The designation 'Creative Producer' doesn't really exist in Bollywood. Could you throw some light on this?
A lot of studios in India don't have a creative team as such. In fact, Balaji is one of the only places that have an in-house creative team. As a creative producer, I oversee everything, every minute detail of the movie – from scripting, to picking the right talent, to choosing the right director and music. It's what Hollywood calls a 'Studio Cut'. So when we look at the final edit of the movie we look at it as a 'Studio Cut'. A creative producer puts the entire project together. It's a vast spectrum of work.
And isn't it a rarity that a Creative Producer turns Screenwriter?
In Balaji it is. But look at Mahesh Bhatt and Vikram Bhatt. They are producers who write too. The only difference is here Ekta Kapoor produces but overall it's relatively the same thing. As a creative person you get a complete liberty to pick talent, to source design, aesthetics, etc. You have complete control over the project and if you can write and exercise your provision, then that's the ultimate combination.
Really? You wanted to debut with a sex and horror combo?
(Laughs) Yes, why not? I'll tell you a fact that I was blown away when I first saw Ramsay Brothers Veerana as a kid. I tell everybody that Dil Se is the reason I want to be a filmmaker and Veerana is the reason I want to write and make horror movies. Veerana is the real reason. I saw it when I was seven. This was a time when parents didn't allow their kids to watch horror because there was too much adult content. To this date I can proudly say that I have seen every horror movie that exists, Hindi, English, foreign. I love the B-Grade horror and it's my most favorite genre.
And what is A-grade and B-grade horror?
When a studio produces a big budget horror film like The Ring, The Grudge, etc it's an A-grade horror. It's got big actors and great production value. Your pulpy B-grade horror is a movie like Evil Dead. It started because of Sam Raimi. Today he is one of the biggest directors in the world. Peter Jackson who directed a B-grade horror called Brain Dead is also the director of Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, etc. It's this love for B-horror that's got me there. My dream is to write and produce a horror film. From Veerana to Ragini MMS 2 my journey is sort of complete but it's just started too.
With Ragini MMS 2 becoming a sleeper hit, you must be getting calls from various other producers too. How do you handle that?
As of right now I don't want to work for anyone except Balaji Motion Pictures. I am the Creative Producer first and then a writer for them. It is something I would like to pursue in the future, maybe get full time into writing and then would love to direct a movie too. Working with Balaji gives me a leeway to choose other peripherals around it. There is a great sci-fi film that I'm working on right now and so I know what kind of talent is required, the kind of production design that can suit the film, etc. It's like being a director without the risk of directing it.
Do you think Sunny Leone is the prime reason why Ragini MMS 2 is such a success at the box office today?
I don't believe it. Yes, she is one of the reasons. I don't believe any one person makes a movie a blockbuster. It's as cliché as it sounds but it's a team effort, starting with the script. Yes, Sunny Leone is one of the driving forces that people went to go see the movie coupled with a very good product, the first trailer, the songs and the most important thing – marketing and publicity. If that was the case, Jackpot should've worked too. But it didn't. I mean, look at the after effects of Ragini MMS 2. We've got flash mobs of 'Baby Doll' going viral on YouTube. It's unbelievable.
No, it's Raaz 3 as of now. Of course, it had an advantage of the whole package – Emraan Hashmi, Bipasha Basu, Vikram Bhatt, and Mahesh Bhatt. But if you are talking of the return on investment, Ragini MMS 2 will be the highest grossing ever in days to follow.
I wish I saw Sunny Leone in 3D. Why didn't you go with that option?
To execute 3D movie is not easy. There are very few filmmakers and DOPs who know how to operate a 3D camera. The rigs are expensive and adds 30% extra cost to the production. It's not there to fully utilize the technology in India. But you never know – Ragini MMS 3 might be shot in 3D.
Are you a fan of Ram Gopal Varma?
Who isn't? I am a fan of Ram Gopal Varma and his movie Bhoot. And there is a little trivia for you here – RGV was one of the first directors we approached to helm Ragini MMS 2. I am a huge fan of his and he hasn't done his best work off late. He thought that sex and horror isn't a great combination. Honestly, in the future I would love to own a company that only makes B-horror films. I would love to do that. It's my dream.
What is the scope of dialogues in a horror movie?
A lot. Ragini MMS 2 is a teen horror film. It needs humour along with horror and sex, and Ishita Moitra was the perfect person to come on board to write dialogues of Ragini MMS 2. Dialogues in this movie are very essential as the comedy comes out from the lines. Ishita is one of the best dialogue writers in our country right now.
Does Ekta Kapoor too have a penchant for horror?
She loves the genre and she's not only done it on the big screen but she's done it on the television a couple of times with Kya Hadsaa Kya Haqeeqat and Mano Ya Na Mano. I would love to write one day for Balaji Telefilms too. As of now, she has told me, "Gear up for Part 3 Ragini".