Monday, May 9, 2016

Sairat: Keeping it real

(Wrote this for the Lounge website a couple of days after Sairat released. A close reading of the film, so there are spoilers.)

In an interview with The Hindu, Nagraj Manjule spoke about the linguistic subtleties of the word “sairat”—Marathi for all-consuming passion or obsession, and the name of his new film. “The word can have both positive and negative connotations,” he said. “For you, it might imply freedom of thought, liberation and progressive ideas but to another person, it could mean sheer wildness and recklessness.”

Though Manjule’s films are built on progressive ideas, recklessness tends to have the upper hand in them. His first feature, 2013’s Fandry, was about a lower-caste boy infatuated with an upper-caste girl who goes to his school. In one wrenching scene, the boy and his family chase after a pig as the villagers gather around and make fun of them. The film ends with a stone hurled at the camera, the consequences of which are unspecified, but almost certainly dire. The warning was there for all to see: Manjule was unafraid of following his stories through to their logical, unhappy conclusion and hurling these conclusions at us, the audience.

Though Sairat is also about a lower-caste college-goer, Parshya, in love with an upper-caste girl, Archie, its initial stretch bears little resemblance to Manjule’s first film. Our first glimpse of Parshya—mid-leap, staring sideways at the camera, as if itching to break the fourth wall—encourages the idea that this is a commercial film, with all its attendant suspensions of disbelief, and not a bare bones indie like Fandry. Had Sairat ended with Parshya and Archie on the run, having escaped her politician father’s goons, it would have been a fairly standard, if uncommonly charming, film about how young love overcomes all obstacles. The first hour and a half is close to wish fulfilment—gutsy heroine, sweet-natured hero, selfless friends and enemies who can be outrun and outwitted.

But when Sairat returns after the break, it’s a very different film. If the earlier half was about the impracticality of passion, the latter half reminds us that for love to survive in the real world, practical considerations are of the utmost importance. In Mani Ratnam’s Alaipayuthey, remade in Hindi as Saathiya, viewers were shown what happens when the excitement of new love is replaced by the real business of making a life together. Manjule’s film is even blunter, turning a commercial musical comedy, swooping camera movements and all, into a kitchen sink drama. Ajay-Atul’s buoyant music is replaced by silences that weigh heavy on the characters, and on us. Archie, so decisive in the village, becomes withdrawn, and the hitherto unsure Parshya takes charge. The film begins to ask questions we don’t want answers to, like whether Archie, who’s used to a comfortable life, will stick it out with her husband in a slum. There’s a huge fight, and though it’s eventually resolved, Parshya comes close to hanging himself. As the contrite lovers embraced, I noticed the very deliberate framing of the scene, with the noose hanging down beside them. It felt like a warning.

Looming in the back of my mind as I watched Sairat were memories of Ek Duuje Ke Liye and LSD: Love, Sex Aur Dhoka, part of a small group of films that remind us how, nine times out of 10, tradition will snuff out free love in this country. I was also reminded of Michael Haneke’s unremittingly bleak Funny Games. Though Sairat may seem miles away from the cold brutality of that film, both derive their sting from the way they play with audience expectations—raising hopes, dashing them, then raising them again. After Parshya’s near-suicide, Manjule compresses the couple’s next few years into a montage. He finds work in an auto service shop, the factory she works at promotes her, they have a child together, and life seems impossibly happy. Impossibly.

Parshya and Archie’s toddler walks in on his unsteady bare feet and finds his parents lying on the floor, exhausted but happy. They hug him and say, you’re going to meet your grandfather. A couple of weeks later, they’re in Archie’s home in the village. Father and daughter have made up, and son-in-law has been accepted as part of the family. There’s a quick song, then end credits. And the audience gets up, says, phew, that was a close one, he almost killed himself.

This is the ending we’d want. But we know it isn’t the right one. There’s something wishful about a headline that reads “Eloping lovers welcomed back by parents”. “Inter-caste couple hacked to death by family” is far more realistic. What is truly shocking isn’t the way Sairat ends, but the idea that a film like Sairat could end this way. All those songs and dances, the bravado and hope, is revealed to be an elaborate smokescreen, a way to reel audiences in, to lull them into complacency. Then, just like that, Manjule snaps his fingers and says, wake up.

