Q: Bollywood has had only two showmen so far – Raj Kapoor and Subhash Ghai. How do you look at this statement and the tag of "Bollywood's showman"?
Subhash Ghai: I believe that titles like these are attributed to you by the public through the media. Honestly, I never took it seriously. Initially I assumed that the media is scoffing me, till one senior journalist Mr Ali Peter John told me, that you get tagged with such titles when your films and characters in a story are shown larger than life, on a big screen, with grand music and visuals and that they are watched so many times by all generations with same ecstasy and respect.
And 'showman' is a dream merchant, but surely a peoples person who shares his fantasies with everyone, celebrating both life and cinema along with the common man. Hearing this from Mr Ali Peter John, I was overwhelmed, humbled and felt more responsible for my content and it's narrative in the magic called cinema.
Q: You have given some hit and memorable movies like, 'Karz', 'Ram Lakhan', 'Pardes', 'Khal Nayak', 'Taal' and so many. How do you look at your journey in the industry so far?
Subhash Ghai: Cinema speaks of its time and evolvement of the people, of its land and its culture. I went through my exciting journey as Hindi Film maker from 1975 to 2015, from Kalicharan to Kanchi. I feel blessed to be the one who gave 14 blockbusters out of 19 movies made so far, still being watched on small screen with equal fondness. I am even fortunate that I was able to make movies of varied and different genres, ranging from Karz to Meri Jung, Saudagar, Karma, Khalnayak, Pardes, Taal and Black and White.
It fills me with a lot of pride and joy when even the youngest member of a family plays and sings a song from Karz made in 1980. What more you can ask for from God?
Q: Take us to the time when you first came into this industry. Did you anticipate all that you have achieved today?
Subhash Ghai: After passing out as an actor of FTII in 1965, I was selected as one of three winners at 'Filmfare United Producers Talent Contest' along with Rajesh Khanna - out of more than 5 thousands applicants. All top producers loved me for my acting talent, but casted Rajesh Khanna because he had better personality than me. So I again started my search for a job, from door to door. I got small roles, bigger roles and leading roles to play in movies such as Aradhna, Umang, Natak, Gumrah and many more, but a new actor needs 90% of luck. I rediscovered myself as story writer, then as a director and producer to the corporate world and now as a filmmaker and educationist both.
Q: You have not turned your magic wand on the silver screen for a long time now. What has kept you away from it? How do you think has the industry changed in the last decade or two?
Subhash Ghai: In the show business, a good actor may keep working till end of his time but a good director is always known for his last movie, specially at box office. Investors and stars are very sensitive to the performance of your last movies. I have always believed strongly in good content and just content, not in stars. At times, your story works and sometimes it does not. Still I am grateful to all the actors who show their deep respect to me for my body of work in the past. I admire them and always send them my compliments when I watch and like their good work.
Q: We have many promising filmmakers in Bollywood today. Is there any specific director whose work you have seen and admired recently?
Subhash Ghai: There a lot of directors today whom I admire. Latest one is Sharan Sharma, director of 'Gunjan Saxena'. Actually the list is long, but I admire them from film to film. No director can be constant on each film, Hits and slips are there; mostly because of the story they choose. And the same is with me. A director has to perform a creative narrative differently in every film while stars have to perform what's ready for them on paper by authors and writers. I do feel they are safer than directors.
Q: From amongst the younger generation of actors, is there anybody who you would like to work with?
Subhash Ghai: Quite a few. While today's actors are professionals and hardworking, they are careful, real and ruthless too. However, I only choose them when my script demands them to play the character. Then, we as producers, go for a wish list with an option of three actors based on suitability, viability, availability and saleability. When you click - Film happens.
Q: We recently witnessed fun banter between Anil Kapoor and Jackie Shroff on Instagram where they hinted at working together again. Fans are praying that the project would be 'Ram Lakhan' - Are you considering it?
Subhash Ghai: Yes, the three of us are planning to make a murder mystery comedy "Ramchand Kishenchand" under Mukta Arts Ltd. Both playing cops in their 60's. Jackie too is excited, Anil is as cautious as ever since his birth. But loved the story and I love him. Wait and watch: Mukta Arts is geared up for movie productions in 2021.
Q: What do you enjoy more – writing, directing, or producing?
Subhash Ghai: I used to enjoy directing movies for 35 years, but now I enjoy writing and producing. It's fun to work with the new generation. They are brilliant and sincere in their work.
Q: Unlike what most people believe, you have never feared from resting your films on the shoulders of newcomers. Where do you stand on the debate of content vs star power?
Subhash Ghai: Every star knows that only content can make him a star or superstar, but believes that stars bring more money than the content itself. So he starts designing content by himself, it's an irony forever.
Q: You have given one of your biggest hit with Rishi Kapoor. What is that you miss the most about him?
Subhash Ghai: His genuine reactions, he never played double****. Also his loving nature and his deep and genuine respect for me.. Always.
Q: Of your movies, which movie is your favourite and what makes it that special?
Subhash Ghai: YUVRAAJ. I experimented and dared to make a movie as a combination of painting poetry and music symphony by A R Rahman. I got the best compliments from M F Hussain and the script was invited by the library of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences USA. That's why it is my special child. Unfortunately, it could not be a blockbuster at the Indian box office.
Q: If you get an opportunity to remake a classic for today's generation, which one would you go for? It can be your films too.
Subhash Ghai: I never look back on my films. They are the past and ego booster for my company. But I am always in search of new stories, like a child, which I never made. As an example; pure comedy with a message or a film on child emotions.
Q: Can you tell us about the greatest moment in your film career?
Subhash Ghai: The Golden jubilee party of 'Hero' where I could see many of us being born and reborn as real stars on this planet. It was attended by my idols, Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar and every director and media house was patting me on my back. 'Bravo;' they said.
Q: You have seen Sanjay Dutt grow as an individual and as an actor. You have also worked very closely with him. How have you taken the news of his ill health? What do you think is the actor's biggest strength?
Subhash Ghai: He is the only actor who makes me emotionally sad at times. He was 20 when he was working with me in his second film Vidhaata. He was going through his worst phase in drug addiction at that time, he quit by the time he was in 'Khalnayak', but then he was arrested on charges of aiding terrorist activities - which he never was. He has always been an impeccable man and a big child till today. Can you imagine, on his request only, I wrote the script of Khalnayak Returns as he came out of jail but we needed a younger star to play Khalnayak. He is a very strong fighter against all crisis. I admire and love him for that.
Q: What do plan now post covid?
Subhash Ghai: During the past 6 Months of Covid-19, I have written many exciting stories, scripts, poems and music and participated in many social and national causes. I attended more than 50 online conferences at various levels. Watched OTT web series as a student and learnt a lot from it. Now I am excited to produce many new projects for OTT and cinema both, with the younger generation and students of Whistling Woods International film school. I am happy and blessed both.