Mansoor Khan has the reputation of being a different kind of director.
Not that he strives towards it - he just is.
When traditional themes are in, he dares to think western.
Where other directors work on 3-4 movies at a time, Mansoor labours on only one.
While others tune in to the box-office, Mansoor fine -tunes on inner instincts.
And now this different kind of director is all set to storm the marquee with a different tale - Josh.
Josh does blaze a unique trail.
For one, it doesn't star Mansoor's famous cousin Aamir Khan who has been a constant fixture in all his earlier films, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar and Akele Hum Akele Tum. Josh stars another popular Khan - Shah Rukh Khan. How did this improbable casting come about?
I was going to make this film before Akele Hum Akele Tum started and Aamir was very keen on acting in it. But after that, I said no, I want Shah Rukh for the film, so it was always Shah Rukh," Mansoor states firmly.
What was it about this character that a Shah Rukh could do but not an Aamir?
It's just that they (Shah Rukh and Aamir) have distinctively different personalities. There is a little eccentricity about Shah Rukh, a little meanness actually, which would make you feel scared of him. I felt I woulddt get that from Aamir. His (Aamir's) personality is much more polished and softer. So this little eccentricity which I wanted, I could get only from Shah Rukh."
Josh traverses a diverse path in a variety of ways. It brings together the two hottest stars on the film firmament, Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai and has them playing brother and sister. Come again, did you say? Yup, King Khan and Ms,Rai play twins! Now if that isn't a googly, what is? How did it come about?
The director with loads of conviction shoots back, It came about from the characters in the film. The role required two characters who could play twins and the film required stars. I mean, they had to be important film personalities, so that's how the whole thing came about."
But wouldn't josh have created more heat at the box-office if they had been cast opposite each other romantically?
Mansoor answers nonchalantly, "That has never been my concern. Aishwarya's personality fits the character she has in the film and that is more important than thinking about the market. Besides, the romantic role opposite Shah Rukh wasnt much and if I had cast Aishwarya in it, there wouldnt have been much of romance in the film. People would then have been disappointed. The brother-sister relationship is much more and that's what the story is all about.
"The fact that Shah Rukh and Aishwarya are playing brother and sister in the film is not a secret. In fact we are trying to promote it and want the public to know about it so that there is no anticipation. In the film it is not a great revelation, nor is it a part of the plot. We don't want people to come with the expectation that they are romantically paired and get disappointed.
"Chandrachur also has a very significant part in the film. He's got the romantic lead opposite Aishwarya and he unravels and makes the story move forward. So in that sense all three of them have an equal role. Sharad Kapoor has got a very important role too. All these roles are practically on par in terms of footage and importance."
An indispensable part of a Mansoor Khan film Qayamat Se...., Jo Jeeta....) is a lip-to-lip smooch. josh also marks another first in that it dispenses with the smooch. Mansoor would rather have had it the other way around. But Aishwarya put her lips ... errr... foot down and would have none of it. As a director was he dissatisfied?
"No, Ash said that she wouldn't make lip contact. I was puzzled over how it would look convincing (without a proper kiss). But she said that she would make it look convincing. She did make it look convincing and that was good enough for me.
I respect an actress' idiosyncrasies," Mansoor explains his caving in to his heroine's demand. "She said that it was a professional policy. If she gave in, everybody else would make her do this kind of thing. So I listened to her. If it hadn't looked convincing, I would have told her, Aishwarya, sorry, you will have to do it. But the way it was managed - it was a night scene and she moved her hand behind his and they arched their bodies - it looked very convincing. That was good enough for me." A wee bit of disappointment was however evident in his tone.
A pleasant surprise that Josh delivers is "Apun bola tu meri laila", a song sung by Shah Rukh Khan in his own voice. How did that come about?
'Actually the history is that both Apun bola" and "Aati kya Khandala' had been given to me first. In my mind it was always the actor who was going to sing it. It so happened that Aamir got that song ("Aati kya Khandala') and sang it, so it looks like ours is a take-off from that. But, actually speaking, both these songs had been composed by Nitin a long time back and even before those guys heard it, I'd heard the tunes and selected "Apun bola' because it fits the situation in my film. It required that the character -- the actor himself sing it, because of the type of song it is.
"To start with, Shah Rukh was slightly hesitant about doing it. He felt he wasnt such a good singer. He also felt that there would be parallels drawn because Aamir and Sanju (Sanjay Dutt) had already done it and just for the heck of it an actor was singing another song. So obviously, he was a little wary, but he gave it a shot and he did it well. In fact he was happy with it himself."
After Baazigar and Badshah, Josh is another Shah Rukh Khan film from the Venus stable. Even then it surprisingly faced a lot of date hassles during its making and took more than three years to take final shape.
The director who believes in calling a spade a spade candidly admits, "The delay was because of actor's dates and nothing else."
In light of this, did he at any point think that if he had opted for dear cousin Aamir these problems wouldn't have cropped up?
I never had this thought because no other actors suit the characters other than the ones who are playing it. In any case I couldn't do anything about it because we had shot for five months on a 1 1/2 crore set. Nobody could've thought of reshooting that and there was no reason for me to think along those lines.
"What the movie requires, it requires. According to me, Shah Rukh had to do the film, so I had to take everything that came with it. He was busy, he couldn't give dates. But whatever it is, one car~t have any regrets about that."
So Shah Rukh it was, always was, in Mansoor's Indianised Westside Story.
It's said that while Akele Hum Akele Turn was lifted from Kramer Vs Kramer, Josh is styled after Westside Story. I admit Akele Hum... was from Kramer Vs Kramer, but this film is not Westside Story. It's completely different. I admit I do have a lot of western influence so my subjects and treatment are like that. Josh is influenced by Westside Story only in the structure of the characters, in that I wanted two gangs and the brother of one and the sister of another."
The focus of Josh is, "On young blood and aggression. Shah Rukh is playing a very aggressive character."
The movie does carry a message, a theme, "That violence doesn't pay. That's the lesson Shah RukWs character learns finally."
The rest of the story Mansoor will serve you soon -- up there on the big screen in a public auditorium!