Interview By: Ankita R. Kanabar
He could possibly be called the ‘King of Indian horror’ and Vikram Bhatt might just like that, considering his endeavor when it comes to the genre. The man who makes sense and remains honest to the tee, is up with yet another horror film in the form of ‘1921’. But there’s more to him, as he continues to update himself with the need of the current times going by his instinct. We catch up with Vikram Bhatt to talk about his latest release, his online theatre and more. Excerpts:
You’ve tried several genres and now one usually sees only horror films coming from you…why is that?
I realised that this hall of fame business is nonsense. Ultimately, it’s just that whatever you do, you’re forgotten. When my talk to my daughter about Manmohan Desai or Prakash Mehra, she doesn’t know. As a matter of fact, even though Bhatt Saab is making ‘Sadak 2’, this generation hasn’t seen ‘Sadak’. So, I started feeling that today, only a brand sells and every person wants to be a brand. Once people are familiar with something, they know what to expect, then they will feel like spending their money. I also wanted to make a brand but a brand is nothing more than something done again and again successfully. Unfortunately, I decided to make horror brand. Nobody asks people who make a comedy brand, that, why do they make only comedies? So, when people see that it’s a Vikram Bhatt horror film, they know what to expect, so I’m using that to my benefit. That’s what film business is about. That you entertain people, be honest in entertaining people, give them their money’s worth so they give you their time’s worth and everyone is happy.
You mentioned that film-makers will not always be remembered, yet, what’s really the driving force to make a film?
Perhaps, that’s a good thing. When you don’t have that pressure to be remembered, you are relieved from that jail of immortality. We are so bothered about how many people will cry at our funeral, so how does it matter when you’re gone. We spend so much time being miserable in this life, so that we are remembered afterwards. People should do things for themselves. At the end of it all, you’re just a picture on the wall. My grandfather was one of the greatest film-makers but nobody remembers him. Vijay Bhatt, he made films like ‘Ram Rajiya’, ‘BaijuBawra’ and many others. He kept on waiting for a Dada SahebPhalke award which he never got and I saw him got miserable. I realised this is not the life I want for myself. I don’t want someone else to tell me whether my life was worthwhile or not. When you are not bothered about your own greatness then you start bothering about the audience’s interest. I’m more bothered about whether the audience will enjoy the film or not, or whether the producer will make money or not.
Speaking about satisfying the audience, there are many in the younger generation who feel that Indian horror isn’t at par with Hollywood…
Because that’s the duality of our Indian audience. That audience is just in one or two cities. The problem is, we don’t respect our culture. I’m happy with this movement of ‘Hindutva’, because we are not proud of our culture and I’ll tell you why. People see ‘Exorcist’ and they see two priests reading from the ‘Bible’ then they are happy. But if I put two pandits there, reading Hanuman Chalisa, they think, it’s low society. The bible is cool, but Gajendra Moksha or Vishnu Sahastranaam, then that’s not cool. The problem with the city is, you don’t mind anything in the English language. The youth today, don’t know much about the veda or our culture and I can’t feed their ignorance. There’s an India out there who knows all this. People used to take out their shoes and go to see 1920 in Rajasthan because of the Hanuman Chalisa. There’s an India out there who appreciates this. So, if some people in India feel that Indian horror isn’t cool, they’re most welcome to see ‘Conjuring’ which has the English pandit. As far as the special effects are concerned, they should look believable. It shouldn’t take you away from the film.
While you’re talking about building a brand, by doing the same thing repeatedly, you’ve also mentioned earlier that you always want to try something new and don’t mind failing at trying something new. So, what’s new about ‘1921’?
This time it’s a beautiful love story. As a matter of fact, all my films have been love stories, whether it was ‘Raaz’, ‘1920’, ‘Haunted’ or this one. I would say, there’s horror in a love story, as opposed to love story in a horror film. It’s a story I wanted to tell. Also, I’m doing so much more now that I don’t need to depend on cinema to tell different stories. I got my own web channel. I have my own OTT coming up. I made these web series. I wrote this book called ‘A Handful Of Sunshine’ which is an out-and-out love story. I have a show running on Star Plus. So, fortunately, my creative need is being answered by these other avenues so I’m not feeling genre starved.
Which of your film is closest to your heart and is there any film which you had high expectations from, but it disappointed you?
‘Ankahee’ is closest to my heart and no I’m not really disappointed ever. I feel the audience is very fair and they always give a film what it deserves. There’s always something missing in your film, if it doesn’t do well. Unless you are tremendously unlucky. For instance, we were going to release ‘Kasoor’ on January 26, 2001. And that same day, Indra Kumar’s film ‘Aashiq’ starring Karisma Kapoor and Bobby Deol came. ‘Kasoor’ was a small film so we moved it to the next week. And unfortunately, the Bhuj earthquake happened on that day. Because of that earthquake, the whole Gujarat territory got wiped off and, even the whole of India didn’t feel like watching a film because it was such a miserable thing. So something like this is just misfortune. Otherwise I feel, films get what they deserve.
You’ve evolved with time and embraced the digital space in a big way, with a number of web-series and now your own online theatre. What lead to that?
My OTT is coming on my birthday, it’s called ‘VB – theatre on the web’. So, I’m going to be the first one in India to make the first online multiplex, which will be on your phone. You don’t have to subscribe. I feel that the Indian audience is not going to be happy to go in for the subscription model because we don’t have the deep pockets of a Netflix or Amazon, where we would dish out something new every week. Amazon and Netflix have something new every week and they have a huge array of international series and they’re all great. We don’t have that. So, we are not going to give you so much content. If I ask for subscription, you might not. I don’t have a reputation of a Netflix or Amazon so people won’t trust me, because you don’t know what are you going to get to watch. So, I have made a theatre on the web. That idea came to me when I was in Times Square. There used to be a Virgin store out there which sold movies and music. I used to spend my entire day there listening to music and one day I went there and it had changed into Forever 21. I said, where’s the store? I got to know it packed up and all of it was available online. So, I found my interests – music and books online, on my phone. You hardly see a bookshop around. I realised that very soon, theatre will be online. My app is, ‘Theatre on the web’. There’s free stuff already available elsewhere but there will be one or two shows at all time and the price will be Rs.15-20 for the whole show. You watch the trailer and if you like it, then you pay for one show and watch it. There are different shows playing just like a multiplex and you need to just invest in what you want to watch. I feel people will like to do that because it’s like a ticket. That we understand, we know how to buy a ticket and watch a movie. That’s what’s it’s about. And it’s open to every producer, not just for me. It’s a theatre. So, if any producer who’s made a web-series and doesn’t have a platform to showcase it, he can come to my web theatre.