By Faridoon Shahryar, Bollywood Hungama News Network
"When I went to his office for the first time I didn't know whether to sign the agreement or to get his autograph first," says Sajid Nadiadwala about Sylvester Stallone who has an important role in the Akshay-Kareena starrer Kambakth Ishq. "What Akshay has done in the last two years is unbelievable. In my 20-25 year career I have seen it just once or twice and the moment the actor gives you one flop, they are pulled down so badly," Sajid exclaims in the first part of a Bollywood Hungama exclusive interview. Also, get treated to all the dope on Sylvester, Denise Richards, Slumdog Millionaire controversy and why Nadiadwala feels releasing Jaaneman with Don was a mistake.
What are your thoughts about Slumdog Millionaire's Oscar triumph considering your next film Kambakth Ishq has a lot of Hollywood stars and technicians including Sylvester Stallone?
Well I am very excited, very happy. Any event which reaches its peak like the world cup win in 83, though people who were not associated with cricket still enjoyed and were happy. It's a world victory. Oscar is a major thing. We are growing in all departments whether its sports, culture, economics… everywhere we are making a mark and the world is looking up to us. We were surprised to see so many awards bestowed on the same person - Rahman. I think in the years to come, we will be shocked if we don't get an award like that. I remember we were shooting there about six months back and I was sitting in the front row at Kodak theatre while sharing a cup of coffee with Sylvester. I was just telling him that the way the Indian films are being made and the way the Indian actors are performing today, the day is not far that we will be here.
Mr. Mukesh Bhatt while talking to Bollywood Hungama immediately after the Oscars had a few reservations about the film. He said we already have 11000 Gods and now the latest one is Oscar bhagwaan and it's shameful the way everyone is going overboard in celebrating this win.
I have not heard about it actually. Besides I don't want to react on somebody else's comments. But I do know that I have celebrated. I have celebrated on every event where an Indian is associated. We are always underdogs and whenever the underdogs win there will always be celebrations all over the world. When the world is looking up to us, I don't know why we should look down upon ourselves.
Even Mr. Bachchan has raised doubts about the Oscar fixation while Aamir has congratulated the entire starcast of Slumdog but he says the film didn't work for him…
No, I feel this is not the moment. All these guys that you are talking about are seniors. I would only say this is not the time to say ‘ifs' and ‘buts'. It's a debatable issue which will go on for months. It's our film, our guys have won it and we are strongly behind it.
Sajid Nadiadwala Alright, we know that Kambakht Ishq has some really big Hollywood names like Sylvester Stallone, Denise Richards and Brandon Routh. We have grown up watching Stallone and trying to emulate him. How did you get the idea to approaching Sylvester?
See what happens is that the story (Kambakth Ishq) has Hollywood as its backdrop, Akshay Kumar plays a stunt man. So when you place your film in Hollywood, you need Hollywood actors. There's a love triangle with Denise Richards, there is an action sequence by Sylvester Stallone. When you want to cast a big star it is necessary to see who you want and whether they are available. I would like to have the moon but I have to see whether it is available or not. We have grown up on Sylvester and he was our first choice. It was just a shot in the dark to begin with. When we were writing the script we would easily take his name and talk like ‘then this happens and Sylvester comes…then he does this and then there is action and Sylvester does that' we used to laugh at it. When we are writing it, we used to think ‘Is it possible to actually meet him, forget signing him?' But we kept on giving names. Denise Richards was there because we wanted a James Bond girl. We started mailing people, we started writing. We have some common friends, we started mailing them. There were some friends who introduced us with an agent, then the script process happened, writing happened and eventually after four months before they said ‘Yes', we were almost there.
Then the day came when I actually had to meet him (Sylvester). We have been his fans, with the Rocky and Rambo series. So 4-5 days before I had to meet him I had goose flesh. I did not know how to react. I had to discuss the agreement with him and I am about to meet him face to face. When I went to his office the first time I did not know whether to sign the agreement or to get his autograph first. Whatever message we sent in the universe came back. Whatever we wanted we got it. They were expensive. They were cheap according to their standards but they were expensive according to our standards.
What is the approximate figure that you have spent on getting these Hollywood stars?
No, it spoils everything. Even the readers should get a little feel. For me expense is not always important. When I say expensive then it's really expensive but it was a wonderful experience. I mean this filmmaking is a wonderful process. You enjoy while at the same time you work.
How was the shooting experience? And how long did your LA and Venice schedule last?
We shot for about sixty days in Los Angeles and about 20 days in a place called Vicencia, a beautiful town. It's about 200 Kms from Venice. It's a beautiful place, out of the world...that's where all the top mansions are…very artistic.
