Abhishek Kapoor, known to everyone in the Hindi film industry as Gattu, is generally regarded as a promising filmmaker in the commercial Hindi cinema space. The director of Rock On!! (2008) and Kai Po Che! (2013) has struck some sort of a balance between star-driven, commercially appealing cinema and films driven by characters and story rather than typical Bollywood excess.
His latest film, Fitoor, releases this Friday. A desi take on Great Expectations set in Kashmir, the film stars Aditya Roy Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, and Tabu in its principal roles. He spoke to HuffPost India over telephone about his biggest and most ambitious film yet. Excerpts:
Fitoor is your fourth film. How different is it in terms of scale from your previous films?
It's a different film trying to capture a different world. The attempt was not to make a more expensive film just for the sake of it. The story demands it. It's a big idea, more than anything, and that's what's exciting and challenging. It's a very fantastical story and it really needs a certain look, specific kind of sets, a certain kind of lighting you have to capture... things like that. Like Kai Po Che! was mostly shot on real locations, but here, when you make locations and sets from scratch, it's an entirely different thing.
How involved do you get in the minutiae of things?
I am involved to a very large extent in the detailing, but it's ultimately a collaborative effort with everyone who is involved. The film is evolving on a daily basis. New inputs come in, new ideas come in. You have to take all these new ideas and then take a call about how to go about it.
There have been several controversies around the film: rumours of Rekha walking out of the film, Katrina's hair colour costing Rs 55 lakh, the allegation that the choreography in 'Pashmina' has been lifted from an Ed Sheeran music video. You've denied or given explanations for all of these things in various interviews. Aren't you worried, though, about it affecting the film negatively anyway?
I don't think anything that comes out in the press, even if it is negative, actually affects the movie negatively. Once the movie releases, the only important thing is that people watch the film and they connect with it. All rumours will be forgotten then.
What is your relationship with Charles Dickens's Great Expectations? When did you first read it and what is your main takeaway from it?
I read it way back when I was in school and revisited it a few years later. It's a classic story that has been adapted many times [by the likes of David Lean, Alfonso Cuarón, and Mike Newell] and I loved the BBC series but I think we've done some things and added a new dimension to it that I don't think you'll see in any other version. I had done the same thing in Kai Po Che!, where the first half was exactly like the book [Chetan Bhagat's The 3 Mistakes of My Life], but the second half was very different.
Tell us about the journey of the film. What were the sand-traps you really wanted to avoid while writing the script?
It's taken three years — been a while. The script has been co-written by me and, coincidentally, Supratik Sen [laughs]. He had also done the final screenplay draft and dialogues for Kai Po Che!. We really slogged on the script for about a year, writing, rewriting... because, you know, God is in the details, so you have to keep doing it. After that we spent about six to eight months on pre-prep. Then, filming took a year because it was shot outdoors in so many locations and different seasons and locations.
Your filmography has straddled a unique space that lies somewhere between what is considered 'commercial' and what is considered 'content-driven'. Do you see platforms such as Netflix, Hotstar etc as a harbinger of change for your kind of cinema?
Yes and what's great is that there are so many more avenues for filmmakers now. From a time when there was just one channel on TV and a few distributors, you now have studios, multiplexes and now this. For a filmmaker, it broadens your horizons in a massive way. Movie-making has changed so much — you can now make a movie on your phone.
So, you can't really predict what's going to happen... I just have to be on my feet and adapt all the time and try to do as many different things as I can. At least in my career, I don't want to repeat myself — the challenge is to be versatile. Like [Steven] Spielberg, who can make both a Jurassic Park (1993) and a Schindler's List (1993) in the same year. Now that's something to aspire to.
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