Box Office India (BOI): How did this team come together and what prompted all of you to bring Raid to the big screen?
Bhushan Kumar (BK): Kumarji (Mangat), you should be the one to start this.
Kumar Mangat (KM): No no, I think Raj Kumar should start.
Raj Kumar Gupta (RKG): I think Kumarji first got this idea which he later narrated to my writer Ritesh Shah and me. We both found it extremely exciting. We were really interested in the story and the era it was set in. It was the era that had the most raids happening in India. The film is inspired from a real-life character and we found that to be really exciting and interesting. We thought that we could explore this milieu and make a film about it because we need to shed some light on the people whose heroism we have not seen. Thus, the tag line for the film ‘Heroes don’t just come in uniforms’. That was one element which was the most exciting. That is where it all started.
KM: We were actually working on a project like this for quite some time. We spoke to Ajayji (Devgn) about it and he liked the idea. Then we went to Bhushan Kumarji with the script and I think he gave the green signal within the first ten minutes itself.
BK: I was on board after hearing just one line of the story.
KM: Yes, so he came on board and we all signed the contracts to enter this as a co-production. Then we all sat together with Raj Kumarji to discuss the movie. We actually did the pre-production in a very short span of time. The entire film has come together in record time, just about six to seven months. And to make a movie of this huge range with such a star cast is commendable.
BOI: Bhushanji, what made you say yes to produce this film so quickly?
BK: I think the main thing here is the connect. These days, the kind of films which are working, everybody is looking for something that they can relate to or real life cinema. We have also seen that movies like this, which connect with the audience on a day-to-day basis, are doing very well. We have done movies like Baby, Airlift and others that have been in a similar zone. Then there are films that are relatable to the audience like Hindi Medium. These movies always do well. These concepts are working big time with the audience. When Kumarji came to me and told me that there is this idea on which they were planning to make a movie, I immediately connected to it. The reason that I found it so interesting is because nobody has ever based a film on income tax raids before. There was a film like Special 26 which was produced by Kumarji only, but it mainly spoke about conmen and how they conduct fake raids posing as income tax officers. But Raid is a true story. I guess people will get that realism in the film that everybody is looking for. Hence, when we heard this idea, we were confident that it will work with the audience. That is why we got on board with it.
BOI: Speaking about trends, movies that have social messages are working quite well these days. Is there an underlying message in Raid too?
RKG: Any film that is connected to reality, such as income tax, has relevance. We are all social animals and live in a society inhabited by people. So, any film like this or any real life-driven film can carry a message. This film is also about what normal people would do because they might be doing some good work that we might not be aware of. Heroes can be amongst us and they don’t need to be in uniform.
BK: I think the message here is what Ajay sir says in the movie – ‘Tax ki chori bardaasht nahin hoti’ and that everyone has to pay tax. This dialogue here means that we should pay taxes because it is good for our country.
BOI: Raj Kumar, what kind of research did you do for a subject so unique?
RKG: We learnt that this story is from an account of a real life person at a particular point of time in India. When you are doing a film like this, the most important part is research. In this type of research you face two kinds of aspects. Firstly, the person whose story you are inspired by and secondly, the world that is in and around that story. Therefore, it is not just important to talk to a person whose life it is about or been inspired by. It is very important to take various points of view from different people. We are also exploring the world around the character and the relationships that the character shares in his personal and professional life. Also, 1981 was still a time when the press was not so vocal and we were not aware of many things. I, along with writer Ritesh Shah, met people in order to understand the era and the kind of threats that were prevalent at that point of time. These are the things that we try to do in order to get information as best as we can.
BOI: What were the obstacles during shooting and how did you manage to overcome these?
RKG: I have been fortunate enough to have worked with good producers from the start of my career, be it Ronnie Screwvala or Siddharth Roy Kapur. I have recently started working with Bhushanji and Kumarji, and I really feel that I am lucky to have been given a chance to work with them. To be honest, we did not face obstacles in that sense and it was just the time frame that we were shooting in, which was a little less. So, we all had to be a little more prepared for that time frame. We were able to finish this film in a very short span of time. It was more hard work and less obstacles, in that sense.
BOI: In the past, you have done movies which revolved around different themes. What was it like working on this film and how was it different from your past projects?