Filmish: A Graphic Journey Through Film

One of the notable innovations in recent film criticism has been the advent of the video essay. You’ll see hundreds of examples online: short to mid-length films that seek to solve cinematic problems or throw light on a particular area of the film. The simple fact that actual film clips can be used, freeze-framed, magnified and layered with narration makes this a remarkably viewer-friendly form of criticism, as evinced by the popularity of essayists such as Kevin B. Lee or Tony Zhou.

Edward Ross’ Filmish: A Graphic Journey Through Film brings the spirit of the video essay to print. There are seven chapters—“The Eye”; “The Body”; “Sets And Architecture”; “Time”; “Voice And Language”; “Power And Ideology”; “Technology And Technophobia”—but each is further divided into explorations of specific themes, usually a page or two long. The chapter on time, for instance, begins with a discussion on editing, then goes on to consider films that appear to unfold in real time (High Noon, Cleo From 5 To 7) and others whose narratives play elaborate time games (Happy End, Memento). The next two pages are dedicated to the time-travel genre, before it closes with films in which time and memory and personal history are fused and often confused (Hiroshima Mon Amour, Waltz With Bashir, The Mirror).

While it wouldn’t be impossible for a skilled critic to cover similar ground in a written essay, the graphic medium is ideally suited for a series of quick, concise arguments (as is the video essay). That Ross can, in the space of a few panels, jump genres and eras and bring together films as disparate as The Terminator and La Jetée as part of the same overarching argument is what makes Filmish so provocative and enjoyable. It would make a great companion piece to Mark Cousins’ 15-part The Story Of Film: An Odyssey, or Slavoj Žižek’s The Pervert’s Guide To Cinema and The Pervert’s Guide To Ideology, documentaries which delight in confounding conventional thinking about cinema.

Some readers might wonder why a fair number of Ross’ illustrations bear only a passing resemblance to their filmic counterparts; the Will Smith drawn on page 41 looks more like Eminem. I would argue that an exact likeness is beside the point and that Ross’ illustrations are occasionally stunning but largely functional—at the service of his arguments, which is where the primary interest of the book lies. What did bother me somewhat, though, is Ross’ tendency to pepper each page with quotes by critics, academics and cultural theorists. It could be that Ross, not being a film critic himself, feels like he must use other critics’ arguments to bolster his own very entertaining theories, which is understandable, but the exact citations could nevertheless have been relegated to the endnotes.

Ross works as an illustrator, writer and comic artist in Edinburgh. Filmish is his first graphic novel, and though it’s autobiographical only in a couple of places, he does utilize a cartoon version of himself—with square spectacles and hints of scruff on his face—as narrator, much like Scott McCloud did in Understanding Comics. That 1993 graphic novel is now seen as a key work of comic book criticism. Whether Filmish attains comparable cult status remains to be seen, but it will certainly light, or further stoke, the fires of cinephilia in the minds of those who read it.

This review appeared in Mint Lounge.

Baaghi: Review

When Baaghi’s trailers arrived in March, everyone was surprised to note similarities between it and the 2012 Indonesian film The Raid: Redemption. After all, Indian action cinema is known for its striking originality and, in those rare cases where inspiration is found elsewhere, its scrupulousness in acknowledging sources. So what if both films involve a high-rise with trained killers on every floor and a martial arts expert fighting his way up? The Raid was a distillation of brutal movement and impact. Baaghi has songs and dances and a love story. Entirely different.

In the end, the surprise isn’t how blatantly The Raid is copied, but the surprising effectiveness of those scenes. They only make up around 20 minutes of a 150-minute film and while they cannot match the sustained ferocity of Gareth Evans’ sequences, they have a respect for spatial geography and a tendency to show blows and kicks delivered (rather than cutting at the moment of impact), which is rare for Indian action cinema. Tiger Shroff is competent at best as a lover, a comic and a dramatic actor, but he’s quite a sight when he’s fighting onscreen. The scenes with him kicking and punching his way to the top of the building are gritty fun despite being completely derivative. But to see these, you have to sit through the rest of the film, which is hardly fair.

In short, then: rebellious Ronny (Shroff) and film actor Siya (Shraddha Kapoor) meet on a train bound for Kerala. They banter (not very intelligently) and begin to fall in love. He joins a kalaripayattu academy run by Guruswamy (Shaurya Bhardwaj), whose son, Raghav (Sudheer Babu), also falls for Siya. No sooner has Ronny become a martial arts pro than Raghav kidnaps Siya and whisks her off to Bangkok (director Sabbir Khan has said that his inspiration was the Ramayana, not The Raid). Two hours later, having endured Kapoor’s aren’t-I-just-precious routine, Babu’s very good impression of a block of wood with a smirk painted on it and a mute child who isn’t mute enough, we reach the high-rise.

