On being Bollywood’s most wanted director:
I felt the change happening when I was shooting Aashiqui 2. That was when Ekta (Kapoor) and I started discussing Ek Villain. The film with Karan Johar is also happening. When I was only making films for one company I was considered to be a talented boy in a limited universe but now that I’m working with others, the world has opened up for me.
Aashiqui 2 is my most personal film:
I lost my father a week before the release of Murder 2. I shared a very close bond with him. He singlehandedly brought me up. You tend to pitch your success and failure against the one constant in your life — for me, it was my dad. I was lost after his death. I pushed everyone away. I even broke up with Udita (Goswami, now his wife). Then I started working on Aashiqui 2 and these young kids Aditya (Roy Kapur) and Shraddha (Kapoor) brought me back to life. Infact it was Aditya who told me that I should marry Udita because I was always talking about her. I was unravelling and I panicked everyone so much so that Bhatt saab (Mahesh Bhatt) came to see me and I remember telling him that I’m flawed but I’m not bad, which kind of reassured him. I remember when Aashiqui 2 was releasing, I told Bhatt saab that I really wanted it to do well, not just because I need a hit, but because I felt that if this film works then India would have accepted my voice and basic personality. Whatever I was, whatever I was going through at that time, I put it all in Aashiqui 2.
Stories of incomplete and tragic love fascinate me:
Personally, I’m a bundle of incomplete experiences, so stories of incomplete love resonate within me. It’s not always about the years that you spend with a person, sometimes all you need are some moments that can become the love of a lifetime. Someone can touch you deeply but maybe it doesn’t reach the level where you end up together. I feel that kind of love burns brighter. True love happens when romance dies out. Today it’s easier to break a relationship than make it work. So love stories where people stick by each other against all odds have become like superhero films — like a fantasy — which is why people lap them up.
On Ek Villian being inspired by the Korean film I Saw the Devil:
Why just this film, I’ll say that I’ve taken from every film possible. I’m not pretending to be Christopher Nolan who made Inception, which was a completely new thought. I’m not even the maker of The Matrix. It’s convenient to look at portions you feel are lifted from a film that you know of and I don’t mind it. I openly say that I was not born creative. Everything that I have learnt is from the books I read and the films that I watched. I didn’t have any spiritual breakdown, never experienced any divine intervention and I don’t claim to have come up with a new creative thought for the world to follow. I’m a sum of all the impressions I’ve gathered, so my films are a combination of my own life and personality.
Music is the star of my career:
Be it Jiya dhadak or Tum hi ho or Sun raha hai na tu, music has played a very important role in my career. I never had the backing of stars, music has been the only star. My earliest memory of music being a great companion even in tough times was when my mom and I used to catch the rickshaw to go to Emraan Hashmi’s house to meet my grandmother. My mom would ask the rickshaw-wallah to take the longer route just so that the song could finish.
I cast Riteish because he doesn’t look like a villain:
The villains, in our films, keep reinventing — from dacoits, to cops, to politicians, to Khalnayak and Maharani to Mogambo and terrorists. This set me thinking that what if today’s villain is an aam aadmi? He could be on the bus, a delivery boy or a plumber. Someone you see everyday. What if this unheard and unseen man has angst? There is so much pressure on the common man with ads like jo biwi se karen pyaar woh pressure cooker se kaise karen inkaar. What if this guy can’t afford a pressure cooker for his wife? That was the thought behind creating the villain in this film. It’s almost the anti-villain. The casting would have only worked if we went for someone against type. Riteish (Deshmukh) is such a good guy. Nobody would expect him to play a character like this. The only addition I did was to give him the David Headley eyes.
Bhatt saab says I’m his Shekhu:
I don’t need big budgets to tell my stories. Big budgets don’t make big hits. Bhatt saab calls me his Shekhu — this is a reference from Mughal-e-Azam where Akbar used to call Salim, Shekhu. He has always been indulgent with me but then I get his gaalis too because then he has to give it to the other directors too.
I drain my actors emotionally:
I like to concentrate on the magic of the close up. It’s more satisfying to get the correct scene key than focus on the opulence. I’ll always focus on the character than the curtain on my set. You can ask my actors. I drain them emotionally because I push them to give me a performance that hits. During Ek Villain, Sidharth (Malhotra) stopped going to parties because he used to be so emotionally spent after working the whole day.