Filmmaker Priyadarshan, known for some of the most successful, provocative comedies, says he doesn’t smile much in real life. The director, who starred in Hindi comedy films such as Hera Pheri, Hungama, Garam Masala and Malamaal Weekly in the 2000s, said he measures the humor in his films by the width of his smile.
“It’s hard to create the perfect situation for comedy and make people laugh even more. I first see if I can laugh or not. Since I generally don’t laugh (that much), I’m a miser at laughing. But once I know I can smile, I’m sure I can make people laugh in theaters. That’s how I measure it and have been doing it for 39 years,” Priyadarshan told PTI.
The director began his career in Malayalam cinema in the early 1980s and is credited with directing some of the most acclaimed, entertaining comedies of the era, from his directorial debut Poochakkoru Mookkuthi (1984), Boeing Boeing to the likes of Mazha Peyyunnu Maddalam Kottunnu.
Priyadarshan also made films in Tamil and Telugu, before turning to Hindi cinema with the 1992 film Muskurahat. He followed it up with crime drama Gardish (1993) and 1997’s Anil Kapoor starrer Virasat.
After a string of hard hitting dramas, Priyadarshan switched to comedies in Bollywood with the cult Hera Pheri, starring Akshay Kumar, Paresh Rawal and Suniel Shetty and then changed the grammar of Hindi films in the genre with his signature screwball humor, almost always led by an ensemble.
“I’ve made movies with different languages in genres and I’ve realized that people are the same when it comes to humor. So I’m not afraid of the pressure to make people laugh,” said the 64-year-old director.
What Priyadarshan does stand for is the challenge of making his comedies inventive. The filmmaker said he resists the temptation to repeat what has worked and is always aware of the audience he is targeting.
“I never make comedy films for intelligent people. I make it for people who have a child in them. Writing comedy is not easy. You must keep in mind not to repeat what you have done before. The technique is the same, plot changes. That’s how I navigate. It’s hard, but once you get the hang of it, you feel good about it.”
Priyadarshan is currently awaiting the release of his latest Bollywood comedy, Hungama 2, which will premiere on Disney+Hotstar on July 23. The film marks the filmmaker’s return to Hindi cinema after the 2013 action drama Rangrezz.
What prompted Priyadarshan to return to his beloved genre was the lack of comedies in Bollywood.
“I thought it was the right time to return to Hindi films, as I discovered that there is a scarcity of humorous films. This is my genre, which I have been accepted by the Hindi film brotherhood and the public. When I’ve tried humor, I’ve worked almost 90 percent of the time. So I thought: try again.”
Like most of his Hindi comedies, which were remakes of his Malayalam movies, Hungama 2 takes its essence from the 1994 romantic comedy Minnaram. The director said the idea to adapt the Malayalam movie came from superstar Mammootty, who wondered why he never remade the film for Hindi audiences.
“The original, although with a lot of humor, is ultimately a tragedy. So Mammootty suggested that I remove the tragic bit and turn it into a complete fun movie. I then rewrote almost 50 percent of the film and added new characters and tweaked it. I treated it as I had written the original Hungama,” he added.
With Hungama 2, the director has reunited with Rawal, his longtime 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 that Rawal’s character in Hungama 2 of an insecure husband opposite actor Shilpa Shetty Kundra is another take on his popular Hera Pheri role – Baburao Ganpatrao Apte.
“Paresh suited the role so well. Even when I was writing, I thought about Baburao. This time I thought of a different kind of Baburao, who constantly doubts his beautiful young wife. He misunderstands and complicates situations,” he added.
In Hungama 2, Meezaan and Pranitha Subhash can also be seen.