To most people, Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic (TPTM) is Kunal Kohli’s fourth film as a director. But for those in the know, it also marks the start of his third career–Kohli is also producer of TPTM. Kohli was initially a TV presenter and then turned to directing films.
In this candid interview, Kohli talks about the much-awaited release of his film, his fondness for blogging and also gives a special message to his overseas audiences.
With the disappointing reception of Yash Raj Flims' Tashan, how do you suppose the audience will receive Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic?
The audience is very mature. They know that this is not Yash Raj's next after Tashan; this is Yash Raj and Kunal Kohli's next after Fanaa. They are different films by different people with a completely different target audience.
Why did it take so long to christen the film?
I was looking for a title that said a little more, that spoke about the film but could also be the catch phrase about life because I would like to believe that my film says things that have impact and relevance in our day-to-day life. I think that's what is important and that's why I went for this title. When something is going wrong in someone's life, I'd like someone to say, I need Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic. The title not only describes the film but also our lives.
What made you cast Saif and Rani in this film? Or did you decide to cast them on the basis of the success of Hum Tum?
I did not look at the success of Hum Tum alone when casting them. They both suited the characters very well. And whenever the two have done unique roles is when they have excelled in their careers. When Rani does a Hum Tum, KANK, Black, or Chalte Chalte, and when Saif does Dil Chahta Hai, Parineeta, Omkara, Race, etc., they have played different characters and have excelled in that. So, when you throw a challenge to such actors, they give you something special and that's what both Saif and Rani have given me in this film.
The songs of TPTM aren't picking up as they should have. Do you suppose it's because everyone's glued to the IPL matches? Do you feel it will pick up after the release of the film?
I get honest feedback from people. All those who have heard the music, love it. Three songs have really connected well with the audience–Pyaar ke liye, Nihaal ho gayi and Lazy lamhe. I think that the IPL played a huge part because the entire focus of the entertainment industry was on it. Now that it's over, let's see what happens.
I remember that when Fanaa released, the songs did not pick up instantly but eventually became a hit. Fortunately for me, the soundtrack of both Fanaa and Hum Tum did well musically. So the expectations are very high from the Prasoon Joshi and the team. Even in Taare Zameen Par, Joshi's lyrics take a while to grow on you. I'm very confident that Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic's music will also take time to capture the listener. Also, the ringtones of TPTM aren't out at the moment. That, too, could be the reason.
In your previous venture with Saif-Rani in Hum Tum, you had a music video by UK's Juggy D, Veronica and Rishi Rich that gave you an instant hit number Mere Dil Vich. Didn't you think of re-uniting with them for TPTM?
This film does not require such a marketing strategy. Every film has a different way of marketing. Hum Tum was one of the first films to have a music video and a song, which wasn't included in the film. That created a bit of a cult and post Hum Tum, everyone started having music videos to promote their movie. What I needed more in TPTM was a song like Pyaar ke liye, which is the theme song for the film and will be promoted more. I don't think what worked for Hum Tum will work here.
How difficult was it to cast the four kids in the film? And did your story require a Sikh boy or was it done in good humour?
It was very difficult. We screen tested about 300 kids and the problem was that the film is set in Delhi and the kids needed to have a strong North Indian accent. So we found all four of them in Delhi after auditions. I'm glad that you mentioned the Sikh connection in this film because the boy who plays the role of a Sardarji is actually a Punjabi boy. When you see the film you'll know why one of them is a Sikh and the others are not. He looks so natural that everybody on the sets thought that he was a Sikh.
Do you think that the overseas certification system for your particular film, which I assume would be a PG or a 12 certificate, will help tremendously as far as profits are concerned?
I never make a film keeping distribution in mind. If a PG certification makes a distributor feel that he has won the battle, good for them, but I don't like to give my films a particular genre and that's the reason I have never made films of the same genre. Mujhse Dosti Karoge, Hum Tum, Fanaa and TPTM are all films of different genres with different settings. But as a director/producer, I'd definitely want my film to do well commercially, which I think anybody would, after all, that's our bread and butter.
You've recently turned a blogger. So now even the common man can have access to you and can interview you. What do you have to say to that?
I think it's not bad for the media. Before blogs came out, I used to write articles in newspapers and magazines like The Times of India and India Today. And before plunging into films, I used to be a film journalist. So, I've always liked writing and commenting on things other than films also. If you read my last post, it was about the blast that happened and it was not about my film. ]
I am thrilled that I have turned a blogger and can stay in touch with my audience. I don't have a fan base though because I am not an actor. I get very interesting comments that are serious, funny, suggestive and accurate at times. Through my blog, I've learnt that there is a collective strength that the audience has and one must respect that. I like reading other peoples blogs too like Mr Bachchan's and Aamir's blog.
After having worked with Saif and Rani for the second time, what growth have you seen in them?
Tremendous growth and it's very difficult to measure it. In TPTM, both have surpassed their previous performances. They have matured as actors. Hum Tum was a sort of a turning point in my career and Saif's, too. I wouldn't say Rani's because she was a well-established actor by then with films such as Saathiya and Chalte Chalte. But it was a turning point for Rani in one way–she got her first award as a Best Actress for Hum Tum. I'd say that our fortunes turned with Hum Tum. And all three of us were greeted with more success from then on.
In TPTM, our respect for each other has grown as our craft is more polished now.
Any happy or sad moment you can recall while filming TPTM?
There was a certain bond and closeness that developed between the entire unit. That's something you strive for as a filmmaker. That just happened in this film. On the last day of the shoot with the kids, one of the kids started crying. He went around hugging everybody on the sets. It was like a vacuum on the sets when the kids left. The ones who were thrown into the film unit and had no idea of what the crew was like, grew close to everybody. The entire set was teary-eyed when that boy started crying. It was such an emotional moment. I wouldn't call it sad, but touching.
You've judged so many reality shows on television, do you think that there is bundle of talent which filmmakers are missing out on and that there's much more to tap into than just the star kids?
Of course, yes. If you see all the four kids in my film, they are all new comers with fresh talent. That's what is important. We have to keep discovering new talent in our country and it is around us all the time. Whether it's the IPL, which has discovered new talent in the country, or us filmmakers, it's important for us to find and harness that talent. Even Imran and Harman, who are being launched, are not star kids. What's brilliant about cinema today is that in a film like Taare Zameen Par, a huge star like Aamir Khan comes in during the interval and the film is a blockbuster hit with the little boy, Darsheel Safary.
So, are you enjoying your newfound role as a producer?
Yes, I am. You can call it my first film as a producer/director. All my films are dear to me but TPTM even more so as it is my first time as producer. There's a certain sense of ownership you get when you're the producer of a film, which gives you responsibility too. You also want everybody to be happy working in a Kunal Kohli production. I fortunately had this experience even in my previous films even though I wasn't a producer as I was in charge of the sets. So I've had this experience ever since Hum Tum.
Any words of magic you want to cast upon your audience overseas?
I think, they've cast a lot of magic on me because although Mujhse Dosti Karoge wasn't a hit in India, it was a huge hit abroad. I've got a very good track record in the overseas market and I've scored three out of three unlike in India where I've scored two out of three. So I hope they continue to give me their love and support and I'll make sure that I don't let them down. What would be interesting is that we can start marketing our films through our Indian audience to a non-subcontinent audience. We need to grow our audience base and if any Indian, Sri Lankan, Pakistani or Bangladeshi friends take along their non-Asian friends to watch their films, it's a good way to market not only our films but also our culture.