He hates romantic comedies, has never liked social dramas, swears by Ridley Scott’s Gladiator and calls his films products of sweat and toil. Tigmanshu Dhulia, quite like the frames of his films, exudes raw energy. The man who gave us the gritty Haasil was recently in Delhi to promote his new release. He spoke to Mint about Sahib, Biwi aur Gangster, his acting stint and anger. Edited excerpts:
Tell us something about ‘Sahib, Biwi aur Gangster’.
The film is set in the here and the now, and revolves around three people, characters that I borrowed from (Guru) Dutt sahab’s Sahib, Bibi aur Ghulam and grafted into the 21st century. But the similarity ends there. The story is entirely different. Take my Biwi—in Dutt sahab’s film, she turns into an alcoholic with the progress of the film, while Mahie Gill’s character is an alcoholic from the very beginning, and a cunning schemer too. Her husband, played by Jimmy Shergill, is a decadent royal trying to cling to the last vestiges of his royalty; a man who will go to any length to make money. Enter Randeep Hooda as the gangster, naïve and impressionable, who falls for Mahie’s charms.
In short, the film is about how one can seal his doom by underestimating the power of a woman, and how difficult it is to understand her.
And the shooting, locations, among other things?
We shot in Gujarat; in a small village near Godhra. It was a 30-day shoot which we completed in November 2010.
You have shown a tendency to work with a certain set of actors. Why?
See, I shed a lot of sweat when I make my films. And when the entire crew is working hard along with me, it is very irritating to wait for an actor who takes ages to come out of the make-up van. I need my comfort zone to operate in.
A film like Paan Singh Tomar could not have been made without Irrfan Khan. No one else would have been ready to sweat it out the way he did in the heat of Chambal valley.
Talking of actors, how do you handle them? Do you give them space enough to improvise?
Not every actor can improvise. While there are actors who are brilliant when spontaneous, there are others who would rather read the script and stick by it, which in no way makes them worse actors. A good director can always sift the ones who can improvise from those who can’t. If you ask an actor to do something which he can’t, it will only end up destroying the scene.
Also, I respect the actor’s craft, and I am always aware of the fact that he is not a machine.
What about your turn as an actor in Anurag Kashyap’s next, ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’, where you essay the role of the main villain?
Anurag conned me into appearing in his film. He played a role in my last release, Shagird. When he approached me for a role in Wasseypur, I thought it would be a small part. At the time, I had only read Part I of the film. Then I realized that he was, in fact, asking me to be the main villain—a man who ages from 45 to 75 in the film. I had not acted for 20 years. And even while I was at NSD (the National School of Drama), I was a bad actor.
During the making of Wasseypur, I had to withstand gruelling three-and-a-half hour make-up sessions. On the bright side, though, I realized that I was awfully wrong all those times when I was out on location cursing away at the actor for not emerging quicker from the make-up van! I know now.
Do you harbour a special affection for the thriller genre?
Ever since I was a kid, I loved visiting picture halls to watch films. I never found those social dramas attractive; all those weepie films, never! Now action movies were the ones that were more to my taste. I used to watch all kinds of action movies—Indian, Western, whatever. Give me a film with a knife on its poster and I would watch it. No romantic comedies for me. My kind of film is the one in which I can carry a bag of popcorn into the theatre and wish that the film never ends.
Do you discern a change taking place within the industry; is the quality of cinema really improving?
In society, politics affects the economy, which, in turn, brings a change in the social sphere. With globalization came multiplexes, which changed the way we watched movies. Now you have bowling alleys attached to your cinema halls! The multiplex also affected the longevity of the film. Now, if you have a good collection over the first weekend, your film is a hit. Gone are the days of silver and diamond jubilees. Gone are the days when people lined up outside theatres to bag the tickets for the opening show. It has all turned into a three-day affair.
Yes, there are new stories coming to the screens. And thankfully the formula film has been left behind. I’m very happy about that. Actually, it has now become easier to make a film than it is to watch one.
But the cinema isn’t rooted any more. Earlier on, even our blockbuster films were rooted in our culture and traditions. You only need to look at a Sholay, a Mughal-e-Azam, or a Mother India. Nowadays, there is no sense of geography or history to the film. I have a major problem with our film industry being called Bollywood. Why not call it the Hindi film industry? Why ape the West all the time?
But surely there must be film-makers in the industry whose work you admire.
Yes, yes, Raju Hirani is the best. Imtiaz (Ali) is also very good. And yes, Dibakar Banerjee.
All the directors you mentioned are making films that revolve around youth. What do you have to say about the youth as film-goer, the youth as the present and future?
It’s complacent. And there is no anger. The anger gets abated at the neighbourhood coffee shop. In Haasil, Jimmy Shergill’s character says, “We have nothing but our anger”. It’s ironical.
But it isn’t the youth’s fault. It is a bundle of energy. Every youth needs a guru. And the guru can be in any form: a professor who inspires you, an ideology. Those examples are becoming more and more difficult to find now.
What’s the latest on the much delayed ‘Paan Singh Tomar’?
As you must know, the film is complete. It has been doing the festival circuit for some time now, receiving applause everywhere. At one festival, the word that went around was that it was better than Bandit Queen! As it stands, Paan Singh Tomar is set to release in India on 9 March 2012.
The release got delayed because the film got embroiled in satellite rights negotiations, which had to be carried out twice. We then thought about releasing it in January. But there were so many films releasing in that month that we decided to move the release date to March.
Sahib, Biwi aur Gangster releases on 30 September.