As Indian cinema celebrated its century this year, director Nikhil Advani says this is the most exciting time for filmmakers as they are experimenting and getting creative freedom thanks to a flexible mind set by audiences.
Earlier, filmmakers were apprehensive about trying out new themes because audiences were inflexible, but today's movie buffs are open to new subjects spelling a boom time for creative minds.
"I would not change from where I am for Rs 100 crore (movies). It's the most exciting time for the industry," said the 42-year-old, who started as an assistant director in Sudhir Mishra's Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin (1996).
"I have been in the industry for 20 years and in the 20 years, everyday I used to think there will be a day when people will start understanding what we want to do, and the cinema will change. But we forgot that audiences have always accepted great and different films. The last two and a half years have only proved that," he added.
"The kind of films that have been made only proves that every time you give something different to the audiences, they will accept it with open arms," he further said.
The box-office successes of women-centric thriller Kahaani, dark comedy Peepli Live and sperm-donation-based comedy Vicky Donor have proved that viewers are accepting change.
"I am very happy that the studios are today going to the directors who they wouldn't even look at in normal circumstances. It's the best time to make films," he said.
"I want to thank the audiences and say that the more you accept it, the more we will give you different stuff, the more we will keep thinking differently and boldly," Advani added.
Advani's first full-fledged film as a director was Shah Rukh Khan-Priety Zinta-Saif Ali Khan-starrer hit Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003). After that he went behind the camera for Salaam-e-Ishq, Chandni Chowk To China and Patiala House, but they couldn't replicate the success of Kal Ho Naa Ho.
He, however, hit the bull's eye with his animation film Delhi Safari, which won a National Award.
The filmmaker also feels today's youth "is asking for a difference, whether it's difference in politics, leadership, music, fashion or cinema".
He admits that the demography of people looking for different films is lower than the masses sticking to certain subjects. "That's why you will always have a Rowdy Rathore or Bodyguard or Dabangg still working (at the box office).
"But the niche audience has grown over the past few years and that's very gratifying and helps filmmakers like us to make something different."
Over the years, the definition of romance has also changed.
"In 2003, when I made Kal Ho Naa Ho, the generation then believed that at the end of the day Shah Rukh will give up the love of his life for Saif... but today's generation is not like that, they will simply not accept it."
His next is D Day, a film on cross-border terrorism, in which a bunch of RAW agents is assigned to bring a terrorist back to India from Pakistan. The film, featuring Rishi Kapoor, Irrfan, Arjun Rampal, Shurti Haasan and Huma Qureshi, is coming out July 19.
"I am making another romantic comedy next year. But it's the kind of romantic film that I think this generation would identify. So it's not going to be in the same space of Kal Ho Naa Ho, but it will be a romantic film," he added.