Despite today’s audience being open to all kinds of cinema, Heartless, an out-of-the-box film on anesthesia awareness has not really done great business at the box-office. Were you disappointed?
The film started picking up after it opened on Friday. That it went into its second week is saying a lot for a niche film. I knew that it would not do phenomenal business and I was happy with the critical acclaim it received. I was a bit unhappy, however, about the screenings and how it was given only two shows and at times, only one at the multiplexes. By the time the film started to pick up by good word-of-mouth, it was on its way out of the theatres. It has done exceptionally well in the South, where out-of-the-box cinema is appreciated. The budget of the film was around Rs.10 crores and I still have the satellite, digital and other rights with me, so we should break even.
Shekhar Suman is generally associated with stand-up comedy, fun, laughter and not anesthesia awareness.
If you recall I started my career with Utsav and if I have done a Dekh Bhai Dekh on television, I have also done the more serious Reporter. When it comes to films I relate to sensitivity and tragedy more than comedy. Making people laugh is not a craft that I am proud of. In fact I did not want to act in Heartless as I was directing a film for the first time, but my family and friends pushed me to do it. They said that they missed the actor in me and my character Dr Sam, who had negative shades, would be a perfect outlet. In fact I was lured by the negativity of the character. The next script I am working on is also dark. An action thriller called The Last Lover.
What was the real inspiration behind Heartless?
The film was partly inspired from real life, when I saw the way my wife Alka went all out to save our young son Ayush, who was diagnosed with a heart ailment. The film is not a remake but yes, elements were taken from the American film Awake. However, it was not done on the sly. There was an official agreement and settlement with the American makers and we paid them for it.
Would you agree that the song and dance sequences affected the smooth narrative of the medical thriller?
The first half is meant to be a love story with song and dance between the lead actors, Adhyayan and Ariana after which the story moves into the thriller zone. Anyway I feel that a film should be viewed in entirety and not analysed in pockets. It’s always better to have a second half that works. And this was taken care of in Heartless where the twists and turns and surprise ending engaged the audience.
The bond between mother (Deepti Naval) and son (Adhyayan Suman) was heartwarming. How did you get that right?
The film was meant to show the extreme lengths a mother can go to for her children and to achieve that I chose the anesthesia awareness angle. I wanted a very today’s mother, one who is multi-dimensional, aptly portrayed by Deepti’s character, a no nonsense entrepreneur at work, but an emotional mother at home. When I set out to make the film I thought if the story inspired even one child to wake up to his mother and the sacrifices she can make for her children, my efforts would not be in vain. Going by the feedback on my Twitter account, it has touched several young people, which makes me happy. Making Heartless was a heartfelt and heartwarming experience for me.