After honing his skills as an assistant director in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna , Kal Ho Na Ho and as a creative director in Paheli , Punit Malhotra — nephew of ace Bollywood costume designer Manish Malhotra — is all set to debut as a director in this week’s release I Hate Luv Storys.
Starring Imran Khan, Sonam Kapoor, Sameer Dattani and Bruna Abdullah, the film is produced by Karan Johar’s Dharma Production.
The 29-year-old Mumbai boy, talks to Nithya Ramani about his debut film, his experience and lots more. Excerpts
Did you always wanted to be a filmmaker?
I knew I wanted to be a part of films but I didn’t know in what capacity. I went with Manish (Malhotra) for three days to work and that is where I met Karan (Johar). Karan suggested that I assist him in K3G. I was only 19 at the time. I have been working with him since then.
How did you come up with the idea of I Hate Luv Storys ?
I wanted to make a love story that people could connect with. It is a story about a girl and a boy set against a backdrop of films.
Is this a spoof on other love stories?
I wouldn’t want to call it that. It is a harsh word to use. It’s just a funny way of looking at films.
When and how did you decide to direct? How did you approach Karan with your script?
Like I said, I have been working with him for a very long time. He’s always motivating me. He said that if I had any script in mind that I would like direct then I should go to him.
It must feel great to have a producer like him for you first movie?
Karan is an awesome producer. He pampers you so much that you don’t feel like working anywhere else. Not once did he question me. It might sound cliched, but we never had any problems working on the film.
He essentially read the script, came for the mahurat and saw the film.
How was your first day of shoot? Were you nervous?
I was numb that day but not nervous. I was completely in control. Imran and Sonam tease me for being a control freak. I was very normal. I was okay [laughs].
Why Imran and Sonam as Jay and Simran ?
Again it might sound cliched but I don’t think any else could have suited the roles. I had Imran in mind all the while. Sonam was Manish’s suggestion. But when I met her I knew she was my Simran.
When I started working with them I realised how right I was. I wasn’t working with a star who was older than me. I never had to sell myself or my point. They never questioned me either. They trusted me completely.
What kind of help did you get from Karan the director?
I would be a fool if I didn’t take his help. Even when I went to him with the script, there wasn’t much that he changed. He had his ideas of course just like anyone else. But there was nothing major that had to be changed.
You also have a newcomer Bruna Abdullah in the film? Why her? What is her role?
Why her? Watch the film and you will know why. She is fabulous. Everybody has very important roles in the films. It is essentially a film with Imran and Sonam and an ensemble cast.
We were looking at other names for a guest appearance but when I met Bruna, I decided she was the one.
You have the looks to be an actor. Didn’t it ever occur to you to pursue that?
What? Well thank you! I did do a few commercials as a model but I didn’t take up anything as an actor because I didn’t find anything that interesting. There were all, with due respect, not good.
Will we ever see you as an actor?
If I am offered a good role then why not.
What would you say is the USP of the film?
The very fact that it is a love story of 2010. We are not preaching or teaching you anything through the film. It is a take on all the love stories you have seen.
How was it working with Sonam and Imran?
Like I said, I couldn’t have got anyone better than them. Sonam is a fun-loving girl and is always on her toes. She keeps the atmosphere lively, just like her character Simran.
Imran and I got along well. We pulled pranks on everyone on the sets. I think that is what kept the mood going on. We never had a dull moment and kept things alive.
The music of the film is doing well…
All thanks to Vishal and Shekar. They really put in a lot of effort into it.
What would you say are the advantages and disadvantages of being a first time director?
Disadvantages, I guess, is that no one takes you too seriously till the film is released. You need to prove a point. People are always waiting to point out a mistake or waiting for me to make a mistake.
How do you deal with that?
That my job, I have to do it. I can’t sit and sulk about it. That’s the exact opportunity people are waiting for.
What is your favourite scene from the film?
There is a scene where Imran, Sonam and Sameer are sitting at a diner. Imran is feeling sad that Sonam is leaving him. It is a very nice and cute scene.
Why title your film I Hate Luv Storys?
Because of the producer you had to keep it [laughs]. It is based on the character — Jay’s character — who hates love stories. It is an English title and so the spelling is kept simple.
Do you hate love stories or do you believe in love?
I hate love stories but I believe love is more of an adjustment than anything else.