It’s a quick jog to the end from there on, and the best stretch of the film. It’s nice to see an Indian film sling a few convincing action scenes together, yet it’s also depressing to think that we’d probably never have been able to work out such sequences if there hadn’t been a ready template. But then, that’s what we do best: imitate a superior product and package it as rebellion.

This review appeared in Mint.

The Huntsman: Winter’s War: Review

Mirror, mirror on the wall, is this the most unlikely sequel of all? When Snow White And The Huntsman ended, according to the fairy tale, with the titular princess safe and the Evil Queen Ravenna dead, it didn’t seem that another film was on anyone’s mind. But $396 million at the box office is enough to send even the most stoic studio executives back to the drawing board. Which is probably why we now have Cedric Nicolas-Troyan’s The Huntsman: Winter’s War, with Ravenna (Charlize Theron) alive and up to no good in the first scene.

The Huntsman begins its story several years before the events of the first film. We learn that Ravenna had a younger sister, Freya (Emily Blunt), who was in love with a duke and had a child who was burnt alive by him (if you aren’t even a little suspicious about his motives, your credulity levels are exactly where the studios want them to be). Distraught, Freya turns the duke into a pillar of ice, then heads off north, pillaging, establishing a vast, frozen kingdom and training young children she’s orphaned to be emotionally comatose warriors. Her two best fighters are Eric (Chris Hemsworth, reprising his role from the earlier film) and Sara (Jessica Chastain), who fall in love. After Freya literally drives a wall between them, Eric escapes, believing Sara to be dead.

She isn’t. Why would anyone believe that an actor with close-to-top billing in a big-budget film would be dead 30 minutes in? The rest of The Huntsman is a series of waits: for Sara to make a reappearance, for her to believe that Eric didn’t leave her there to die, for the two of them to rekindle their romance and, with the help of a quartet of dwarves, take on Freya, who only has a huge army and magical powers. There’s a nice cameo that lifts the film in the last 20 minutes, but the sheer predictability that informs every scene—every line, really—is mind-numbing.

Surprisingly, the one redeeming feature in the film is the CGI work, which is imaginative and beautiful in a way that CGI rarely is. I didn’t feel anything for the wacko pairing of Hemsworth and Chastain, or for Rob Brydon and Nick Frost’s mugging as the dwarves, or Blunt’s icy depression, but found myself quite enamoured of the miniature disappearing elves, the sparkling columns of ice, the polar bear-tiger that Freya rides and the mirror taking a molten, familiar shape. But a few inspired moments can’t keep The Huntsman from seeming like the unwanted sequel to a film no one thought of very highly in the first place.

This review appeared in Mint.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Nil Battey Sannata: Review

Nil Battey Sannata is plenty smart, but it might have seemed smarter still had it been more trusting of its audience’s capacity to get the joke, or the point. It’s not enough that the mother should have high hopes from her daughter; the said daughter must also be named Apeksha (Hindi for “expectations”). Conversations are repeated with minor variations until their meaning is painfully clear. Apeksha’s declaration that she’s resigned to being a bai because her mother, Chanda (Swara Bhaskar), is one is then echoed in a talk Chanda has with her employer, and again in a scene with Apeksha and her friends. The pretty score by Rohan Vinayak is crammed into all those passages where viewers might have otherwise heard themselves thinking.

Chanda is a single mother whose one aim in life is to get her daughter (played by Ria Shukla), a wilful class X student, to study and make something of herself, perhaps become an IAS officer or a doctor. She speaks to the head of a coaching centre, who agrees to knock off 50% of the girl’s fee for a crash course before the board examinations, but only if she scores more than 50% in the pre-boards. But 50% is hardly a given with Apeksha, who cares little for school and even less for math (the title of the film—zero divided by zero—is a reference to her ability in the subject).

