'Neal 'n' Nikki' is more than just 21 kisses: Arjun Sablok...

By Subhash K. Jha, Indo-Asian News service

imageMumbai, (IANS) Arjun Sablok is distressed by rumours that his film "Neal 'N' Nikki" has 21 kisses and is based on the Hollywood movie "American Pie".

"I don't know where this is coming from. But I'm tired of people presuming there are 21 kisses in 'Neal 'N' Nikki'. Absolutely not! Please, don't gimme such a sleazy cheesy image. My film has 21 women, yes. But they aren't all kissing. For the record there're only three kisses in my film."

The story doing the rounds about the next Yash Raj film is that it's hotter to the touch than all their recent hip-and-happening films... and that it's like "American Pie".

"But my film is nothing like 'American Pie'. 'Neal 'N' Nikki' is an absolutely original romantic comedy."

But the director reluctantly lets the cat out of the bag and admits: " 'Neal 'N' Nikki' is a very steamy film. Uday Chopra plays a guy who wants to be with as many women as possible before the day of his arranged marriage. Since he has 21 days before D-Day he has an extended bachelor's vacation. He wants to be with 21 girls in 21 days."

No Yash Raj film has paraded so much female beauty.

"We auditioned loads of actresses from all over the world. All the girls are from Canada. The white girls speak in French. But the film isn't raunchy. My vision has evolved. But I haven't sold myself out."

Arjun was brought up in Vancouver. "I've shot 'Neal 'N' Nikki' in unexplored territory, like the vineyards... It's a well-mounted film with lots of good looking guys and girls... but at the end of the day it's like sharing a naughty joke with your parents."

After "Hum Tum", which was "When Harry Met Sally", and "Salaam Namaste", which was "9 Months", this one is quite a blessing.

If people see Arjun's "Neal 'N' Nikki" as the third in Yash Raj Films' trilogy, he's okay with that.

"'Hum Tum' and 'Salaam Namaste' were among the most successful films of recent times. I'd have loved to direct both the films. If people come to see my film for those reasons, so be it."

It's been four years since Arjun made his last film.

"These years have taught me a lot as a filmmaker and about life. My personal life was under a cloud. Now I'm working with positive people (Yash Raj Films) and the clouds have disappeared. It's very important to work with the right people. Otherwise your creativity is worth zilch. You can only make a film when you're inspired. Even when I joined Yash Raj Films to make ads I felt happy and positive.

"'Neal 'N' Nikki' is a breezy romantic comedy. It's easy to do show-off shots and frames. This is one film where I want the audience to watch the characters, not the technique. I want your full attention for two years. The 21 women that Uday meets are no bimbos. Each one has been portrayed as an individual. Yeah I love to have beautiful women in my film."

The guy who made "Na Tum Jaano Na Hum" has moved on.

" 'Neal 'N' Nikki' is much naughtier than my first film. My heroine Esha Deol was a small-town girl in "Na Tum Jaano na Hum". She had never been abroad. Hrithik could've never asked Esha if he was a virgin.

"Tanisha in 'Neal 'N' Nikki' is born and brought up in Vancouver. She hasn't been to India. But it isn't raunchy. It's still about real feelings. At one point Uday tells Tanisha he suspects she's a virgin. Such issues weren't openly discussed in our films.

"Times have changed. Today the technology in a gadget you buy becomes obsolete in a week. Cinema has to reflect those rapid changes. But mating games have always been played in our films. Today you and I can discuss issues that would earlier have made us blush."

Though he has cast the producer's brother in the lead he says the choice was his.

"I auditioned both Uday and Tanisha. I let the camera roll without a written script. Tanisha and Uday are like buddies. There's no formal love story in my film. And yet it's a wonderful date movie."