Vipul Shah is a master filmmaker not only as a director, but also as a producer. His films have been loved by audiences and ventured on to become huge hits. He has directed some of the biggest stars in Hindi cinema including Amitabh Bachchan, Katrina Kaif and Akshay Kumar – once or twice. From his first film Aankhein to the romantic Namastey London and the comedy of Singh is King, Mr. Shah has proven he knows how to make a film. He claims that with each film he likes to try a new genre and with London Dreams he goes into the territory of human drama. In London Dreams, Mr. Shah explores the world of music but at its heart the film is all about friendship and taps into the human emotions of jealousy and envy. Not only does he embrace a new type of story, he is also working with some new actors…well new to him: Ajay Devgn and Salman Khan. In this exclusive interview, Vipul Shah talks to BollySpice about London Dreams. The director spoke passionately about the film he says is “easily the best work of my career so far”. Read on to find out more!
Tell us the story of London Dreams in your words.
London Dreams is the story of two friends who have this big dream of achieving great success and winning audiences the world over in the world of music. They start their journey from childhood in the Punjab in India and they go to London to achieve this dream. On the way, what happens in their lives in the space of their romances, their friendship, who becomes more popular and what happens to the other guy is a test of their friendship, a test of their romance, a test of their character, a test of their religion too. So, that is the basic plot.
Why did you decide to direct this film?
Every time I have made a film I have tried a new genre, like my first film was a thriller called Aankhein, then there was Waqt which was a family drama, then there was Namastey London which was a romantic film and then I produced Singh is King, which was comedy caper and now London Dreams is a human drama. So, for me it is really interesting to be again traveling in a new direction, something that I have never tried before. Apart from the fact that it had a huge story and beautiful human drama involved in it, there are three principles that I like to make a film on. One is that it has to be good entertainment – a sensible, intelligent, sensitive entertainment. It has to be a family-friendly film that the entire family should be able to see together and enjoy it. It has to have a message, which they can take home after they come out of the theater, not just leave the film in the theater and are just completely cut off. So, apart from a great story, this also gave me the opportunity to achieve these three fundamental things that I like to have in every film of mine. So, there was no reason at all which told me to think twice.
So what is the message of London Dreams that you want everyone to take home with them?
It is a film about friendship and it sends a very strong message about how to deal with your friendships by the end of the film. I think there is also another message in the film, which is about the planet and how to avoid competition and jealousy when someone is more talented than you are. It deals with two very positive emotions, which can be very important for a human being to live happy.
You have Ajay and Salman in the film, how was it working with them?
See, I had worked with Akshay Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan and it has been a great, great, great experience working with two fantastic, disciplined actors. I was coming out of my comfort zone for the first time working with two actors I had never worked with before. Now, I must say I have four great actors that I have worked with and would love to work with again and again. It has been a fantastic experience working with them. It was an absolute pleasure and we bonded like a house on fire. But, most importantly our harmony and team spirit is really visible on screen. It is not something that we just shared and enjoyed off screen. It was something we were able to translate on screen and that is the positivity of the relationship. Audiences are really going to enjoy seeing the camaraderie and team spirit in the film.
Do you use different approaches when working with different actors? For example did you approach Salman a different way than Ajay for a scene?
Every actor demands a different type of attitude and every actor has different demands from the director, so accordingly you have to mold yourself and give the actor what he wants. Like Salman is more carefree and Ajay is more meticulous, but at the end of the day they are both fantastic actors and I have to get the best out of them. At the same time, I also have to try and get a completely new style from their talent, something that audiences have not seen so far. I think it is very critical for any director working for the first time with actors to understand their personality, how they work, how they think about the part, and then slowly, slowly, slowly start getting inside them in order to present them in a slightly newer way, slightly unique, something they have not done probably for a very long time. Then you have to create a mood in which the actors who are very different can work. It was great fun, but yeah they both required a different plan of approach.
How was it working with Asin?
She is a newcomer, at least to Hindi cinema, but she is a big star down South. She is very, very experienced but she is very choosy and chooses to work with, according to her, only the best guys. Like after Ghajini, which was her first Hindi film that she chose, and after our film, I don’t think she has signed any other film. She is very choosy in what she does. Being a newcomer she was full of enthusiasm and cooperation and energy and that’s very much required. I think the fact that she has starred with big stars down South made her not at all nervous with Ajay and Salman so that brought a lot of confidence in her performance as a newcomer. So, she gets a lot of freshness but at the same time she doesn’t look like a typical newcomer would look and that is a great quality to have. I think she is going to be really appreciated.