Much like last year’s Kaakka Muttai, director Ashwini Iyer Tiwari presents the hardscrabble working-class reality of Chanda and Apeksha’s lives without prettifying it, but enlivens the story with winsome characters and one quixotic twist. Hearing her complain about Apeksha, Chanda’s employer (played by Ratna Pathak Shah) suggests that she enrol in her daughter’s school. The logic behind this—that Chanda, who never got beyond class IX, will somehow begin to understand math and teach her daughter—is fuzzy to say the least, but Chanda allows herself to be persuaded. One might have expected something like the Rodney Dangerfield comedy Back To School to follow, but Nil Battey Sannata plays it relatively straight. After a rocky beginning, Chanda is accepted by her new classmates; all, that is, except the mortified Apeksha, who promises to study hard if her mother would just stop coming to school.

It’s difficult not to squirm through some of the overly simplistic moments in the second half—like when Apeksha accuses her mother of spending her evenings with a strange man (it also feels like she’s implying that she gets paid for it). Yet, this is also a rare Hindi film that focuses on a mother-daughter relationship that’s blessedly free of discussions about men, marriage and tradition. Chanda and Apeksha don’t always get along—the film doesn’t shy away from having mother ask daughter, “Tu mar kyun nahi jaati, kutiya?—but their attitude towards each other, with its mixture of exasperation and deep affection, feels honest and fresh.

In her second lead role after Listen… Amaya, Bhaskar slips under the skin of the wily, determined Chanda, her mobile face switching from broad comedy to panic as she realizes she’s scrounging for money to pay for dreams she isn’t sure her daughter even has. Shukla deserves credit for playing up Apeksha’s brattiness; it’s a combative, un-endearing performance, unusual from a child actor. Pankaj Tripathi, on the other hand, could hardly be more delightful as the principal of the school and Chanda and Apeksha’s sweetly sarcastic math teacher. As has rightfully happened with Bhaskar, it’s time someone cast him in the lead.

This review appeared in Mint.

Fan: Review

There’s a story, possibly apocryphal, from the early days of Beatlemania, about John Lennon’s Rolls-Royce being surrounded by hysterical fans. As they pounded on the car, the singer told his chauffeur: “Don’t worry. They bought the car. They’ve got a right to smash it up.”

What do stars owe their fans? If we follow Lennon’s line of thinking, the answer is: Everything. They are, after all, the ones who raise them up and allow them to live out fantasies while they make do with a simulacrum of the same: a song, a movie. Yet, fans are also irritants, raising their objects of affection to the level of gods, forcing them into seclusion, even—as with Lennon and his former fan and eventual killer, Mark David Chapman—turning on them violently.

The first, better, half of Fan asks us to consider both possibilities—that fans are owed everything and nothing. Shah Rukh Khan plays Gaurav Chandna, a middle-class north Delhi boy in his 20s who happens to resemble a famous actor, Aryan Khanna (also Khan). Gaurav is also a huge fan of the actor, filling his room with Aryan memorabilia and modelling his behaviour on him. He uses his likeness to the star to enter local competitions as a self-proclaimed “junior Aryan”. And it is with the winnings from one of these talent shows that he funds his maiden trip to Mumbai, where he plans to meet his idol in person and present him with the trophy he won.

When he arrives outside Aryan’s house (Mannat, Khan’s actual home in Bandra), Gaurav finds himself swept up in a sea of fans. “I’m not like them,” he tells the guard at the gate; this doesn’t gain him entry, but it does set the tone for the rest of the film. For, Gaurav really does believe he has a special connection with his idol. He manages to gain Aryan’s attention after he manhandles a rival star, forcing Aryan to have him arrested and roughed up. There’s an electric scene when they meet for the first time in a jail cell, with Gaurav showing the full extent of his delusion—he tries to hug Aryan and is rebuffed. “I’ve done so much for you,” he tells him, distraught. “Who are you to do anything for me?” is the cold reply.

It’s when Gaurav goes off the deep end and starts stalking Aryan in London and Dubrovnik that structural problems begin to appear in the film’s facade. Screenwriter Habib Faisal never gets around to answering why, in the first half, no one comments on how—give or take a smoother nose and thinner lips—Gaurav looks exactly like the most famous actor in the country, especially when key scenes in the second half are predicated on people not being able to tell the two apart. Director Maneesh Sharma ramps up the action once the film moves to Europe, and there’s a decently executed rooftop chase. Yet, by turning Gaurav into a borderline psychopath, any further insight into the celebrity-fan dynamic is lost.

