Filmmaker Priyadarshan, known for some of the most successful, rib-tickling comedies, says he doesn’t laugh a lot in real life. The director, who spearheaded Hindi comedy films in the 2000s like Hera Pheri, Hungama, Garam Masala and Malamaal Weekly, said he measures the humour in his movies by the width of his smile.
“Creating the perfect situation for comedy is difficult and making people laugh even more. I make sure, first, whether I can laugh or not. Because I generally don’t laugh (that much), I am a miser in laughing. But once I know I can smile, I am assured in theatres I can make people laugh. That’s how I measure it and have been doing it for the last 39 years,” Priyadarshan told PTI.
The director began his career in Malayalam cinema in the early 80s and is credited for helming some of the most acclaimed, entertaining comedies of the era, right from his directorial debut Poochakkoru Mookkuthi (1984), Boeing Boeing to Mazha Peyyunnu Maddalam Kottunnu among others.
Priyadarshan also made films in Tamil and Telugu, before turning to Hindi cinema with the 1992 movie Muskurahat. He followed it up with crime drama Gardish (1993) and the 1997 Anil Kapoor-starrer Virasat.
After a series of hard-hitting dramas, Priyadarshan switched to comedies in Bollywood with the cult Hera Pheri, starring Akshay Kumar, Paresh Rawal and Suniel Shetty and went on to change the grammar of Hindi films in the genre with his trademark screwball humour, almost always headlined by an ensemble.
“I have done films of different languages in genres and I have realised people are the same when it comes to humour. So I don’t fear the pressure to make people laugh,” the 64-year-old director said.
What Priyadarshan does face, however, is the challenge to make his comedies inventive. The filmmaker said he resists the temptation to repeat what has worked and is always conscious of the audience he is catering to.
“I never make comedy films for intelligent people. I make it for people who have a child inside them. Writing comedy is not easy. You have to keep in mind to not repeat what you have done before. The technique is the same, plot changes. That’s how I navigate. It is difficult but once you crack it, you feel good about it.”
Priyadarshan is currently awaiting the release of his latest Bollywood comedy, Hungama 2, scheduled to be premiere on Disney+Hotstar on July 23. The film will mark the filmmaker’s return to Hindi cinema after the 2013 action drama Rangrezz.
What pushed Priyadarshan to come back to his beloved genre, was the lack of comedies in Bollywood.
“I thought it was the right time to come back to Hindi films because I found there is a scarcity of humorous films. This is my genre, what I am accepted by the Hindi film fraternity and the audience. Whenever I have tried humour, almost 90 per cent of the times I have worked. So I thought to try it again.”
Much like most of his Hindi comedies, which were remakes of his Malayalam films, Hungama 2 borrows its essence from the 1994 romantic-comedy Minnaram. The director said the idea to adapt the Malayalam film came from superstar Mammootty, who wondered why did he never remake the film for the Hindi audience.
“The original, though has a lot of humour, is a tragedy in the end. So Mammootty suggested that I remove the tragedy bit and turn it into a complete fun film. I then rewrote almost 50 per cent of the film and added new characters, tweaked it. I treated it the way I had written the original Hungama,” he added.
With Hungama 2, the director has reunited with Rawal, his long-time collaborator who has remained a constant in most of his comedies, from Hera Pheri, Hungama, Garam Masala, Hulchul to Chup Chup Ke among others.
Priyadarshan said Rawal’s character in Hungama 2 of an insecure husband opposite actor Shilpa Shetty Kundra is a different take of his popular Hera Pheri part — Baburao Ganpatrao Apte.
“Paresh fit the part so well. Even when I was writing, I was thinking of Baburao. I thought of a different kind of Baburao this time, who constantly doubts his beautiful, young wife. He misunderstands and makes situations complicated,” he added.
Hungama 2 also stars Meezaan and Pranitha Subhash.