Sooraj Barjatya, Aditya Chopra, Karan Johar .... and now it is Vishesh Bhatt, son of Mukesh Bhatt, who, is readying himself to take over the his father’s banner named after him.
In an exclusive interview, Mahesh Bhatt confirmed the news, saying, “It’s true. Vishesh has the resolve, and will now engage with the real world more than what he was willing to do earlier. Having watched the company and its people from the wings, he has shown a willingness to make movies. He is essentially a writer and a director, and wants to make a foray as director. I think he will make a beginning by the end of this year”. Asked about Vishesh Films’ 25-year journey, Mahesh says, “It’s been exciting, challenging, uplifting… we’ve just begun and have miles to go.”
The turning point was when Mahesh “discovered that the world had changed and so had the lingua franca,” and decided to hang his gloves as a director in the 90s, turning to film production instead. Around the same time, he decided not to continue making socially relevant films, “the kind the world pretends to love but does not pay money to see.” The other critical decision taken by him was to embrace the pattern of making films without stars. “Mukesh and I never ever sat down and wished for a particular actor to be available to us. Our successes namely Arth or even Aashiqui for that matter didn’t have any stars. Then again, I happen to be the only director in the world who has made two flops with Shah Rukh Khan - Duplicate and Chahat. So whether a hit or a miss, it meant that an actor never succeeds or fails. It is the filmmaker, the story, the filmmaker’s vision that succeeds or fails.” And, something for which Vishesh has constantly come under criticism – an overdose of sexual content – started as a conscious decision back then. “The purists pretended to scream ‘what deterioration?’ but it wasn’t deterioration; it was evolution. I’m still here. Where are they? There was no point in singing a Mehdi Hassan song when the audience wanted to hear a fast-paced, strong, back-beat Atif Aslam number. And so, we changed,” says Mahesh in his defence.
As regards sexual content, he says, “I dare anybody to see Kalyug, a film we made with Kunal Khemmu, as pornography. There was no nudity at all. Neal n Nikki had more T & A in it. The so-called family film!” What followed was a major departure from the Mahesh Bhatt of Arth, Saaransh, Aashiqui or Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin and a spate of films with a posse of budding new actors - Raaz, Murder, Kasoor and Gangster happened.
For Mukesh, who calls himself the Government of Vishesh Films, the 12 years have been the best years of his life. “Since I am the money man, economically, they were more fruitful than what it was when I worked with the so-called stars. It gave me self-esteem and respectability.”
Ever the optimist, Mukesh says, “I can say with pride now, that we have given a box-office hit every single year of the decade, without any stars. It can’t be a fluke for 12 years consistently. You have to have something in you. This company is not only known for making movies but also destinies. That is more elevating and satisfactory, where we carve out the space for actors, directors, singers, music composers, writers.”
Mahesh, whom Mukesh refers to as the creative fountainhead of the banner, is more realistic, “Boxing and filmmaking are the same. Before the referee starts counting you out -10, 9, 8, 7 - you have got to get up and hit back and we’ve done that always. There’s never been a year where we have been inactive. Almost after every major hit, came a series of failures.” Right now, Vishesh Films is on a roll, what with Murder 2 having set the cash registers ringing; And as Mahesh adds, fists clenched, “We’ve burnt our bridges. We don’t have room for failure. We have to succeed.”