'Not a joke to direct a Hindi film'
...says director RS Prasanna, whose Shubh Mangal Savdhan, the Hindi remake of Kalyana Samayal Saadham, has released to positive reviews
Shubh Mangal Savdhan marks RS Prasanna’s arrival into Bollywood and it is safe to say by now that he has aced it. The film has opened to unanimously good reviews. He agrees: "It’s got phenomenal response." But he doesn’t want to take all the credit. "All thanks to Ayushmann Khurrana, Bhumi Pednekar and of course, Aanand L Rai (producer). The trailer got a tremendous response too. So I guess we are not altogether surprised that the film has been received well."
Why did he take four years to remake his own film? "To take a small Tamil film and turn it into a big Hindi film… it takes time. And though Rai sir booked me for the film within a month of Kalyana Samayal Saadham's release, he got busy with some of his directorial ventures," he says. Rai apparently even asked him to do another film and come back, but Prasanna “just wanted to focus on the remake. It's not a joke to go from Chennai to direct a Hindi film," he says.
The director also praises his writer Hitesh Kewalya. "Audiences are laughing throughout the film and the dialogues are a big success. Hitesh helped me make the film culturally rooted, which I would say was the reason for KSS's success. He knows his people, and at the same time, has a Woody Allen-ish sense of humour. This culture in Bollywood—of a writer and a director being different people—is commendable," says Prasanna, who thinks his best decision was to not make Hitesh watch KSS. "If it was a shot by shot remake, I wouldn't have been interested in doing it," he adds.
When asked how he handled the pressure of making a Hindi film, he says, "When someone like Rai sir calls you to make a film, half your film is already done (laughs). I only concentrated on the direction and left the other aspects to him." It’s almost unbelievable when Prasanna says that he faced more pressure while making the original Tamil film. "KSS was an independently funded film by me, Arun Vaidyanathan (of Nibunan fame) and Ananth Govindan. Though we had fun while making it, it was stressful too. Imagine talking about erectile dysfunction in a conservative place like Tamil Nadu."
Being a filmmaker himself, was Rai a big part of the making? " He was very clear about the fact that I should be comfortable. He is a mentor who knows it's dangerous to send a director to the sets who isn't convinced. He was very cautious and never interfered." Prasanna says that while Tamil Nadu is a good training ground for technicians, “audiences here are still opening up to off-beat films. But when it comes to Bollywood, what's niche down South works as mainstream cinema there."
1. Lead cast of KSS if made in Hollywood: If allowed to day-dream, Emma Stone. I don’t day-dream about heroes.
2. Actor you want to work with: The one and only Kamal Haasan
3.A director whose work you love: Karthik Subbaraj and Manikandan
4. A genre you want to explore: An inspirational film
The leads of Shubh Mangal Savdhan already did a film in 2015's Dum Laga Ke Haisha, but Prasanna says it is Ayushmann's older work like Vicky Donor that made him his choice. "I was very clear that he be the hero. Rai sir recommended Bhumi's name. The positive vibe from Dum Laga... was there too; so we went with it. They are great actors who don't care about their image and go after good projects. They weren't shocked by the story. In fact, both were excited by it."
The remake, just like the original was, is being widely appreciated for dealing with a subject like erectile dysfunction sensitively. Prasanna always wanted to make it a breezy rom-com as "the topic is shocking enough; so to have it treated seriously would make it unwatchable. The riskier the topic, the more accessible the film should be." But he was keen on setting the film around a middle-class family. "Upper-class people won't really mind such a problem. Impotency ah? Viagra sapta seri agidumnu they'll leave it (laughs)."
He doesn’t know if he will be doing a Tamil or Hindi film next. "I have a couple of concepts in both languages. Whichever gets picked up first will be the one, I guess. But I want to make a Tamil film; it's been a while."