The music is such an integral part to the film. What was the brief you gave to Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy?
In our films we make popular music, we make commercial music but at the same time doing a film where the music is very important, I wanted tracks that would be around for the next ten years at least. I wanted not just commercially successful film music, but I also wanted music that would last to the end of time and I wanted at least some of the songs to become classics in the years to come. I think they have given me songs individually created in that way. That is at least what I feel and I hope audiences will feel the same.
What is your favorite song?
My favorite song…that is a bit confusing because I really feel all the tracks are absolutely great. Every track has a very special quality. If I had to pick one I would say ‘Khwab’ is my most favorite number, which has a soft, mellifluous, very, very beautiful melody; very beautiful lyrics, beautiful poetry and very haunting so I think ‘Khwab’ is my best number. But then I also like ‘Barsoon’ because it is a very unusual concert song. It has a very, very unusual structure for a concert song. It starts out as bit of rock then it moves into folk then it ends with a religious chant… Hanuman Chalisa. It is a fantastic song! Then you have ‘Man Ko Ati Bhavey’, which is a totally mad love song that you would associate only with Salman Khan. There is the Punjab song, which is called ‘Tapkey Masti’ that is a little Punjab but also has a very modern today international groove. Then there is ‘Shola Shola’, which has got a great style quality of lyrics that any youngster will feel. When you’re depressed you can listen to ‘Shola’ and feel very, very energetic and hopeful. And there is ‘Khanabadosh’, which I think is an outstanding in so many ways. The lyrics, the use of guitar and composition is so pure. There are so many songs really.
Tell us about shooting the concert scenes.
It was one of the most difficult shoots because we had to have so many people and we had to perform it like one live concert and every actor had to perform straight in one take. In fact, what we wanted to manage was sometimes very difficult to achieve, but we had to do it. We had to capture it in one go, so it was six cameras that shot the entire concert from six different angles. The actors had to perform the entire concert six times with same intensity, with same movements and same expressions. Plus the audience, the 10,000 people that we had cheering for the concert had to keep doing it again and again and then we had to multiply that to 90,000 people. The challenges were many trying to get those thousands in a whole shot, but I think the concert is really something to go by and people will be absolutely stunned with the result of the concert scene.
What do you think is the best scene in the film?
That I can’t say again because I want the audience to come and enjoy every moment of the film, but there are not less than 20 sequences which I would say are absolutely stunning; something that the Indian audience has not yet seen.
You shot on location in Paris. What was that experience like?
We shot outside the Louvre museum in Paris, which is going to be really stunning for Indian audiences to see. No Indian film has been able to shoot in front of the museum. And we shot outside the Eiffel Tower, which was illuminated in blue lights…which is something no film in the world has. That is what we were told, that this will be the only film that will have the Eiffel Tower illuminated in blue light. It was the perfect setting for a romantic scene. I mean it looks better in blue for a romantic sequence than it would look with the yellow light.
Did the film turn out how you hoped when you first started?
I think this is easily the best work of my career so far. I think this is one film that will win audiences and is one of the landmark films that I have done. That is what I feel and I hope that the audience agrees with my thinking for the film.
What do you think audiences will love about London Dreams?
I think in totality they must love the story that is the first thing. They must love the music. They must love the performances of Salman, Ajay and Asin and every other character so these are the three fundamental things, but also in my opinion they will love the visual treat of the film. The way we have shot the film, the way we have treated every single scene visually I think that is going to be something really new to them. And as I said it is a family entertainer so they definitely can all go and enjoy it.
What is coming up for you next?
There are two films I am working on, one as a producer and one as a producer/director. As a producer I am making a film Kuch Love Jaisa, which is starring Rahul Bose and Shefali Shah, which is written and directed by Barnali Shukla. That is a beautiful story of housewife and a criminal who is on the run and they meet accidentally in a restaurant and in that one meeting, it changes their lives completely. The second film is called Action Replay and that stars Akshay Kumar and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and a lot of other fantastic Indian stars. It is a romantic comedy set in the world of fantasy. Besides that we have a contract to make two films with the franchise of 20th Century Fox – Fox Star Studios. I will be producing both of the films and some directors, which well I am not going to release the names, now, will direct them. The scripts have been locked and hopefully both films will be in production later.
Mr. Shah said he feels that London Dreams is something that will really stun audiences not only with the way the film has been shot but also with the performances. We know we cannot wait to see it on the silver screen! We wish him and the entire cast and a crew a good show and hopefully a good showing at the theater. Be sure and get your ticket to see London Dreams when it opens on October 30th.