‘Aamir’ director struggled to get Peggy Lee song for movie

June 16th, 2008 - 3:49 pm ICT by IANS  

By Subhash K. Jha
Mumbai, June 16 (IANS) Debutant director Rajkumar Gupta says he had to struggle to get the rights of American pop singer Peggy Lee’s song for his film “Aamir”. “From the time I heard Peggy Lee sing ‘It’s a good day’, I wanted it as the preamble for ‘Aamir’. It so ably and ironically defined my protagonist’s day and what it eventually does not turn to be, that I was just not willing to let it go,” Gupta told IANS.

Thus began the chase to get the song.

“Since Peggy Lee died in 2002, it wasn’t easy. We finally tracked it down to the source but the price quoted was far too much for our budget. We finally had to pay something around Rs.800,000. Considering our film’s budget was Rs.20 million, that was a fortune for us, especially since we weren’t allowed to use the song in our soundtrack,” said Gupta.

Producer-director Ravi Chopra had a relatively easy time acquiring the rights of the Joe Pesci starrer “My Cousin Vinny” and remake it with Govinda as “Bandaa Yeh Bindaas Hai”. And David Dhawan, after being pulled up for remaking Will Smith’s “Snitch” as “Partner” without so much as a by-your-leave, is remaking Hollywood hit “The Wedding Crasher” in Hindi after getting proper permission.

Incidentally, Imtiaz Ali tried and failed in getting the rights for rock band Katrina & The Waves’ “Walking on sunshine” for “Jab We Met”. The song was initially used in the promos and then dropped from the publicity campaign.

Fortunately for Gupta, the cast and crew, including debutant actor Rajeev Khandelwal cooperated to the fullest.

“There was no vanity van. In fact, no room for vanity for Rajeev since we shot on the hot sweltering streets of Mumbai. He gave hundred percent of himself and now I’m planning another film with him,” said Gupta.

Gupta assisted Anurag Kashyap on “Black Friday” and “No Smoking” before branching out to make the startling “Aamir”.

The struggle to get Peggy Lee’s song wasn’t the only copyright crisis for “Aamir”.

“Halfway through the making, someone informed us that ‘Aamir’ looked suspiciously like Filipino director Neill dela Llana’s ‘Cavite’. I died. We didn’t want to take any chances.

“We immediately got in touch with the makers of ‘Cavite’ and told them what we were making and asked if we should proceed with our project or scrap it. They were gracious enough to give us an all-clear signal saying two works of art somewhere or the other are bound to resemble one another,” Gupta said.

“Imagine if a new director’s first film got scrapped! I was sure I’d be in the clear because my script was ready a good two years before ‘Cavite’ was released,” said the director.

Made with a pragmatic theme, the film has been shot in realistic locations and Gupta’s execution of the subject has earned him critical acclaim.

“So far the response has been more than what Rajeev and I had hoped for,” Gupta said.

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