You were so busy with all that went into “RGV ki Aag” and then got busy with “Sarkar Raj” with the Bachchans, where did you find the time to make a film like “Phoonk”?.
This is a film which has been a subject that has been haunting me. I have been obsessed by all kinds of stories which are beyond the realms of rationality. Some of the stories are so real that they have made me wonder as to how they happen and why. I wanted to go on my own exploration. I found time between the films I was making and I made “Phoonk” within a time span of two months. It was a subject which could be made only if it was made at one stretch and I was lucky to get the support of my entire team to make the film just the way I wanted to. I am also very happy with my new producers, One More Thought Production, headed by Mr. Ajam Khan whose second film this is but who have gone out of their way to let me make my film about a subject which not many producers would take on, certainly not new producers who have still to establish themselves.
What is “Phoonk” all about, a question you will have to answer whether you like it or not?
I have always been an atheist ever since I can remember. Neither did I believe in God nor in the so called dark forces. But every once in a while I have experienced certain things or heard a first hand account of some other people’s experiences which in the least can be said to be hair raising and inexplicable.
Being an atheist I would like to believe that there is a rational and scientific explanation to each and every one of these occurrences. But till I know and understand the same I am forced to presume that they are supernatural happenings.
“Phoonk” is the story of a confirmed atheist whose belief systems are shaken up when his loved ones are subjected to unspeakable horrors by forces whose very existence his rational mind refuses to accept. It is also the story of a financial devotee who is forced to turn her back on God in the face of traumatic experiences.
“Phoonk” is also a very scary film, but the fear element is not just on the surface level like for instance in a film like “Bhoot”. Here it seeps into you and plagues your entire belief system thereby making you highly vulnerable and will also put into an emotional state wherein you would start fearing the most inane objects which you would normally take for granted in the daily course of life.
Finally, I would like to say, not as a tall claim from a directorial position but just an observer of the sheer content of “Phoonk” “Don’t say I didn’t warn you”.
Is your film based on a real life story?
Like I told you I have been hearing such stories every since I was a child. The story of “Phoonk” is one such story. There is a child who is said to be possessed by the demons. The father is a staunch atheist who rubbishes all these happenings and the mother is on the border of believing or not believing and there are many other forces at work while this horrifying thing is happening without anyone trying to practically do something to heal the affected girl. My film is based on the supernatural. You may say, there have been so many films made on the supernatural, but as I say again “Don’t say I didn’t warn you when you see the film”.
Why are you so obsessed by the horror genre?
The horror in my film is not the kind of horror films. My horror is the outcome of something unparalleled happening in the lives of people. It is the force of the unknown, the unpredictable, the incredible and the unexplainable that happens during the film that creates all the horror. My horror is not a horror film because I wanted to make a horror film. It is a film I have made with a great deal of responsibility. If you are an aware Indian you will come across hundreds of such stories and even young people falling a victim to them and even facing death. I think it is high time that this subject is taken seriously by all those in the right places before they devour more and more innocent people.
Do you have any message or any ray of enlightenment that you want to spread through “Phoonk”?
I don’t want to say anything or suggest any kind of jaadu ka tona to do away with this evil which is so much a part of the society we have in. This is the kind of film I have made for the first time and is very different from my other films like “Drohi”, “Raat”, “Daud”, “Jungle”, “Gayab” to name a few. This is a very different film which you will see to believe both thematically and technically.
Are you satisfied with the atmosphere you have created in your film?
I would not have made the film if I had no faith or trust in it.
Do you think the people will be interested in seeing a film like this?
I have made “Phoonk” after keeping in mind the minds of the film. I know it will be a very different experience for them. They may even be scared out of their wits but that is the reason why I have made the film, to let all the forces of fear to leave them and leave them for good. In short it is my war on all kinds of fear, and so called supernatural and demonic forces.
Do you think the subject like “Phoonk” will appeal to the youth who are now more enlightened after being exposed to world cinema?
Like I have believed and said it is very important to make films that will first bring in the audience and then keep them glued to their seats. I have made an honest attempt to make a film to enlighten. It is up to the audience and their sensitivity to react to the film. I will be very happy if they react in the right way, not to fill my houses but in the interest of humanity.
What do you think of the critics today who criticize your films so vehemently at times?
Where do we genuine film critics in the country? Just re telling the story from the brochure and playing with clever and colorful phrases to make interesting reading and make fun of and run down the efforts of filmmakers who invest their lives into the making of a film is not criticism. I hardly take critics seriously like I used to when there were critics who had both knowledge and values. Today anyone who can buy a ball pen worth two rupees and knows a smattering of English becomes a critic. Have you seen the preview halls where the critics assemble to see your films? They have already made up their minds to tear our films to pieces to compete within themselves and prove who is more superior. Superior in what? Do they know what filmmaking is, what camera angles and good screenplays are? What do they know about cinemas. And they run down their films with just a stroke of their do rupaiyyawala pens or by banging their delicate fingers on the latest laptops. I don’t see any hope for any good criticism soon. I will be very happy to live till that day.
Were you happy with the making of “Sarkar Raj”?
It is very difficult to be happy with your films but “Sarkar Raj” gave me reasons to be satisfied and a little more thanks to Mr. Bachchan and all the others who made the film what it is.
But, there is talk about a great rift between RGV and Mr. Bachchan?
Yes, sure I have heard about it. The Bachchans have also heard about it. I say there is no rift whatsoever. The Bachchans headed by Mr. Bachchan scream that there is no rift whatsoever. Then I don’t understand how this talk about this great rift which has become more newsworthy than the bombing of the Kabul Embassy? Let me put it very emphatically that there is no difference of opinion and no rift at all. And for the information of all my well wishers let me inform them that my next film is what the Bachchans and will start as soon as they return from their world tour. The stories created by some of these journalists can beat the fiction of J K Rowling and Her Harry Potter stories and may be win the Hooker’ Prize.
What do as a leading filmmaker think of the corporate and how they are taking over the industry?
I welcome them wholeheartedly. They are not only bringing in bags full of money to make films but what is important is that they are bringing in the discipline and the accountability factor into filmmaking. I only hope they understand the working of the industry which is very different from the industries they come from. The day they understand the basics of filmmaking, they will help in making this industry a very healthy and transparent industry.
What do you think of the growing competition among young filmmakers?
I am all for them and I am with them. I only hope they don’t follow the beaten track and make all attempts to break new grounds. They have the kind of scope we never had in our times. They must make the best of it all.
And what about the censors?
Thank God, they are growing up and growing more and more sane and aware of the changes in society which are reflected in films. They are ready to understand and understanding is the key to solving any kind of problem anywhere in the world.