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John Mathew Matthan Speaks on 'Shikhar'
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"Shikhar is about wealth, glamour and ambition..."

It's reverse psychology at work when the theatrical promo of Shikhar stirs up a buzz in movie halls. Especially when it says "The Second Film of John Matthan" rather than "From the Maker of Sarfarosh". And if five years seems too long a time for people to remember that Sarfarosh was directed by somebody named John Matthan, that's precisely this diminutive director's strategy. "They will wonder who the hell is John Mat than and slowly connect the name with "Sarfarosh"! Trust Matthan not to do things the conventional way.

After all, what could be more unconventional for a filmmaker than not to bask in the box office glory of his directorial debut and resist the temptation of signing a handful of films that would bloat his bank balance? But Matthan stay put after Sarfarosh. Or rather stayed away from movie studios. "I traveled," he says matter-of-factly. "I hopped into my car and went on a long journey. I visited a lot of places and worked on my script." Unfortunately, the script lost its foundation along with the World Trade Centre in New York on 9/11. "It meant I had to write an altogether different script," recalls Mat than, who subsequently ended up with ideas for not one but three scripts. "But Shikhar was what I decided to make as my second film," he says. "I finished the script in 2003. Then it took me six months to cast the key roles and another six months of planning and pre-production.

The result is a gripping emotional drama, spanning from the outskirts of Mumbai to Bangkok, and starring Ajay Devgan, Shahid Kapur, Bipasha Basu, Amrita Rao and Pakistani actor Jawed Sheikh. More interestingly, his second film is nothing like his first one. Where Sarfarosh was a topical thriller set against Pakistan's covert war strategy against India, Shikhar blends family drama with a subtle undertone of current issues. "It's about wealth, glamour and ambition," says Matthan.

What Sarfarosh was a tough shoot; Matthan found Shikhar a pleasure trip. "I had lots of problems while making Sarfarosh," he admits. "It took me three years to shoot and there were date problems. Moreover, my team, including me, was raw and we discovered everything the hard way. I also didn't have experienced assistants. But this time I had a superb team. In fact, I can safely say that if anyone else would have attempted a film of this magnitude, it would have cost them twice our budget."

Matthan is very happy with the outcome of Shikhar. "My style depends on the content of the film," explains Matthan. "Sarfarosh was a thriller and was treated likewise. There was stark lighting and lots of night sequences. But Shikhar is more a family social and hence we've used vibrant colors." Matthan, who opted for bank finance to make his film, was clear about the economics of casting. "When you make a big budget film," he points out, "you need a cast that will be able to get you back your money." However, he still managed to keep his cas1ing strictly within the demands of the script. As for airlifting an actor from across the bolder, Matthan says, "I needed a face that matched with Shahid because the actor would be playing his father. That apart, he had to look like an industrialist. I couldn't find anybody here who fitted the bill as well as Jawed Sheikh."

But despite its big budget, multi-starcast and imminent release date, the director of Shikhar is relaxed. "I was very tense during Sarfarosh," recalls Matthan. "But this time I am at ease." Moreover, he isn't planning to wait another five years to make his third film. "I've two to three scripts ready and one of them is another big budget endeavor. But it all depends on how will Shikhar does at the box office."

Five years on and Sarfarosh still commands John Matthan a formidable clout as a director in the trade circles. "All my territories have been sold without one word announced in the media about my film," beams Matthan. "Distributors have been very supportive." Shikhar is produced, directed and written by John Mathew Matthan with screenplay by Abbas Tyrewala and John Mathew Matthan. Dialogues are also by Matthan and Dr. Bodhisatva. Vijuh Shah composes the music while Sudhakar Sharma, Manohar Iyer and Chandrashekar Raajit have written the lyrics.

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