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The dirty picture
The sultan of C-grade Hindi cinema, Kanti Shah is known for "classics" such as 'Pyaasi', 'Gunda', 'Garam Padosan' and 'Phoolan Hasina Ramkali'. His films have all the ingredients for low-budget hits in small-town north India - heroines with as little regard for clothes as the director's for a story, ravenous monsters, depraved dacoits and heroes who are quick at dispensing justice. Within the Hindi film industry, he has done more for the male gaze than anyone else. Shah has also made an industry of producing spin-offs of big-budget Hindi films. So there was 'Kama Jwala' for 'Kama Sutra', 'Free Entry' for 'No Entry', and who can forget 'Duplicate Sholay'. Shah has been in the film business for over two decades now. This year's Golden Kela Awards (the Indian version of the Razzies, awarding the worst in cinema) have decided to give him a Platinum Kela for his sustained efforts in this space. In an interview to Kim Arora, he spoke about his kind of cinema and why he's making a multiplex movie
How did you get into filmmaking?
I started some 20 years ago as a production manager. I slowly learnt a lot in terms of direction. I worked very hard, I remember that I would look for work;even take it from other people. By the time I produced Maar Dhaad in 1988, I had enough contacts in the industry. People knew me, and those who had worked with me supported me a lot. By and by the avenues opened for me and I just went on working.
Last year writer Chetan Bhagat wrote derisively about your cult film Gunda. There was an outrage over the Mithun hit on the Internet with many defending it. The Facebook page for that film has nearly 8, 000 "likes". Comments?
I didn't know about this at all. Chetan Bhagat is a good writer, he can hold that view. Gunda is a good film and it has worked well.
It has become fashionable for the educated
uppermiddle class youth today to watch your films. Did you ever think of targeting this demographic?
There is a huge gap between the generations earlier and now. I had never thought about finding an audience with this generation. But if this kind of audience is liking it, it's good for me.
You have been awarded the Platinum Kela at this year's Golden Kela awards. Does the B or C grade tag bother you?
At least there is a grade. If not A, B would do. And for Platinum Kela - whatever it is, I'm fine with it.
Did you know about your film Angoor being referenced in Vikramaditya Motwane's muchappreciated film, Udaan?
Yes. Sanjay Singh (producer) had come to me when the film was being made. He said he wanted to use the name of the film and a clip from it. I never knew they'd highlight it so nicely, the way they used my name along with the film. It's good to see so many people like the film.
How has the multiplex culture affected your films?
Single-screen theatres have shut down now. They used to be very affordable. Now you can't watch a film without shelling out 150-200 rupees. But we also have to move with the times and work differently. My next film Horror is being made with the multiplex audience in mind.
Where do you do most business?
Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan, West Bengal - all of the North basically has been good. Rajasthan, in particular. A lot of people have liked my work in these places. Interiors have been good for business. My thoughts are different. My way of making films is different. It's not dull, the tempo is not slow. It's fully commercial and focused on entertainment. I experiment as well.
You and Ram Gopal Varma both have made your versions of Sholay. What do you think of Varma's version?
Ram Gopal Varma's Sholay had such big stars. The scale of the film should have matched them. He shot most of it indoor unlike the original Sholay, which had such grand visuals with its outdoor shots. He didn't even try. Original Sholay ki to baat hi kuch aur hai (The original Sholay is in a different league altogether).
There is a film being made on you.
Yes, Sneha Tulli is making a film that has a character with my name. I don't know what it is going to be about. To my knowledge it is in the post-production stage and should be out in June or July.
Is it true that your next film Rape is based on the Shiney Ahuja case?
Yes. I had this idea when the case had just come to light. I thought with a title like Rape, it should work well for a multiplex-going audience. The issue is also topical. It is going to be a good film.
What are you working on currently?
I am working on my film Horror. The cast is mostly composed of newcomers. My regular heroine Sapna will also star in the film.
KANTI SHAH'S TOP 5
Gunda | 1998 |
This Mithun Chakraborty film is best known for its dialogues in rhyme such as"Mera naam hai Bulla. Rakhta hun main khulla". A favourite with film bloggers and kitsch connoisseurs, this gangster revenge flick has an exhaustive Wikipedia entry.
Phoolan Hasina Ramkali | 1993 |
The film has three heroines, most notable among them being danseuse Sudha Chandran, best known for her work in Nache Mayuri. The film also features nine duplicate actors like in Duplicate Sholay.
Angoor | 2005 |
This film got its share of limelight thanks to Vikramaditya Motwane's 2010 film Udaan, where a group of teenaged schoolboys sneak out of their hostel to catch this film. As the voice over in the film establishes, it is about a woman and her quest for love that frequently involves her prancing about in her bare essentials.
Duplicate Sholay | 2002 |
The "Duplicate" here stands not just for the story that has been lifted (with the addition of a rape revenge subplot for Basanti's bar-dancer sister) but for the actors as well. The film stars duplicates of several A-list Hindi film actors like Sanjay Dutt, Sunny Deol and Anil Kapoor.
Daku Ramkali | 2000 |
The film, with Kanti regular Sapna in the lead, is about a feisty woman dacoit who is the terror of a rocky jungle. You know not to mess with her when she opens the film with "Yeh jungle, ye pahaad, ye bihad. Yahaan phatey hain bam. Goliyan bajti hain tad-tad. Jo yahaan karne aata hai gadbad, Ramkali use deti hai maut ka thappad".
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