Anees Bazmee has a reputation for making comedies that turn out to be hugely successful. Most people tend to forget that he is the man who has written dramas like ‘Swarg’ and ‘Shola Aur Shabnam’, directed a romantic film (‘Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha’) and a thriller (‘Deewangee’). As he himself states, if the audience had seen some of his other unreleased films (‘Radheshyam Sitaram’, ‘Naam’) they would have thought of him as a more versatile director. Though he has made a bunch of comedies in the last 15 years, he wants to dabble in different genres now. ‘It’s My Life’, a romantic comedy, which he had finished making around a decade ago is all set to release on a television network this weekend. In this exclusive interview, the filmmaker talks about the film, resuming ‘Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2’s shoot, getting his Ajay Devgn starrer ‘Naam’ ready for a release on the small screen, not wanting to be stereotyped and more.
Several years back, your producer Boney Kapoor had stated in an interview that ‘It’s My Life’ has been the best film directed by Anees Bazmee. How would you rank this film yourself?
Boney ji is a dear friend. He has known me from the time I was an assistant to Raj Kapoor sahab and used to give claps for him. I wrote two films (‘Judaai’ and ‘Sirf Tum’) for him which became hugely successful. After that, I directed ‘No Entry’ for him which became the most successful film of that year. He has always been fond of me and my work. I feel very happy that he feels that ‘It’s My Life’ is one of the best films I have made. Whenever I am making a film, I feel that it will be my best film till date. After I move on to another film, I feel that will turn out to be my best work. ‘It’s My Life’ is a very beautiful film. Those who have seen it have loved it. Let us see how the audience reacts to the film. I am hopeful that they will like it.
‘It’s My Life’ is your first romantic film after ‘Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha’. The latter was your second film and your first commercial success as a director.
Yes, that’s right. After ‘Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha’ released, people told me that I should stick to making romantic films as I am very good at it. But, I wanted to try my hand at every genre and make different kind of films. I made a thriller called ‘Deewangee’ which became successful too. After that, everybody around me started saying that I should make only thrillers (laughs). After ‘No Entry’, I made a slew of comedy films. But then, I also made ‘It’s My Life’. Genre has never been important to me. I should feel excited about telling a particular story. I want to keep making films of different genres. This is my first romantic film since ‘Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha’ and I was extremely happy to get back in this space. All the actors were very young and I wanted the film to have a youthful vibe to it. When people will see the film, they will feel as if a 20-year old has directed it.
People tend to stereotype you when you make a bunch of films in one genre. That must have happened to you after you made so many comedy films one after the other.
Writing and directing a comedy film is a very difficult task. When people tell me that I am very good at comedy, I feel honoured. The thing is that a couple of films, which I made in the past, did not release. They were of different genres. Had they released at the right time, this perception would not have been there.
There was ‘Radheshyam Sitaram’ which featured Suniel Shetty and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and a thriller called ‘Naam’ (initially titled ‘Benaam’) starring Ajay Devgn, Bhumika Chawla and Sameera Reddy.
Yes! Had these films released when they were supposed to, a larger number of people would have seen me as a versatile director. It is a great to see so many unreleased films releasing on OTT platforms and on television. ‘Naam’ is also being readied for a release. It might release on an OTT platform or on television. It is a suspense thriller and has one of the best performances by Ajay Devgn.
‘It’s My Life’ is an official remake of the Telugu film ‘Bommarillu’. How similar or different is it from the original?
I have written many films like ‘Pratibandh’, ‘Gentleman’, ‘Aaj Ka Goonda Raj’ and ‘Laadla’ which were remakes of South Indian films. When you are adapting a South Indian film, you have to make certain changes to ensure that it appeals to a pan-India audience. I have changed a lot of things here too. When the makers of ‘Bommarillu’ saw ‘It’s My Life’, they were pleasantly surprised. They told me that they could not have imagined the story being presented in such a fashion.
Harman Baweja and Genelia Deshmukh, the lead actors of the film, are not acting anymore. Genelia had a good run in the south but Harman stopped acting after a couple of unsuccessful films. Do you think they should make a comeback as actors?
An actor always remains an actor. Genelia has delivered a stupendous performance in the film. Harman has also done a very good job. When you see the film, you will feel that had it released at the right time, his career as an actor also might have taken off. I made this film around the time I was making ‘Singh Is Kinng’. Sanjay Kapoor is an old friend. When I was an assistant, I used to make short films with him playing the lead. Boney ji and Sanjay had seen ‘Bommarillu’ and they came to me around 2006 asking me to remake this film. I think we have managed to make to make a very beautiful film.
Was the release delayed because Harman Baweja’s films did not do well?
I am not sure as to why the film did not release back then. Boney ji would be the best person to answer this. I am a God-fearing person. I think whatever He wants, that will happen. Yes, you do feel sad when a film does not release. A lot of effort goes into making a film. A large number of people are involved in the making of a film and give around a year of their life for it. You feel very sad but you have to move on.
Despite being one of the most successful filmmakers in the country, you had to face this situation a couple of times in the past.
As I said, moving on is the only option. Many a times, when I was making a film, things did not go according to my vision. I wanted something and the producer wanted something else. I had to give in to his suggestions. Years later, I realised what happened, happened for the best. The film turned out to be better because of the producer’s suggestions. So, sometimes we should not try to fight with our destiny and let certain things happen organically.
Music has been the highlight of many of your films. Some films, in particular, like ‘Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha’ (Jatin-Lalit) and ‘Deewangee’ (Ismail Darbar) had excellent music. This has been your first collaboration with Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. How was the experience of working with them?
Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy are brilliant music directors. The music of the film is one of its strengths. The songs are peppy and youthful. They have also been picturised very well.
You had just started shooting ‘Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2’ when the lockdown happened. When do you plan to resume shooting the film?
We will resume the shoot next month. It is too early to share anything about the film. ‘Bhool Bhulaiyaa’ was a wonderful film directed by Priyadarshan ji. I know that the audiences have a lot of expectations from ‘Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2’. We hope we manage to make a film that pleases them and keeps them thoroughly entertained.
It’s My Life will have a direct-to-TV release this Sunday. The film will premiere on Zee Cinema on 29 November at 12 p.m.