RKG: If I talk about myself as a filmmaker, I would do a film only if I am touched by the story. This movie is special in terms of storyline and milieu. Like Bhushan Kumarji said, this film is about something that was never explored before. We have heard about income tax and we have heard about raids. But when we talk about raids, the one thing that comes to our mind is income tax raids kyunki raid police mein bhi hoti hai (Laughs). I have friends who are in the income tax department and when you ask them, they say that yahaan income tax raid hui aur itne paise mile. Also, when we were researching for this film one income tax commissioner told me that the worst thing is to go to somebody’s house and invade their personal space. This is because you see people crying and not giving away their jewellery. It is the worst feeling that you can have but you cannot do anything about it. It is their job. These were the things which seemed interesting and at the same time painful because we have never seen these things happening. That is what makes the film special.
BOI: How involved were the producers in the creative process of making the film?
Abhishek Pathak (AP): I think we were all involved from day one. We were totally involved in the script in terms of helping him understand what we wanted from him in the film and about how he should execute the process. This is our collaboration
RKG: The good thing about Kumarji and Bhushanji is that they are well aware of the creative process. There was never a time when I felt that their creative inputs were not required or invalid. I always had the liberty to do the things that I wanted to in that kind of space and in a very limited amount of time.
BOI: Bhushanji, you have the most prolific studio right now. While promoting Raid, you also released the promo of Blackmail. How do you manage to handle so many projects simultaneously?
BK: We have independent teams that are working in the company. Plus, as we get to work with other producers in joint ventures, it makes us more comfortable handling several projects simultaneously. As a studio, we are capable of releasing eight to ten films. We have done it in the past as well. In fact, in the last two months we have had four releases. It is just a part of the job. I am quite habituated to multi-tasking.
BOI: Raj Kumar, it is the biggest film for you in terms of scale and star-cast. Did that put any pressure on you?
RKG: No. For me, it is not the pressure; it is the responsibility because there is a lot at stake, if I may say so. But I always go by the story and the demands of the script. And fortunately, with my producers and Ajay (Devgn) sir, everybody was on the same page as far as the script was concerned. I have never felt the pressure. Ajay, Ileana (D’Cruz), Saurabh (Shukla) sir, everybody understood the script; they understood the requirement and what this film is. So, nobody was trying to do something that wasn’t required and that helped. I agree to the fact that it is my biggest film till date but I realise that only now, when you mentioned it (Laughs).
BOI: In the midst of clashes at the box office, as we are witnessing currently, Raid is getting a solo release. As filmmakers does it make it easier to release a film?
KM: It definitely makes a difference when it is a solo release. From the time we decided the release date of this film, no other film decided to release on the same date. Also, a week later, no other big film is releasing. So, we will get a good two weeks for our film.
BK: And we decided it long back, when we started the film. Kumarji was very confident, though I was very skeptical about the possibilities of releasing the film on time. But hats off to the team. They have worked day and night to make the film release on March 16. Three days before the release of the film’s promo, many people called me to ask if we are actually releasing it on the respective date, especially other producers as they wanted to schedule their films.
KM: Everything was done on time, be it the shooting or releasing the promo, everything was executed in a smooth way.
BOI: Ileana is also part of the film. Could you elaborate on the significance of her character in the film?
RKG: Ileana portrays the character of a very strong, brave and supportive wife in the film. Her character really came out from the research that we did on the real life story on which the movie is based. I also got to know the wives and families of the income tax officers. The officers confessed that they wouldn’t have been able to do such a difficult job without the constant support of their wives. Not only were the wives supportive, they were also brave enough to understand the job. Nowadays, due to the over-indulgence of the media in the matters of even a dangerous raid, information leaks from the place of the raid to the world outside in no time. The situation was different years back. In those times, when an officer was sent for a raid, their families were usually not aware of where the raid was taking place. Wives would know just the fact that a raid was going to happen but not the exact place or even how many days their husbands would stay there. Even without much information about what was happening they were brave and supportive of their husbands. That kind of really hit me. In our film, the character of the wife also becomes a hero without the uniform.
BOI: As producers, how do you decide to back a particular film?
BK: For me, it depends a lot on the content. Obviously, when you are investing big money, you also look for a big star; in this film we have Ajay sir. But, if the content is not good, not even a big star cast can make the film work.
AP: For example, when we get to see the trailer first, we decide if we want to see the film. Also, it just took one line for us to decide that we want to produce the film.
BK: As businessmen, we know what kind of raids can happen. Many people don’t know about it so people will be excited to see what actually happens. I myself have been in a similar situation. Twenty years back when I first took over the business, an income tax raid took place. All that has been shown in the film is real. They actually come and tear the pillows, curtains and break the walls. It will be entertaining for the audience to see.
