Team Dongri Ka Raja – leading men Ronit Roy, Ashmit Patel and Gashmeer Mahajani and leading lady Reecha Sinha, with director Hadi Ali Abrar and producer PS Chhatwal – in conversation with Team Box Office India
Box Office India (BOI): How did the journey of Dongri Ka Raja begin?
Hadi Ali Abrar (HAA): It all began when our writer M Salim narrated this story to sir (PS Chhatwal) and he fell in love with the script and said, ‘Okay, permission granted to make this film called Dongri Ka Raja.’ Then the associate producer, Ravi Singh, started looking for a director and, fortunately for me, I got this film.
PS Chhatwal (PSC): (Cuts in) Then a poster appeared with a man handcuffed on the back.
HAA: Yes, and that said it all. Of course, I am grateful to a producer like him, who gave me a free hand to cast anyone I chose to, even newcomers. He never once demanded that we cast stars. It is always a dream come true when the producer and gives you a free hand.
HAA: It was difficult to get him. (Laughs)
Ronit Roy (RR): It was?
Reecha Sinha (RS): Yes, it was.
HAA: Other than that, for the role of Raja, many names were thrown in and we finally decided on Gashmeer Mahajani and Reecha Sinha. Then we started our hunt for the character of Mansoor and we zeroed in on Ronit.
PSC: He had a competitor in Om Puri but there was no consensus on him. (Laughs)
HAA: When we met Ronit, he agreed to do the film and that was a big high for me. The team was coming together and, one day, Ashmit Patel walks into my office with his entourage and a full beard. He sat down for the narration and after we were done, I wondered whether or not he would do the character. But, after the narration, he looked at me and confirmed that he would do the film. I told him there were a few conditions. When he asked me what they were, I asked him to shave his beard and grow a mustache instead. The next day, he sent me a picture of himself with the changed look and he looked exactly as I had pictured him for the role!
BOI: You mentioned that it was difficult to convince Ronit but, actually, he agreed very easily.
HAA: Yes, it was difficult. We went to narrate the story to him and he called us for another narration. He said he liked what he had heard the first time but wanted to hear it one more time.
BOI: Why were you adamant about wanting him? Were there similarities between his personality and that of the character he plays?
HAA: Yes there were a lot of similarities. I could see the structure of the part which was completed once Ronit came on board. He made the character come alive. For me, Mansoor Ali and Ronit Roy are not two different people. Right now, it is not Ronit who is sitting here with us; it is Mansoor Ali. It will always be like that for me because he walks, he drinks and breathes Mansoor Ali. It was a pleasure working with him. When he walked on to the sets, he exuded a certain aura, which the character has
HAA: Ronit sir, do you agree with him, that you and the character have a lot in common?
RR: Actors are very good at faking things. So I might have faked a few things when I came on board because I am not the kind of actor who prepares a character very intensely. I tend to go with people, so I feel I have a problem, which actually works very well for me. I doubt everything.
Let me tell you why I asked for the second narration. When Hadi came to me with the writer, and I was listening to the story, my eyes were on Hadi. I was listening to the writer but watching the director as I wanted to see what he was doing. Hadi was not looking very together to me. My confidence in him grew only after we met the second time.
Now why do I need confidence in my director? That’s because I think I am pretty much a student and I need to be led through the process of filmmaking as the team has to come together. I need to be inspired, I need to find my aspirations in somebody, and I need to know whom to trouble. In this case, it was Hadi.
Let me tell you something about Hadi. He is one of the kindest and nicest directors an actor can have because, from the first draft to the final film, Mansoor Ali is completely different. I also think on my toes and so does he. He doesn’t deliberate but takes decisions on the spot. In that way, he is like me.
I hassled him a lot. He had decided to shoot certain things in a certain way and we found some other thing. So on the set, just before shooting, we changed the scene. So there was a lot happening. But Mansoor Ali was not created by me, the character was created by the writer and it was given life by the director. I played it the way it was written and directed. I will take some of the credit but maximum credit goes to the writer and the director and, of course, papaji, as he gave me a lot of money. (Laughs)