He is a director with a difference. Creating magic with films like Paan Singh Tomar, Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster amongst others, Dhulia wowed everyone with his spirited performance as the vicious Ramadhir Singh in Gangs of Wasseypur.
Now he is back with his next directorial venture, Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns. Tellychakkar.com entered into a candid chat with the man. Excerpts…
How difficult was it for you to write a credible compelling sequel to the first film?
Believe me, I have never taken such a long time to write any script. The first and second acts were somehow managed. But the third act when all the characters and their motivation had to come together was a killer. If you look at Hindi films their climax is always about crisis points laden with threats and gun shots. I was determined not to fall prey to that. I came to a point where I was thinking of abandoning the script altogether.
Saheb Biwi Aur Gangsters Returns (SBGR) is far more technically polished than the first film?
I don’t rely on technique for the effectuality of my films. No, my films are not technique-driven. I don’t depend on camera angles or fancy shots to tell my story. But yes, the sequel is more opulent than the first film. The first film was shot in just 29 days, guerrilla style. Because there was no budget. We didn’t pay any of the main actors. We didn’t have money to pay any of the main actors or technicians.
I am sure you will make up for their unpaid remuneration this time around?
I hope to! Let’s see what the collections are. I made Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster because I was waiting for the release of Paan Singh Tomar. UTV was taking time. Rather than wait I decided to make this other film. Saheb Biwi... was made because I needed to work while waiting for the release of Paan Singh Tomar.
Would you say Paan Singh Tomar changed the direction of your career?
I’d say Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster did that. But I actually owe my career to my first film Haasil. For seven years after Haasil I had no release. All the films that I started during that period got stalled... Picture shuroo hoti tthi band ho jaati tthi. But you know what? If I had made a typical massy film as my directorial debut I’d have been forgotten in those seven years. But because Haasil was a different kind of film I held on. Sab kuch Haasil ke chalte mujhe haasil hua.
You named your dog Action during your post-Haasil days so you could say the magical word that you as a director craved to in the sets?
Yes! Action is still there hale and hearty. But my friends found another doggie on the streets, almost dead in a drain. We brought her to my office because my friends know I love dogs. We named her Sahiba. The minute she arrived in my life my career changed. When she walked in Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster commenced. She is my lucky mascot.
A little tribute was paid to Sahiba in Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster.
Rajeev Gupta plays the ‘porn’ politician in the sequel?
He was there in all my films including Paan Singh Tomar. Rajeev Gupta is small entrepreneur in Delhi. He runs a shop for auto spare parts and nurtures a passion for acting. I was assisting Mani Ratnam in Dil Se when I first got Rajeev to do a small role. He keeps doing small roles to keep the actor alive within him.
You’ve written a scene in SBAGR where Rajeev Gupta is caught looking porn on his laptop?
That was written especially for Rajeev. It’s a 8-minute long sequence. It’s inspired by those two politicians from real life caught enjoying porn in parliament. I think we need to develop a sense of humour about Indian politics.
In fact Irrfan Khan’s part-time politician’s character is named Raja Bhaiyya?
(laughs) You know, Irrfan’s name in the film is Indrajeet Singh. But everyone calls him Raja Bhaiyya because he is a prince. His character is not inspired by Raja Bhaiyya. Irrfan’s character represents a fading feudalism. In real life such former feudal lords get the same respect from the staff in their haveli as they did earlier while everything else outside has changed.
What made you choose Irrfan to play this role?
Actually, Neil Nitin Mukesh was supposed to do a film. He saw Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster and wanted to be in the sequel. We met and shook hands. But as I wrote the script I realized I needed an older man for the part. The Neil-Mahie Gill pair would have looked odd. That’s when I asked Irrfan. Luckily he agreed. I owe Neil a role.
All of a sudden you’re working with A-listers like Saif Ali Khan, Imran Khan and Priyanka Chopra. Does it mean you’ve abandoned those actors who were with you through all your recent films?
I’d like to think that Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster changed the destinies of some of the actors. Randeep, Mahie and Jimmy’s career changed. When a film is a success everyone benefits. I’d certainly work with them. I’ve enough screenplays for all of them. And Saif whom I am working with in Bullet Raja is an exceptional actor.
Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns is released. You are finishing Bullet Raja and then you go into Milan Talkies. Too much on your plate?
See, I write my own scripts. And my film is 50 percent complete during the writing. The rest is just putting the idea on the screen.