MUMBAI—He began his career 15 years ago, but has become a brand since the first “Golmaal: Unlimited” in 2006. With a fantastic success ratio and array of successes, and mostly hits, super-hits and blockbusters, Rohit Shetty, son of the late and iconic actor-fight coordinator Shetty, has become an iconic filmmaker himself.
Even more vitally, Shetty is a brand but unlike any other. He has mastered three genres as a director – comedies, action dramas and action comedies as his forte, and remains one of our most grounded human beings. As his artistes Ranveer Singh and Sara Ali Khan have pointed out, he has virtually the same team of associates for over a decade, and from the biggest star to the smallest laborer, they would all do anything for him.
“I feel blessed and lucky!” he smiles. “The audience loves me, looks forward to a film from me, actors want to work with me, and they all say that I am a brand – all this happens rarely with a director. So I don’t take all this for granted, and I can only repay this with honesty and hard work. I always tell my team that if on the release Friday we can look into each other’s eyes and agree that we have given our 100 percent, then it’s great. Hits and flops are not an issue. And I am making cinema for a family audience to enjoy, I am not making great cinema like ‘Mother India,’” he told India-West.
“A filmmaker should know himself. But it is sad that so many people look down on commercial cinema, which is the most difficult to make. Anyone can shoot a great scene inside a room, but try doing a scene on a main street with 2000 people!” We agree.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q: We all know that your film “Simmba” is inspired by the Telugu film “Temper.”
A: Yes, I have maintained the core of NTR Junior’s character as I found it very interesting. We wove a different script around this negative but lovable cop and we bought the rights before I shot “Golmaal Again.”
Q: We heard around late 2016 that you were making a film with Ranveer Singh, then it turned out it was an ad for Ching’s Noodles. So when did this film take off?
A: We had already decided to work together when we shot that ad. But he was busy with “Padmaavat” and I was busy with “Golmaal Again.”
Q: Why have you used the name “Simmba?”
A: In the film, Simmba belongs to the same world as Singham. Singham means a lion and a lion’s cub is called Simmba. That is why Ajay Devgn is there in the film. Without Singham, this film would not be possible. Singham is straight, Simmba is not. Making another cop film of the same kind would have been boring, not only for the audience but also for me.
Q: Why Ranveer and why Sara?
A: I wanted Ranveer for the role. The film is a typical entertainer of my kind for the first 45 minutes and then takes a turn for the serious. Once it does, it maintains the graph. Ranveer was ideal, and let me tell you that with his high energy, he has exceeded our expectations by miles, by leagues, a thousand times. He is versatile, hardworking, a terrific actor, and most important, a very good human being, who would even hang around having fun with my ADs (assistant directors). If a good actor is not a good human being, problem ho jaata hai!
As for Sara, she sent message after message to take her in “Simmba.” Then Gattu (Abhishek Kapoor, Sara’s first director) called up and told me to take her if I had a suitable role and told me to watch some rushes of “Kedarnath.” At that time, the film was going through some issues, as we all know. But I decided to meet her instead and was convinced about casting her. However, when we began shooting, Sara asked me if I would say in the film’s credits that I was introducing her. I thought that would be very unethical as it was Gattu who had discovered her. Luckily, their movie was soon on track and released three weeks before ours.
Q: How do you assess Sara?
A: She’s a superstar, a complete package. She’s a typical film heroine with a young Karisma Kapoor vibe. I told her that she was so lucky that within 25 days she had got to work in cinema for totally different palettes. She has a very bright future, as she can fit into every brand of cinema.
Q: There are no flying cars here.
A: We have kept the action raw, real, and cables were used only rarely. I think that suited someone young like Ranveer and his character.
Q: You had a consistent innings with Ajay Devgn for a while and then worked with Shah Rukh Khan twice. You also did some more films with him, and now you have worked with Ranveer Singh. How has your equation with Ajay been modified?
A: Ajay’s my elder brother, not LIKE my elder brother. He knows everything I am doing, not just in films. He even knows what car I am buying!
Q: The police are always happy with your work.
A: I feel really proud, when the entire force sees the film, After watching “Singham Returns,” Rakesh Maria told me, “I am proud to be the commissioner of the city after watching your film.” The law is more important than we think. If there is no red signal on the road, we all become like animals! The day a police station closes down, it will be a jungle! Let’s not delude ourselves that we are all inherently law-abiding!
Q: Who else would you like to work with?
A: Above all, Amitabh Bachchan. Also Rajini (Rajinikanth) sir.