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The best seat in the house

Standing there,at the Taj lobby,he looked very familiar. The guessing game had already begun in our head till it hit jackpot - by jove...

Written by Jaskiran Kapoor |
January 9, 2009 11:32:04 pm

Standing there,at the Taj lobby,he looked very familiar. The guessing game had already begun in our head till it hit jackpot – by jove,it’s really him! And it’s been what,almost a decade since we last saw him… “Seven years,” smiles Atul Agnihotri as walks out for some fresh air and of course,we tagged along. Seven years! we mused,scanning him from head to toe. So the man’s bulked up a little and lost those curly locks,but he’s still got that boyish charm intact – one for which Salman Khan’s sister,Alvira,fell for 14 years back,right out of college. Enough of the history,coming to his-story,Atul,after singing and dancing in about 17 films,gave it all up and took position behind the camera. Ask him why,and he says direction is anyday a better job. Even if he’s delivering flops/below average BO bloopers like Hello? “See,we are still up there in the ranks…always look down from where you are standing. I do,and God’s been kind,” he almost sounds sage-like. But the real kick of being there is because according to Atul,it’s “the best seat in the house”. “It’s a creative job,you get your way and apply your vision,” Atul’s,in fact,been schooled in film direction. A Mumbaikar,he assisted filmmaker Pankaj Parashar for four years till Suniel Shetty couldn’t make it for Aatish and Sanjay Gupta roped in an unsuspecting Atul. “I was there as part of the production team,getting the cast together and before I knew,I was one of the cast!” he recollects. But before Aatish,Sir hit the screens as Atul’s debut. “I was paid Rs 25,000 for it,and Rs 50,000 for Aatish. Strange how actors charge in crores today…we,on the other hand,were a bunch of clueless newcomers in need of money. My choices of getting into acting at that time were more of economic rather than ambitious,” tells Atul,adding had he been ambitious,he would’ve been chasing superstar dreams. But that was not the case for he never got to be in a defined lead role and neither were makers making anything worth it in those days. “The scripts were bad,production quality was low,it was a very bad time to act. All the film guys were doing were putting in six songs,a fight,love story and launching a guy and girl with it,who just vanished after their first film!” So,the scenario wasn’t that ideal,but Atul carried on for money,till he hit the telly and realised that acting was a dead end. There was no room for creativity. “This lifestyle,as a director,is more endearing. I get to read,I love to read,and it’s very endearing for good cinema will eventually come around,” Atul feels that in this industry,only one per cent survive,99 per cent fail. “We don’t have a actor industry,it’s a star-driven industry,and there is no concept of efficient or good actor,only hit or flop work here.”

Ideas are galore,and Atul,who loves to adapt from books,is all set to try Chetan Bhagat’s Three Mistakes of My Life. “Books have a beginning,middle and end,they have structure which is easy to follow.” As a director which is a “full management course”,Atul also gets to chase his passion of interest,human dramas for instance. “Gag acts never interested me,” however,in times of recession and low,Atul’s planning to give his audience a roaring comedy. “Because this is the time to entertain people,” he feels.

After Delhi and Golden Temple in Amritsar,the director’s in Chandigarh with his wife Alvira and producers to check out the region. Also Salman’s brother-in-law,he calls Sallu the most normal guy there is. “He’s one person whom stardom hasn’t hit,he’s a great friend and people’s person.” Wonder why he avoids us! “Media? why there’s nothing genuine about them,it’s a business now.” Clearly,the man is pretty bad at PR! That’s Atul Agnihotri for you.

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