"I don't cast stars, I cast actors," says "Airlift" fame director Raja Krishna Menon, who has worked with big names like Naseeruddin Shah, Akshay Kumar and Saif Ali Khan. He feels a director and an actor need to have a "naked relationship" to give life to a character on screen.
"An actor and director's relationship is something where you really have to become naked as two people. You have to go through a process where you have to shed whatever you are and allow somebody to mould you into something else. You can be deeply insecure and it can be a difficult process," Menon.
"I have worked with big names like Naseeruddin Shah, Akshay and Saif. What I have seen is that in the beginning, you both are judging each other - 'Should I trust you or not?'. With all these actors, I have come through a point where they deeply trusted me and I felt responsible. Actors and directors must agree with each other's imaginations," he added.
Menon, whose latest film to release is "Chef", says being a filmmaker, he only likes to put light on subjects which he personally agrees on.
"I don't think anybody would've watched ‘Bareilly Ki Barfi' or ‘Shubh Mangal Saavdhan' five years ago. Now people are not getting dependent on the market because of word of mouth. Filmmakers today have freedom to explore. We no longer have an excuse. We just have to make good films," said Menon.
Looking at the current state of Indian box office, where off-beat films are becoming sleeper hits, Menon feels the meaning of the word commercial is changing.
"Now storytellers are getting their due. Today, how you make the film and the way you tell it is considered more important than who is featuring in it or what songs will be there. The audiences are saying that if we are spending Rs 300 to Rs 400, then show me a story which is worth watching," he said.
While most people in the industry blame the audiences for the debacle of commercial films at the box office, Menon says the problem is with the people who put money in films.
"The audience has always been ready for all types of content. The problem has been the gatekeepers. What happens is that there is a filmmaker who wants to make films, then there is an audience that wants to watch that type of films. But between them, there are people who are scared as they have put money.
"If I will put huge money in a project, I will ask others to make something that is working. Production is a very scary job. But what's happening now is that producers are putting money only on good scripts. So, it's a good time to be a storyteller," he said.
"Chef", which features Saif and actress Padmapriya Janakiraman, is an official remake of 2014 Hollywood film of the same name by Jon Favreau.
"‘Chef' is a realistic film. It deals with issues that we tackle with in our day-to-day lives. The success of ‘Airlift' has allowed me to be able to do films that I want to make. ‘Chef' has been made with the same dedication," Menon said.