BOI: Bhushanji, could you enlighten us about the music of the film?
BK: Yeah, we have blockbuster songs like Sanu ek pal chain by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, which nobody has touched till today, don’t know why. Also, there is Nit khair manga that has also been originally sung by Nusrat sahab and we have recreated it. Both the songs have released and are doing really well. It will go very well with the story because the film is about raids, and also the relationship of a husband and wife. The song has also been captured very well, portraying the moments nicely.
BOI: Kumarji, you have made different scales of films, small films like Pyaar Ka Punchnama with no face value as well as star-led films like Omkara and Raid. Do you approach films differently?
KM: No, there is no difference in the way I approach my films. Be it a small or big film, the process remains the same. It is the same way we shoot, and the structure is also the same. The most important thing for me is people coming to watch the film or not at the theatres.
BOI: Has your job become easier since your son Abhishek has joined you in the business?
KM: Yes, surely. All the creative decisions are taken by him; I mostly take the financial calls. It becomes easier for me as the work is divided.
BOI: Even though this film is about a serious issue, the entertainment aspect needs to be taken care of as well. Did you have to strike a balance to keep the entertainment value of the film alive?
RKG: It is not that it is a serious subject; it is a subject that is very engaging. It is not that just because this is a film about raids, that there aren’t any funny situations. The film is not only about raids but also about moments that you will laugh at. That is what makes it interesting. It is just unbelievable. As they say, reality is stranger than fiction. People might laugh about a joke, but they might not believe it even though it might be true. Humour is one of the elements which is also one of the main attractions of the story.
BOI: What are your expectations from
BK: We will get to know only on Friday. We can just hope for the best. All of us work as a team and have worked very hard for the film. I hope everyone sees this film and enjoys it.
PS: What ice? We just broke bread together! We connected over food. Everybody on the set connected over food. We were shooting in Delhi, so food is a must. Also, I found that Kriti was staying in Delhi a really long time ago. A lot of her relatives still live there. That Delhi connect was there for us too. Then there were the readings we did together, which helped break the ice. You get to know each other’s timing well and that’s why the readings are held; not just to mug up your lines.
BOI: You spoke about working with Satish Shah. What about the others? What was shooting with this ensemble cast like?
PS: I used my classic line to apply maska to Jimmy (Sheirgill) sir. I told him that I had grown up watching his films and that he hasn’t aged a bit. I also told him how blessed I felt working with him on a film. That part was completely true. He has got a thairaav in his performance, from the very beginning. He is also technically very sound. When you work with stalwarts like him, you learn so much. I steal these small things from them and use them later on.
KK: Satishji and I hit it off instantly. We got along like a house on fire. He loves to talk. Since this is an ensemble film, one has to wait for some time for their shot to come. Between scenes, we chatted a lot and he shared his experiences, stories from his time, etc. It was really great. Plus, he is a director, which helps when you are shooting with him.
He is also technically very sound and that is one of the best things about Pulkit too. He also knows a lot about technical things. When you work with people who understand the craft so well, the journey becomes a lot more fun. I had worked with Jimmy sir in the past, in a commercial. I have since watched many of his films and seeing his performance live… I think he is one of the most talented actors we have in our country today. When you are shooting as part of an ensemble cast, there is always an undercurrent of excitement around you.
BOI: What was the mood like on set?
PS: When I was there, it was very cool, otherwise there may have been a lot of heat. Kriti, just say that when I wasn’t around, you guys missed me.
KK: No, you weren’t here during the first week when I shot. After that, you were there the entire time.
PS: Oh yeah, that’s why people think I was the last one to be cast in the film because I was the last one to join the team on the sets.
KK: Yes, I was there, I was there for a week.
BOI: What was it like working with director Asshu Trikha? Tell us about your association.
PS: He knew what he wanted to shoot and you could not change his mind. That’s actually good because it means he is totally convinced of what he wants to do and the way he wants to do it. Basically, even if he is open to other’s inputs, he manages to convince us to do things the way he wants them. (Laughs) You just have to do what he says. I believe that’s the first thing an actor should do, surrender to their director. He shoots very systematically, keeping in mind the editing of the film. He never once shot extra or anything that was not required for the scene. There was this time we were shooting a scene and he said ‘cut’ before I could finish my last line. On asking him why, he said he had already got the shot.
KK: I have so much to say but before I can, Pulkit says it all.
BOI: We’ve had so many wedding films in Bollywood. How is your film different from the others?
