Rohit Jugraj started his career assisting notable Hindi filmmakers and went on to write and direct too. His shift from Bollywood to Punjabi films brought him immense success and his last outing SardaarJi was one of the biggest grossers of all time. He is now back with a sequel, Sardaarji 2, starring Diljit Dosanjh. The talented director tells Rohini Nag about his new film, production plans and making a film with Sanjay Dutt.
SardaarJi was a big hit. Was there more pressure while working on the sequel?
The only pressure that the film brings is to present what the audience expects from the team of SardaarJi. We tried something different with SardaarJi and now, with its sequel, we have again presented a diverse subject. In fact, the rights to SardaarJi have already been sold in the South, for both Tamil and Telugu versions, and they are eagerly awaiting the release of SardaarJi 2. With so many expectations, one does feel anxious but in a good way. The best feeling in this world is when hard work pays off and that is exactly what SardaarJi left me feeling. Now, with the sequel, I must live up to my own expectations.
How was SardaarJi 2 conceived?
I wanted to make SardaarJi a brand by taking the character forward. In the first part, he could talk to ghosts and in this part, he is a farmer. SardaarJi will have many more instalments. The film has a comic take and the protagonist has a certain innocence, which makes his journey amusing. There is a twist in the story, which I am sure the audience will enjoy. With SardaarJi, we tried to offer something different to the audience and they thoroughly enjoyed it and this time too, we have served something different. It’s a never-tried-before story in Punjabi cinema.
The trailers of SardaarJi 2 were well received. How different is the film from its first part?
Both films are very different from each other. The common thread is that both films are of mixed genres. I am curious to see how the audience reacts to this film because I feel this kind of genre has not been explored even in Bollywood. The audience is already excited because, in the trailer, we see a hint of two of Diljit (Dosanjh) as he is in the film. The story has a huge arch, so it’s very different from SardaarJi. The first instalment had a heavy dose of fantasy whereas we have added some satire in the second part.
The last time we spoke, you mentioned that you would love to turn producer. Any progress on that front?
Yes, you were the first to learn of my plans and the first to learn of the progress too! My production house will also function like a non-profit organisation for artistes and we will promote and support new talent, whether actors or technicians. Our main focus will be to give new filmmakers, actors and singers a chance and present them with opportunities. I would love to experiment with innovative ways of storytelling.
You have experienced both failure and success. How have both changed you as a director?
Failure teaches you far more than success can. In the end, it is all about letting go because once your film releases, there is not much you can do. No matter what you do, give it one hundred per cent as the outcome cannot be decided by you. As a director, success has not changed me much, but failure has made me a better director. Failure has the ability to make you contemplate on your actions, which in turn helps you grow, especially with your creativity. It is not as polarising as people might expect. I have always tried to push the envelope with all my films and with success and failure, I have learnt that nothing is really in your control apart from doing the best you can.
Sanjay Dutt has signed you for a period film under his banner.
Yes, I am making a film under his banner. We have been wanting to work together for a very long time and finally things fell in place. The film is set in 17th century Punjab and it will be an action-comedy. Sanjay is a wonderful man and he appreciates the kind of films I have been making. The script has been finalised but we are yet to decide on the cast and other things. The film will be shot in Punjab and we will start shooting in January 2017.
What’s next for you?
Apart from the Sanjay Dutt film and my own production house, I am planning a Hindi film with Diljit but it is on the backburner right now. Everything is still in the planning stage and Box Office India will be the first to know when things progress. Right now, we are focusing on SardaarJi 2. Hindi films are my first love and Punjabi cinema is my true love. So even after I make Hindi films, I will always continue making Punjabi films.