A successful model, a fine tennis player, Graviera Man of the Year 1994, winner of Grasim Mr India 1996 title, a not-so-successful actor Bikram Saluja has managed to grab eyeballs once again. Bikram, who had been busy chasing his dream for the last few years, is now gleaming with self-satisfaction. His latest offing, a photographic book titled An Actor's Inspiration is definitely one of its kind wherein the actor has tried to interpret in his own way the two iconic films of all times - The Godfather and Raging Bull - in the Indian setting. Bikram reveals all in a candid tête-à-tête with buzz18.
BUZZ18: You have called it An Actor's Inspiration... What exactly prompted you to come up with a book like this?
Bikram Saluja: As an artiste I wanted to work independently and take full control of my destiny. I realised there's no point waiting for any interesting project to come my way. It was better if I took charge of the situation and come up with something unheard of before. I felt I had a lot within me which was going waste. Making a full-fledged feature film would have been a mammoth thought. It was then this idea struck me. I pitched it to a few of my photographer friends and they loved it. But the concept took its final shape obviously after a lot of sittings and improvisations.
BUZZ18: Are you pleased with the response you have got so far?
Bikram Saluja: Oh, it's has been overwhelming. People are really appreciating the concept, the quality of the product. The sheer fact that I stumbled upon doing something out-of the-box gives me satisfaction, a first-of-a-kind initiative in any part of the world wherein a film has been remade into a book and adapted in still pictures. As of now the book is not for sale. The copies will be displayed at 30th PVR Juhu, Mumbai from October 30 to November 6. The exhibition will then travel to Bangalore and Delhi.
BUZZ18: Was it difficult getting permission to interpret these two classics in your own way?
Bikram Saluja: It was not easy. It took me almost a year to get permission from Paramount Pictures (The Godfather) and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, MGM (Raging Bull) to interpret these two classics. Of course there are a few minor changes like setting these in an Indian milieu, writing dialogues, scenes and also acting in it. Am thankful they agreed to it.
BUZZ18: What according to you is the USP of the book? Why did you choose The Godfather and Raging Bull as your subjects?
Bikram Saluja: There are many. To begin with, no one has attempted something like this before. Initially I had decided to come up with 15 of my favourite films comprising Indian films, Hollywood and World Cinema, dedicating four to five pages to each film. But soon I realised I wouldn't be doing justice to any of the films that way. Since my project took off with The Godfather and the Raging Bull, I decided to stick to these two, rounding it up with proper dialogues, sequences and interpretations. Keeping in mind the films' colour format, I have kept one in colour and the other one in black and white respecively.
BUZZ18: How long did you take to finish it?
Bikram Saluja: I started shooting sometime in the year 2005. Then in 2007 I revised the whole thing and began shooting again. It was only by October 2008 that my book got its final shape. Then it was the time to market. And here we are.
BUZZ18: How many photographs are there in total?
Bikram Saluja: The book comes with 200 pictures spread over 200 pages.
BUZZ18: Tell us about the music video you are planning on the making of this book.
Bikram Saluja: The video has already been made. Taufiq Quereshi has composed the music. When we started shooting for the second time, my friends and I decided to capture the making just for fun sake. Later we thought of adding music to it. It helps us recall the kind of hard work my friends and I have put in it.
BUZZ18: What made you approach Amitabh Bachchan for the foreword of your book?
Bikram Saluja: I am a big fan of Amitabh Bachchan and as an actor always aspired to share screen space with the star. Unfortunately, I didn't get an opportunity to work with him in any film so far. When this project was complete I made up my mind to approach him. I sent him the rough version so that he could take a look and also put in a request to write a foreword to it. To my utter surprise I got a call from him a few days later. Mr Bachchan informed he had already written the foreword. I was delighted. So what if I couldn't share screen space with him, I shared space with him in my book. Now, isn't that great?
BUZZ18: The two films have been shot in real locations with actors performing for the still camera. How did you manage? Where did you all shoot?
Bikram Saluja: Yeah, we shot in real locations like a construction site, friends' houses, lobbies of five-star hotels, my in-laws' bungalows etc. As a result not only the accuracy been captured in the images but also the production values are on a scale of a full-fledged film.
BUZZ18: Do you miss not having followed tennis as a career?
Bikram Saluja: I do miss not playing professional tennis because that was my first love. But then I am learning so much with each passing day in my life.
BUZZ18: Why do we see so less of you in music videos and films?
Bikram Saluja: The last film I did was Just Married, which was about two-and-a-half-years ago. After that a few offers which I got, were hardly appealing. I thought I should rather wait for something really exciting to happen.
BUZZ18: Projects coming up next...
Bikram Saluja: I had signed a film called 42 kilometers, which got stuck for some reason. With my book exhibitions keeping me on my toes, I cannot think of anything else right now. Let's see.