PS: It has the two of us. I can’t say it has her because she has been a bride at least five times already! Since it is a wedding film, there are a lot of songs, celebrations and dancing but there is an element of humour in almost every situation. I think that’s very interesting. Also, the songs are really cool.
KK: As a film, you know when you have a really big reason to say ‘no’ to a marriage. So, from Geet’s point of view, she is the only child and her parents have never said ‘no’ to her for anything. They are very happy to know that she has a boyfriend and want her to get married but, for some reason, her father opposes her wedding. So this film is bout convincing each other’s fathers not to make a big deal out of something and call off the wedding.
BOI: Music plays a very important role in a wedding film. Please shed some light on the music of this film.
KK: My favourite song is Kalli. Yours is Mind blowing?! They are both nice.
PS: Kalli is like a club number. We kind of reunite in that song.
KK: Baaki ki story bhi baata do.
PS: The song is really cool also because it is the very first time both of us have got to do the Bachata, which may look like the Salsa but isn’t. It is basically Argentinian. So we have done a Bollywood version of the Bachata, which is more sensuous. It’s an interesting form of dance and we got to learn it. The track is also very nice; it is by Meet Bros Mind blowing was the first song we shot.
KK: No, Veerey ki wedding! Okay, so it is the title track of the film and it is really cool with everybody in it. I think it is going to be a cool shaadi number. It has been very nicely choreographed. Pappu-Mallu are really nice choreographers.
PS: Mind blowing is also a cool song. We shot half of it in Delhi and a portion in Mumbai.
KK: There was this really cool vintage car museum where we shot. We spotted the Dil Toh Pagal Hai red car there! It was so cool shooting around it. It was just amazing!
PS: Shah Rukh Khan didn’t hug you, chill! It was just the car.
KK: It was exciting, I love that film!
PS: Even I clicked some pictures with it. (Laughs)
KK: We stood on top of cars and danced. It was quite a lot of fun. Also, Pulkit broke a windshield. Bechara producer.
BOI: What are your expectations from the film?
PS: We have all put in a lot of hard work and I hope everyone gets their due. Anything else is just the cherry on top.
BOI: As actors, how important are box office numbers for you? Do you keep track of them?
KK: They are very important.
PS: For me, after Fukrey Returns, everybody has been talking about numbers. I was chasing the numbers till Sunday but not after that. Beyond that, I was just happy looking at videos of people enjoying the film in theatres. A lot of them were coming for the second or third time to watch the film, you know, repeating memorable lines from the film. Appreciation like that means much more to me and is a much bigger reason for me to celebrate.
If you know that the producers have made their money, it is a relief. I never carry over my last Friday’s success or failure to any other film that I do after that, because that doesn’t let you join a new set or a new family with a fresh perspective. You come with the baggage of success or failure and it shows on your face. You look troubled.
KK: I won’t lie, I care about box office numbers. I want critical acclaim, there’s no two ways about that. When Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana got critical acclaim, I was very happy but I also wanted it to make money. And when it did, I was even happier. So I can’t choose one. I want both.
BOI: There’s another film releasing along with yours. What is your take on the clash?
KK: Pari? It looks like a damn cool film.
PS: It is of a different genre. And I am really glad that Anushka has come up with something like this, breaking the mould and doing something nice with the horror genre. Basically, the horror movies we have so far are all like chicks in the shower, then there’s blood everywhere and the movie is filled with gimmicky stuff. Pari looks very intriguing.
KK: If the producers are not happy because they aren’t getting the shows they want, then they won’t release the film. The fact that everyone is able to release their films and get enough shows means they are confident of their film working.
We don’t know what people like and dislike. I believe comedy is something you have to do from the director’s point of view because when he is writing, he clearly has something specific in mind. We are not present when he is shooting with other artistes. We do not know what scene leads to what at the script level. I think in an ensemble cast, Pulkit and I had to follow what the director was saying.
We have got good shows including prime-time shows and a good number of cinemas as well. It is not possible to release one film a week. If we did that, we would have to wait for three years to release a film. We have over 400 films releasing every year.
BOI: What projects are you looking forward to after this?
PS: You are talking like my mother now! I have two films releasing already… Daas Dev is releasing after this. Once I am done with the promotion of these two films, we will sit with scripts.
KK: I have Yamla Pagla Deewana 3 releasing this year, I am guessing in the next 3-4 months. Apart from that, I have done a cameo in the film Karwan, featuring Dulquer Salmaan, Irrfan sir, and Mithila. I am looking forward to this film, the script is fantastic.