Getting Khan to play not only a version of himself but his own lookalike is certainly a stunt, but it’s a successful one. This is not only because the narcissism involved in such a project is perfect for Khan—who has, over the years, raised self-love to the level of an art—but because his whole career has been a constant exploration of the idea of cinematic doubles, of polarities and splits in personality. Apart from bona-fide double roles in Duplicate and Don, he played a timid man and a ghost who assumes his form in Paheli, and a timid man and a robot who assumes his form in Ra.One.

Then there are films in which he’s playing a character who might as well be two people: the dutiful son and the ice-cold killer in Baazigar; the dorky husband and the smooth star in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. One of the pleasures of early Shah Rukh performances was the way he could seemingly switch personalities in the middle of a scene. Even after repeated viewings, how startling is that moment in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge when he abruptly switches from teasing Kajol about what she may or may not have done the night before to convincing her, with the intensity of an obsessed lover, of his “Hindustani” moral code?

It’s been a while since Khan did anything that involved the switching on of one personality, let alone two. Fan is a welcome correction. Gaurav, who carries in his voice the hurt of a jilted lover, is a fascinating creation, but Khan also plays Aryan beautifully as a wearier, warier version of himself. The film bears little resemblance to what audiences have come to expect from a Shah Rukh vehicle: There are no songs, no heroines romanced. It’s difficult to imagine what his fans, jabra or otherwise, will make of a film that spares neither them nor their hero. In the world of Fan, both parties are entitled to smash up each other’s worlds.

Waiting for Shah Rukh

I reached Mannat, the sea-facing Bandra home of Shah Rukh Khan in Mumbai, at a quarter to 6. As always, there were fans outside, enjoying the evening breeze, maintaining the sort of patient vigil with no likely resolution that’s usually associated with religious faith. At 6pm, I threaded my way through a group of young selfie-takers, walked past a man photographing his greying parents in front of the gate, and told the guards I had an appointment.

Two cups of tea, a sandwich and four-and-a-half hours later, I was finally ushered in to meet Khan. In the intervening time, my fellow interviewers—assorted journalists, critics and RJs—swapped stories about long waits to meet stars. The hardened ones wore theirs like battle scars: 12 hours to meet Tabu; 6 hours to interview Sonali Bendre. Everyone agreed that a couple of hours was par for the course with Khan. Several scribes seemed a little light-headed after their sessions. “He was very nice,” a young woman told her friends upon emerging. “He actually hugged me.”

That certain members of the press also get a little giddy in Khan’s presence is a small reminder of the hysteria that has surrounded him for most of his waking moments for the last 23 or so years. It’s that which makes his latest release, Fan, such a delicious prospect. Khan plays a Shah Rukh-like super-star, Aryan Khanna, as well as his super-fan and obsessive lookalike, Gaurav. A Yash Raj Films production, it is directed by Maneesh Sharma (Band Baaja Baaraat, Shuddh Desi Romance) and looks considerably darker than anything Khan has been in over the last few years. We spoke to him about the implications of playing himself and his own fan, and the surprising abundance of doubles throughout his career. Edited excerpts:

Let’s start with a newspaper report that surfaced recently, in which you’re quoted as saying that Yash Chopra was the first to narrate the story of ‘Fan’ to you.

No, he didn’t narrate, yaar. I think what happened was, I was talking to some people in my van, and in the conversation I was talking about Yashji and me and Dil To Pagal Hai. It was completely misread. Or maybe I said Yash Chopra instead of Maneesh, but no, he didn’t know about this film.

So the idea for the film was originally described to you by Sharma?

Maneesh had given me the idea around 10 years ago. He was working with Adi (Aditya Chopra) on Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, so he had met me before that. He narrated the idea; I liked it, but I didn’t feel any of us were ready for it. Adi felt Maneesh should do some films on his own; he probably felt that because I’m a little spoilt and have to be treated with lots of love and care and gentleness, this way Maneesh would get the patience of making films with Shah Rukh. Then, when I was doing Chennai Express, I met Maneesh outside the studio and said, chal, picture banate hain (let’s make the film).

When you said yes, were you prepared for the mental toll a film like this might take?

You’re right when you say that, but I wasn’t aware. I was aware of the physicality of it all, with the make-up and everything. Very early on, we decided there was going to be some amount of likeness, but that he can’t be a duplicate. And we had to figure out how to make him 24-25, with me being 50. So we did a couple of tests, failed miserably a couple of times, but continued and stuck to the film.

