Priyadarshan talks about the challenges and thrills of making ‘Tezz’, his most ambitious film ever
Why would you movie out of your genre to make a film like ‘Tezz’? Has this been a closeted desire to make an action thriller?
I like and enjoy every kind of film. I started off with serious films like ‘Gardish’, ‘Virasat’, ‘Kanjivaram and ‘Kala Pani’ and it’s only after ‘Hera Pheri’ that I started working on comedies. I’ve never done a thriller like this before and it’s my first attempt at it so it was exciting.
What’s your defense against critics who are comparing it to the 1994 Hollywood blockbuster ‘Speed’?
While a lot of people think that the film has something to do with the film ‘Speed’, it’s actually a film about illegal immigrants and I would call it an emotional action film since it touches the heart. Nowadays you cannot copy a film like that. ‘Speed’ is owned by 21st Century Fox and they can sue me if it were a copy. The only thing common between the two is that ‘tezz’ is the Hindi word for speed.
Since your film is about immigrants in the UK, are you particularly sensitive towards them or do you feel they should be arrested and deported back to their home country?
Immigrants are a huge problem for every country. Even our country has lot of immigrants from Bangladesh. But the point is to understand why people immigrate. They immigrate to find a means of earning a living. So while they’re committing a crime, there’s also a human aspect to it and that is what I’ve tried to portray in my film.
Since this is a film that’s obviously very different from any other film you’ve ever made, what were the challenges that you encountered?
After making so many films, the making of the film is never a challenge. I work hard on the script and once that is finalized, the rest is just execution. And production challenges are often not under your control. For example, I cannot control the climate or natural disasters. Things can go wrong anywhere and we had some visa issues for a part of my crew. Then, the system of working in the US and UK is very different from that in India. This mean that a lot of compromises had to be made since the foreign crew was too disciplined and planned. (On being probed to delve into the supposed issues, he breathes a sigh of a tired man and continues). They want to know exactly how a scene will be executed and get into specifics of the script and the situation very precisely. We are task masters and always like a little bit of spontaneity which is important to improvise but that is not possible if everything decided in advance. (He removes his dark shades for the first time in this interview, noticing that the photographer was busy peering into his view finder but quickly throws them back on his face before he could be caught on camera without them.)
At this point Priyan sir (as he is fondly called by all) excuses himself for a few minutes as he has to go and direct a scene that was stalled for this interview. He returns momentarily to his cozy vanity van to finding us surprised at how he could’ve wrapped up a scene as swiftly as he did. Perhaps, as he said, after making so many films, the making is not as difficult. Truly!
The audience should obviously not be able to predict the end and another important rule is that you must never fool the audience. There should be logic in revealing the suspense and the audience should be able to digest that logic.
Despite a huge filmography to your credit, is there something that you learnt as a filmmaker by working on ‘Tezz’?
I believe one can never stop learning about the filmmaking process and in ‘Tezz’, there was plenty to learn. In this film, I got to work with a crew that has worked with Steven Spielberg and there was a lot to learn from their level of discipline and commitment to work. I always shoot the song and actions sequences myself but always let the technicians do their own job. Here, I was very impressed with the detailing with which the foreign crew executed their job. They had storyboards for everything and their understanding and involvement with the script was beyond comparison.
Do you think action sequences in films have evolved over the last few years? What kind of action can one expect in ‘Tezz’?
I didn’t want the ramping and gimmicks that are used in over the top action sequences like kicking jeeps away and I wanted my action scenes to look real and believable and that is what they managed to achieve for me. Many people made fun of Rajni’s over-the-top action scenes and now most Hindi films are following just that. In Hollywood films, action sequences are very real and there are no gimmicks, apart from in film like ‘Matrix’ or ‘Superman’ where you see unbelievable stunts.
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Are action directors to blame for this trend of exaggerated stunts?
Why blame the action masters when it is the director who gives them the brief and demands a particular kind of action scene.
Are there things that one should be cautious of when making an action film today?
Songs should be avoided, the length of the film shouldn’t be very long as no one has the patience to watch a three and a half hour movie anymore and lastly there should be a story which evokes a certain emotion and not just action sequences for the sake of it. It should touch the heart. The reason why films like ‘Deewar’ and ‘Sholay’ or even a ‘Terminator 2’ were huge hits is because they had a story element in them.
After almost three decades in filmmaking, is there one thing that you truly cherish?
I got my Padmashree recently from the President of India. My dad was alive at the time when I received the award (he gets a bit emotional which can be understood from the tone of his voice) and it was something that made me feel that I’ve been doing the right thing over the years. My father always thought that I was the black sheep of the family and when I got that award, I felt that I wasn’t a complete waste.
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