Larger than life is a tag one associates fairly easily with Subhash Ghai. Not for nothing has his brand of cinema been termed the ultimate desi masala. That he is still a name to reckon with after all these years in a notoriously fickle industry is an achievement in itself. A key to his enduring appeal probably lies in his passion for, and involvement in, his films. A few days before the release of his new film Yuvvraaj, he is as busy as on the first day of the shoot.
His last two films, Kisna and Black & White, were two of the biggest duds in his career, and Ghai knows exactly how much is riding on the success of Yuvvraaj. “Watch the film because it’s Subhash Ghai cinema… watch it because it carries a lot of expectations,” he says.
His conviction is infectious. But he knows his job well and knows also that the biggest stars in the industry want to work with him despite the flops, which gives him faith in Yuvvraaj. “I make all my films with equal passion and there’s always the emotional quotient. Yuvvraaj is no different,” he says. Immediately after which he adds that it isn’t his biggest film, reserving that description for the likes of Karma and Saudagar.
With a cast featuring Salman Khan, Anil Kapoor, Katrina Kaif and Zayed Khan, and with music by AR Rahman, Ghai’s observation may cause scepticism, but he is nothing if not practical. Remind him of the hits he has churned out in the past, like Hero, Ram Lakhan, Saudagar, Pardes or Khalnayak in an attempt to draw parallels with Yuvvraaj, and Ghai’s disclaimer is swift. “Don’t expect too much because it’s commercial cinema, but expect a lot because it’s Subhash Ghai cinema,” he keeps saying. This is probably Ghai’s way of indicating that Yuvvraaj has all the ingredients to put him back in the race.
Which brings us to the budget. Ghai may insist that Yuvvraaj is not his biggest film, but its mega budget has already made it a talking point. Admittedly, Ghai is no stranger to big budgets, but he says, “Yuvvraaj isn’t the biggest release from (his production house) Mukta Arts.”
So that’s that. The other point of interest is what kind of surprise Ghai will spring, since he specialises in them. Be it the revival of the angry young man through Jackie Shroff in Hero or the resurgence of the anti-hero through Sanjay Dutt in Khalnayak, a twist in the tale is mandatory in any Mukta Arts production.
In response, Ghai launches into a plot summary. Turns out Yuvvraaj is a tale of three brothers battling to inherit their father’s property. “It’s a lot like Ram Lakhan… brotherhood wins in the end,” he says. His reliable warhorse Anil Kapoor plays the eldest brother, though Ghai finds his protagonist in Salman Khan, who he hasn’t worked with earlier. “But Anil’s is the most delicate role,” Ghai clarifies quickly. “And the story isn’t about three characters but four. You will see Katrina in her best role so far.”
That may come as a real surprise. Not even her best friend would call Katrina, bless her flawless face, a thespian. But acting opposite beau Salman for one of the few times in her career may bring out the best in her. As for Salman, he certainly has much to live up to. “I tried to bring out the actor in him,” says Ghai. That might surprise a few people, too.
In what could be a smart move, Ghai has given Salman a look that may remind us of the star’s early days. “I present Salman and Katrina the way they are in real life… they love, they fight... It reminds you of the Dharmendra-Hema Malini chemistry,” he says.
Wrapped up in Yuvvraaj, Ghai hasn’t seen the remake of his classic Karz. But he is happy to accept it as a compliment. “I won’t remake my films but I would love remakes by others.” Fair enough.