We finished the film a year back—the VFX took that long—so I’ve forgotten some of the process, but yeah, it was very schizophrenic. I mean, when you’re doing a commercial double role, good-bad, it’s not exactly superficial but you can pull it off. But this is quite internalized. It’s awkward for me to watch it.

Was it a stretch for you to enter the psyche of a super-fan?

The craft part—dialect, body language—is something you have to do as an actor, that’s your job. But neither Maneesh nor I were certain about the mindset of such a person. I can turn around and say, it’s a love story. To me, he’s a lover of a different sort, and I can borrow from my knowledge of being in love. It’s an entity we’ve all worked on—Maneesh’s dialogue, my enactment of it, the VFX—and it’s taken a shape of its own. We know who he is, but we don’t know how we made him. Psychologically, it’s quite an overwhelming experience.

The trailer brought back memories of ‘Darr’, another Yash Raj film in which you played an obsessed lover

I think the character I played in Darr bordered on the psychopath. This one isn’t like that. We were very clear that this can’t be a re-visitation of Darr, that would be stupid. But obviously, lot of people will say, “similarity hai (there’s a similarity)”.

When you’re 24-25, you never realize the magnitude of the good or the bad you’re doing. Life at that age is based on instinct, love, just being. You don’t even realize how much life will change with your decisions because you’re too much of a believer. So I think Gaurav is based on a 24-year-old kid who doesn’t know what he’s doing, not because he’s stupid but because, yeh toh theek hai na, yaar (this is all right, man)...

You’re playing a version of yourself, as well as someone whose entire life is built around imitating that version of yourself. Did it all become a bit too meta at times?

I can’t divulge much of the story but there are moments in the film which are extremely schizophrenic. He playing the star, being like him but having his own personality, the star seeing him for the first time and realizing he’s a lookal… (takes a deep breath). I saw the film yesterday. I was wondering how I did it at the time, because although there was great clarity from the director and the technical team, I was four times confused.

If we look at your filmography, the idea of doubles, of polarities, turns up constantly; not just in your double roles but in films like ‘Baazigar’ and ‘Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi’ and ‘Dilwale’, where one person can almost be two separate personalities. Is this a theme that fascinates you?

I think actors choose an extension of themselves for their roles. After 25 years of being a star, there is a split personality to me, 100%. There are always two facets to me; my family feels it, my close friends feel it. I have a word for it—“demotional”. I’m extremely emotional and detached at the same time. Has it happened now, is it in my genetics? I don’t know. But yeah, I have got these two effectively opposite edges where I’m extremely emotional and sensitive, and I’m extremely detached and solo. That dichotomy maybe gets transferred when I’m choosing the films that I’m doing.

Even if it isn’t the case, people are likely to assume that the star figure you’re playing is, in effect, Shah Rukh Khan.

It’s quite fictional, and beautiful fictional. I’m not like that star. Aryan is not Shah Rukh, he’s more seasoned, more practical, more held back. Even in private life, he’s not like me. The flamboyance is also missing. We were very clear that we were not going to derive out of my life and put it there.

Your two releases this year, ‘Fan’ and ‘Raees’, explore darker territory than your last few films. Was there a conscious decision to explore riskier projects?

No. I’ve said this often enough, but people don’t believe me—they say he’s shifting gears. One has to understand that the films that are coming out now were signed two years ago. Raees was just a story I liked—it’s my Carlito’s Way, my Scarface, my take on the bootlegger film. Fan also just happened, as did Gauri Shinde’s film. It’s just the state of mind I’m in when I sign a film.

The important thing is always to be happy waking up in the morning, wearing make-up and shooting, because if I’m not happy, then nobody is happy. I have no reason to act but to feel happy. I don’t want to get into an X-crore club or listen to what the trade thinks or what the critics feel. I’ve been too long in this business. All of it will affect me if it’s negative, but after 25 years, 60 films, 16 hours a day, the core issue is, when I wake up in the morning, is it fun for me?

So you don’t have any particular sort of film in mind for future signings?

The idea is very clear in my head: that I want to do a fluffy film, or I want to do a superhero film, or an action film. But that has to match with an offer, so if there’s nothing, I go to the second choice in my head, and so on. There’s no concerted decision. I’ve never got a film written for me, never told a director, yeh nahi karoonga, aise likh kar la (I won’t do this, write it like this). The film has to be fully desired and made by the director, then everything follows. I want to work with directors who are dying to make their films and, kindly enough, want me to be a part of that.