In life there are no constants and more so in the industry. The gloom that his two directorial releases, Katti Batti and Hero, cast last year has melted. Nikhil Advani, the co-producer of this year’s first 100 crore hit Airlift, feels vindicated by its success. The film, about the 1990 exodus in Kuwait, has been touted as Akshay Kumar’s best till date. Directed by Raja Krishna Menon, Airlift has salvaged his sinking spirits. “Airlift was a tough film to make as it’s based on a piece of history – full marks to Raja and his team for pulling it off so well. But it was also a dicey film to sell as a producer,” he says. He shares that the best compliment he received for Airlift was from director, Raja Menon himself. “It was 4 am and we were at the Imperial Hotel in Delhi. We were both drunk. Raja looked at me and said, ‘Thank you for sticking by me’. I don’t think he will ever admit that again’,” chuckles Nikhil.
He’s not forgotten the lessons he learnt from the debacle of Hero and Katti Batti both released on successive Fridays. “Whatever equity I had earned with D-Day, I lost with these two,” he reflects. About Katti Batti he says, “The fact that Payal (Kangana Ranaut) went to such lengths to lie about moving away from Madhav (Imran Khan) was not accepted by the audience. I still believe Katti Batti is a beautiful film. My heart and soul is in it.” He claims, “Imran’s performance in Katti Batti is his best till date. I don’t regret taking Imran in the movie. I’d still like to work with him. If there were any shortcomings, they should be attributed to me, not him.” Nikhil is someone who’s known to stand by his team and this time the lead pair stood by him as well. “Both Kangana and Imran called me and asked me not to be disheartened. Kangana was supportive all through. Even she couldn’t understand why the movie didn’t work. None of us could because we loved the film.” In an earlier interview he had stated that Aamir Khan had changed the last 30 minutes of the movie. Had he stuck to the original plot, would things have been different? “No, the last 30 minutes is what people liked. Or else they wouldn’t have liked anything!” he states honestly.
Nikhil cites that Hero wasn’t a film made for reviews. “It was made to launch a boy and a girl. It was an orthodox story and had a conventional treatment, which had worked in the ’80s. It had great music. In retrospect, I should’ve treated it the way I wanted to,” he says. He agrees that while Sooraj Pancholi won notice, Athiya Shetty received mixed reactions. “We were aware that Athiya is not a conventional looking girl. She is statuesque and has model like features. We didn’t know whether she would be accepted by Indian sensibilities. But we were sure she’d confidently pull off the role, which she did. I don’t think they could’ve got a better launch than this Salman Khan vehicle. Now in their second film, they will have to prove their mettle,” he says adding, “Salman, as a producer, is large-hearted.”
He’s working on two directorial projects at the moment. One is Bazaar, a story based in Mumbai about the stock market. To rumours of Hrithik walking out of Bazaar he says, “The media decides to cast Hrithik in my film and then also decides that he has walked out. We’re still having discussions. Some things need to be sorted out. Hrithik has neither said yes or no. The film is about the abuse of power and the intoxication of wealth. It’s a rags-to-riches and a riches-to-rags story. I’m trying to emulate the drama between two powerful people as in Yash Chopra’s movies like Trishul, Kala Patthar and Deewar.” The other movie, based on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, is currently being written. He’s clear he won’t make these films simultaneously. “I don’t repeat my mistakes,” he smiles.