rahul Bose and Paresh Rawal! Bollywood Hungama caught up with this man for an exclusive interview. Must say, it's surely one of the most interesting interviews ever! Read on and decide for yourselves!

Your last directorial film was in 2002...why did it take you 5 years to make another one.
I have been very engrossed in writing films like Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya, Partner, and Kismat Konnection. Moreover, I was not getting a proper project, producer, and set up and I didn't want to take any chances with my career. Anyways, as a writer, I am doing very well. I know I am not young but I have time to roll on. Although I must mention that after meeting Ratan Jain who has produced my film, I feel much secured as he is one person who allowed me to follow my vision as a thorough gentleman. He believed in me when I had lost faith in myself. That was a major reason for me to take up Maan Gaye Mughall-e-Azam. He allowed me to do what I found interesting and that was one prime reason that triggered me to do films after five years.

Maan Gaye Mughall-e-Azam...how did this idea pop up in your head?
I always wanted to do an out of the box comedy, a very different one, unlike the routine comical of four guys chasing a girl or a Malayalam remake. And I was bored and fed up writing such films; I wanted to make a film on the lines of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron wherein the genre is class-apart, where the approach to comedy and characters is different; so I made a script about a theater group, an extra marital affair inclusive of all this there is comedy, thrill and social commitment. Maan Gaye Mughall-e-Azam is a mixture of all these elements. You can't exactly place the film in one particular genre; this is something I have never done before.

Was taking Mallika Sherawat and Rahul Bose influenced by their chemistry in Pyaar Ke Side Effects?
No, not really. When I started doing this film I had only Paresh Rawal in my mind. As the story progressed Rahul and Mallika joined the cast. So, it was not exactly a conscious decision but somewhere there is karmic connection and casting was just perfect.

Tell us something about the storyline.
It is a multi layered comedy about relationships, a theater group and its relevance. It's about the underworld and the hide and seek involved. That pretty much sums the story of Maan Gaye Mughall-e-Azam.

It could have been a Romeo-Juliet, Laila-Majnu then why Mughal-e-Azam?
The story of Mughal-e-Azam is part of Indian heritage it is more likely to connect with the audience more than what a Romeo-Juliet could. And I do not relate to Shakespearean drama. I connect more to Mughal-e-Azam and moreover it fits the Indian psyche perfectly. The story is not exactly spoofed but it will be clearer once you see the film.

Paresh Rawal and Rahul Bose have done theatre did Mallika Sherawat need extra training to learn the theatre ways?
No, Mallika has also done theatre in the north and moreover she is a fantabulous actor. I admire her command over Hindi; I think after Juhi Chawla, Mallika is the next actress who fits so easily into comedy. Normally good looking girls have a problem with the comedy because they are too self obsessed by their glamorous image. But Mallika in addition to being selfless looks sexy and glamorous, and when she acts she makes it all look very easy. I fell in love with the way Mallika carries herself, and her improvisations, and the way she rehearses with Rahul, Kay Kay Menon, and Paresh Rawal.

Have you ever been associated with theatre before?
Yes, my father is an art director; he has been doing English, Marathi, Gujarati, and Hindi plays since the last forty years. I too have done theatre wherein I have acted with the likes of Paresh Rawal and Shafi Inamdaar. In fact, I have done my entire schooling from Gujarati theatre. I have learnt and succeeded in Hindi comic capers because of my experience in Gujarati theatre. If you pull out Gujarati writers from Hindi films, comedies will not work. Besides me, there is Neeraj, Vipul, Aatish, Imtiaz Patel and Milap who also emerge from Gujarati Theater and thus have a strong sense of comedy.

How different do you find theatre from films?
When a play starts we cannot control the actor or the scene. But when it comes to a film, the writer and director can control the entire content.

Coming back to Maan Gaye Mughall-e-Azam, could you throw some light on Paresh Rawal and the other actor's roles in the film?
Paresh is doing about four-five roles in the film, he's playing Akbar; he is playing a senior actor, an underworld don, a Ghazal singer. Probably after Hera Pheri this would be rated as his best performance. I think Paresh Rawal is one of India's best actors but despite that, he still improvises along with other actors, very casual, and very down to earth. His humility is such a striking feature about him unlike some actors. He is an underrated actor and critics have not given him his due but the people love him. Kay Kay Menon is a shaayar (poet), and Mallika plays a theater actress whilst Rahul Bose is a lover boy who is also involved in a mission. All of them are playing multiple characters.

How has your chemistry with the three actors been?
It has been fantastic. Kay Kay was the surprise package and this is probably the first time he has done a full fledge comedy. And Paresh as always was very good as he is great actor. This would be Rahul's first time in such a comedy. Mallika is class-apart when it comes to the bright comedy. If I can put it, its like, Paresh is the soul of the film, Rahul is the mind of the film, Mallika is the body of the film and Kay Kay is the shadow. This would be the ideal way to describe the film and my interaction with them.

What kind of music has been given to the film?
The music is very different and has a very out of the box contemporary style. Anu Mallik has given terrific music; he has used all the classical elements giving tribute to Mughal-e-Azam. He has also composed some ghazals in the film which are sung by Pankaj Udhas. The music is truly Indian, I just hope that the multiplex sensible audience would like it and appreciate it.

What was the most difficult shot during the filming?
According to me the most difficult scene is the climax shot wherein I am handling 20 to 30 actors at a time. Everyone has different a body language and emote differently and to catch it all and execute them well is a task.

Could you share some memories of the film?
There is a particular scene where Paresh is performing on the stage and Mallika is romancing with Salim and suddenly Pawan Malhotra enters the theater with Rahul chasing him, and the audience is going mad with laughter on seeing the whole chaos. The scene is very similar to the scene in the film, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron. The whole situation is very hilarious, very strenuous and difficult to shoot. Mallika has also done some sensuous shots under sea water, it was high-tide, in spite of that Mallika never once complained. I was getting scared wondering whether she would be able to manage or not but Mallika's dedication and daring attitude is commendable. She's a true professional.

What other projects are you handling now in terms of direction and writing?
I have been signed by Percept for a romantic comedy film and I am also doing a film for I Dream. However, all my films will have Paresh Rawal because without him I am handicapped, he is my anchor. I feel very secure with him.

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