While the reviews haven’t been exactly glowing, Bobby Khan’s luscious and lavish Sunny Leone-starrer ‘Ek Paheli Leela’ is getting the punters into cinemas.
The film, which released across India on Friday, has already outstripped bigger-ticket releases like ‘Shamitabh’ and ‘NH10’ in opening day takings.
And who can blame those punters? A thriller based on a mythological character, featuring the topic of reincarnation and the exotic and beautiful Sunny Leone is bound to get the cash tills ringing.
Director Bobby Khan is, in fact, “obsessed” by the issue of reincarnation. The film is Khan’s directorial debut. After a slew of acting and writing gigs, Khan – the former husband of singer Sunidhi Chauhan – has received the backing of no less a figure than Bhushan Kumar, the head honcho at music giant T-Series.
I caught up with Khan to talk Sunny, Sunny, Sunny…and inspirations.
Dallya Sachdeva: ‘Ek Paheli Leela’ is your directorial debut. How did it all begin?
Bobby Khan: I have been living with the script of Leela for the past 12 years. As they say, there’s a right time for everything. I had the script all those years but I believe that my vision for the film only became clear about two years ago when we began filming in April 2013. It’s when I knew what I wanted and how I wanted to bring the story to the big screen.
DS: What is it like convincing producers to back a first-time director?
BK: I believe we have a superb film. When I narrated it to my producers Ahmed Khan and (T-Series CEO) Bhushan Kumar, they loved it from the word go.
DS: It is true that Deepika Padukone was your first choice to play the lead role? Why didn’t that work out and how did Sunny come to fill the character?
BK: Deepika is awesome in every respect and she’s a filmmaker’s dream. Though I would love to work with Deepika, for Leela I did not have anyone else in mind except Sunny, Sunny & only Sunny. Sunny, Daniel (Sunny’s husband Daniel Weber) and I met over coffee way back in April 2013 and we hit it off immediately. I bounced a couple of my stories with her and she loved all of them. I planned to make all my films with her only but she is a very busy actor today. Leela is a very difficult film in terms of the creative process. All the characters and especially that of the title role of Leela are extremely tough but then I thought why not Sunny? Seeing Sunny’s enthusiasm during my narration and the way she understands and seems able to live every word just blew me away. Then it was only Sunny all the way to be my Leela.
DS: The story of Leela can be a contentious topic. Where did you draw inspiration from?
BK: I have always been fascinated by stories about reincarnation. In fact, I am fascinated by films that explore the topic. I have seen almost all films made in Bollywood from the black and white era to date. I am told that I am very gentle at heart and my forte is to make romantic films and that’s what I originally wanted this film to be. But it ended up being a dramatic thriller! Most directors plan something and end up doing something completely different!
DS: It looks a very expensively-made film as well – lavish sets, expensive costumes, exotic locations etc. Does the big budget play on your mind as a filmmaker? Especially since this is your first?
BK: Leela is a hugely expensive film. Whether it’s the sets, the real locations in Rajasthan, the hundreds of dancers, costumes, it all certainly added up! Thankfully, my producers didn’t take me as a debut director. It’s been amazing how supportive they have been in backing me. But I would also say that Leela is a very smartly produced film and all the credit goes to my producers. It seems to be paying off. The music alone has topped the charts and we’ve got off to a good start at the box office.
DS: What next for you?
BK: At the moment, I am living, breathing, eating, sleeping and working only on Leela. We are planning a big international release and hoping to take the film to Cannes as well. I think international audiences will love it.