Riding high on the success of Badlapur, here’s the producer Dinesh Vijan, director Sriram Raghavan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui in conversation with team Box Office India
Sriram Raghavan (SR): (Laughs) Yeah, how time flies! I remember when I was a part of a trade magazine and we used to get these telegrams saying ‘creating havoc in Mysore’. I hope my film is creating some minor havoc somewhere.
Dinesh Vijan (DV): Sriram, how does it feel to have your first hit?
SR: Feels good, yaar, aur kya?
BOI: This is what Dinesh does when he comes here. He takes charge of the questions.
SR: He takes over?
DV: Tell us more… how does it feel now?
SR: It feels good, aur kya?
DV: Among all your films, how would you rate this one?
SR: No, I can’t rate my films. This is a different film. I have received a tremendous response from all over, not just the trade. I believe a lot of people took their parents to watch the film and they really liked it.
DV: Has this film received the best reviews of all your films?
DV: Is this your best box-office success?
SR: My best box-office business is yet to come! (Laughs)
BOI: Nawaz, you always wanted to work with Sriram. Is this his best film?
Nawazuddin Siddiqui (NS): This is just the kind of film that Sriram is known for making. It is very well made.
DV: I think this film proves that the audience is willing to accept different kind of cinema. I don’t think we accept that because we are comfortable with the way things are. We are not willing to accept it but it is happening any way. There is no question that the audience is changing because we recently watched the film at Gaiety and it ran to a packed house. And the reaction also surprised me. When we saw the film in the mix, I watched it with Varun (Dhawan) and my driver. After that screening, my driver has watched the film five times. That’s why I decided to go a little wider with the film. When I was promoting the film, I kept asking him if he actually liked the film or whether he was watching it because he is loyal to me. But then I saw the reaction of other movie-goers too.
One of the surprise packages of the film is Nawaz. The climax works because his character works. It says right in the beginning that ‘this is our cast, and this is right and this is wrong’. And then Mr Raghavan takes that and splashes that on your head and you are rooting for Nawazuddin when he explains to Varun’s character and says, “Tera toh thanda dimaag tha.” I have seen people at Gaiety hooting and whistling at that line. I think Badlapur and Finding Fanny are my two most uncorrupted films.
SR: When Agent Vinod did not work, both Dinesh and I decided to do something else, to get that good taste back in the mouth. We worked on a couple of story ideas and then I got him this story, assuming he would definitely say ‘no’ to it. I thought that if he did, I would make the film in my own small way some other time. But as soon as I narrated one line, he said it was superb! He made me promise I wouldn’t dilute it. It gave me such a huge boost and I agreed. After that, Dinesh, Anil Mehta and I decided that we would make it on a low budget. By that, I don’t mean that it should look low on production values but, luckily, the story did not require us to shoot overseas. I could have set the film in Delhi but I decided to shoot it in Pune-Bombay because I am familiar with these cities. I made it with the intention of making a contained film.
I had shot Agent Vinod in 120 days, of which I spent 30-40 days just watching the action being shot by someone else. That left me very frustrated. This time, I felt I had to be very involved in the action. I didn’t want it to be like 7 days shoot karo, 7 days doosron ko dekho. I told Anil Mehta we had to make the action look real, which is why it is more effective.
BOI: Casting Varun Dhawan in a film like this was quite a surprise.
SR: Let me answer that… When I discussed the story with Dinesh, we decided that we needed to cast an older actor. The story was about a man, his wife and child and I had intended to cast someone aged 35-40. Ageing was not the big thing for me; the big thing was the heart of the story, the change in the protagonist and the antagonist. Dinesh asked me who I wanted to cast. Just then, the phone rang; it was Varun calling Dinesh. He answered the call and then said, ‘What if we take a younger guy and he gets older rather than taking an older person who gets even older?’
DV: I thought why not cast a younger character whose pain starts when he suddenly has an accident. He thought for a moment and said, ‘Yeah maybe…’ But Sriram takes his time to say yes and before we know it, Varun was doing the film.
BOI: Varun didn’t have any reservations?
DV: I don’t know about that but we narrated the story to him and left him in a room. We did not have to convince a single actor. We told everyone that we would not corrupt the film. We told Varun to take his time. He came back five days later and told us that he wanted to do the film. Sriram was still apprehensive, though.
SR: You know, the world that he comes from… I thought his father would call me and say, ‘Paagal hai, kya?’ (Laughs)
DV: Actually, Varun did the film because he liked the story as did Nawaz.
SR: When Varun was more or less on board, we had a one-line story with us, and when I developed the script for Laiq’s character, we didn’t have a name in mind. We just added the name ‘Nawaz’ and thought we would change the name if Nawazuddin said ‘no’. Laiq was a schoolmate of mine and now lives in Saudi Arabia. I don’t know how he will react when he watches the film!