How was the experience of bringing Akshay Kumar and Kareena Kapoor together?
Both are very professional. When we shot in Hollywood everything was on paper. They have this clause called pay and play, so we had to be very careful. They have to be booked three months in advance so once you booked those dates and if your actors for some reason don't attend the shoot then all your money is gone. We are talking about big money, so we needed somebody who is very professional and these people were up to it.
Sajid Nadiadwala Apart from the Kodak theatre where else did you shoot in Hollywood?
Except roads, we have shot everywhere. Whether it is Universal Studio, 20th Century Fox, Paramount Studio, Rodeo Drive, Sunset Boulevard, when you see the look of the film you will understand that this film is triple-A Hollywood film.
What kind of release are you looking for?
Right now we are looking at releasing sometime in May, 29th of May perhaps.
I meant in terms of international release, considering you have Sylvester, the reach becomes bigger and people apart from the Hindi movie buffs would be keen as well. How many prints are you coming out with worldwide?
We are working on it. I am there, Eros is there and we are trying to have an international release. We are also trying to have an English release. Also we are trying to pitch it at the Cannes film festival. So there is a lot of stuff we are trying to do. It's too early to say how many prints and all that.
You created a record with Jaan-e-Mann as far as selling the theatrical and distribution rights for the Mumbai territory were concerned. Will we see records tumbling with Kambakth Ishq too?
Records are meant to be broken. We are now pioneers in getting all these foreign actors actually to Bollywood. During my career, we have always tried something new like, we were the first guys to have DTS sound in Judwaa and we were the ones who got a Motion Control in India in Mujhse Shaadi Karoge, in Heyy Babby we were the first guys to get Blu Ray technology. So every time we try our level best to do something interesting.
Jaan-e-Mann music was fantastic…
It's one of my favorite films. But I think it didn't work and that was my mistake. I had a bad release. Some time you need to take the blame.
Do you feel it should not have been released with Don?
No, not at all! Two big releases should not come at the same time. I had six back to back hits before that and after that again I had Heyy Baby. It was a learning experience but it was definitely nobody else's mistake except mine. The crown goes on my head.
Let's talk about Sylvester Stallone. I think he is one of the USPs of Kambakth Ishq. There's a lot of curiosity as to what his role in the film is and what's the duration of his role?
He is playing himself in the film. I wouldn't like to kill the curiosity of the audience by telling any definite time duration that they will see him in the film. But he certainly will not have just a walk on role. We have taken him for what his strength is - action. So there is a major action scene in the film of which he is a part. The first charisma for me was when I chatted with him on mail, then the first experience of sitting face to face and having a cup of coffee. We met once or twice, went to his house and he gave me his Rocky gloves. It was beautiful. Then he started coming on the set in his Ferrari and he used to drive himself. I thought the excitement was over till the time I saw him and Akshay in the same frame and interacting with each other. That was very different. Again it's a big excitement seeing that and later we shot with him and Bebo. There's an action scene where he saves Kareena, again at this point we felt excited. He has also spoken Hindi in some parts of the film, so it's very exciting for the audience.
Talking about Akshay... his last film Chandni Chowk To China didn't work at the Box Office. Till a few days back people were calling him a super star, but now questions are being raised about films involving him…
It was bound to happen. Anyone who has a success record like his is bound to be pulled down if and when he gives a flop. Australia had five back to back disasters when they lost in cricket, they were pulled down because earlier they were winning left right and centre, so it's overdue. When I had six back to back hits it was overdue for Jaan-e-Mann. What Akshay has done in the last two years is just unbelievable. Where do you see this! In my 20-25 year career I have seen this happen just once or twice and the moment they give you one flop, they are pulled down so badly and you have to accept that. It is part of your profession. You have to be ready for it.
Sajid Nadiadwala In terms of the pricing of the film, do you think somewhere your film will get affected due to the dismal fate of CC2C?
No. This is the 56th year of our company. We don't over price and we don't under price and this is why we are consistently making films. We have never gone wrong even when the industry was peaking. Recession is happening not only in the film industry, it's happening all over the world so it's bound to affect every corner of the world. We need to be careful. While we make a film, we have all the money which goes into filmmaking. So once you don't have over heads, you are safe. We try cutting edges and the trade also is very mature enough to understand who is good and who is not, what is the kind of money that has gone in a film, they know who are the guys who have given hundred percent. We have been a fortunate lot.
PS: Second part will bring forth some interesting thoughts on Bebo's acting skills, Sajid Khan-Ashutosh Gowarikar Star Screen Awards spat and Nadiadwala's future plans.