Bangla film, Villain’s director Baba Yadav and actors Ankush Hazra and Mimi Chakraborty talk to Titas Chowdhury on their film, the relevance of commercial cinema and more
Baba, you are synonymous with thrillers. Is there any fear of being typecast?
Baba Yadav (BY): No, I feel I am the blessed one. Many people can direct romantic films because that is a relatively easier genre, but very few people can direct action films. (Laughs). I am very fond of action films. I love watching them. That is why I prefer making action films.
Mimi, this year we saw you in Crisscross, which was of a completely different flavour. Was doing Villain a conscious decision to add variety to your filmography?
Mimi Chakraborty (MC): In the beginning of the year I did a film called Total Dadagiri. It was a commercial film. Then I did Crisscross. When I was approached for it, I really wanted to do the film because it was a different genre. But when I got the script of Villain and I learned about the story, it really gave me a kick, because it was unlike all the commercial movies that I have done and that usually get made. It is not the story of a rich girl who is kidnapped and then the boy fights with the goons and rescues her. It is not the same old monotonous story. It had a different storyline. I have always said in my interviews that I want to do cerebral commercial films. I really liked the script of Villain. That is how the film happened.
Ankush, you are playing a negative character in Villain…
Ankush Hazra (AH): I had been searching for a role with grey shades for quite some time. This is a trend in Bollywood too, where the lead actor plays a negative character. It often happens in a film that one of the leads plays a positive character and the other, the antagonist. But in this film, I am playing both the positive and the negative roles. That is something that interested me. I really enjoyed working in this film. I have been meaning to play a ruthless character.
How is Villain different from your other action films?
BY: Shree Venkatesh Films (SVF) wanted me to do films with them. We were discussing the genre that we could attempt. My writer and I wanted to try something different. Action films are usually interwoven with a lot of comedy. But suspense-thriller-action is something that has not been explored much, even in Bollywood. That is why we thought of trying our hands at something like this. Villain is an action-suspense-thriller. There are a lot of twists and turns in the film. Villain belongs to a very different genre. Four of my earlier films had good stories, but action was the primary element in them. Here, action is laced with suspense and thrills.
What is the biggest challenge of working in an action film?
AH: We do not use body dummies these days. Fight masters want a realistic portrayal of the action sequences and realistic camera angles. The audience is really smart now. If they cannot see our faces in a combat or an action sequence, they will understand that a body double has been used. Somewhere the credibility fades. Even if you do those scenes all by yourself, the audience will not credit you. So I made sure that the camera angles framed my most difficult stunts in such a way that they appear to the audience that I have done them. That was a big challenge. I had trained for it in Bombay. I had to work on my fitness and I made sure that that showed on the big screen. A lot of action films get made in Bollywood and Tollywood. If you do not give the audience anything impressive or unique, they will not watch your films.
Usually the female lead does not have much to do in commercial films. How is Villain different?
MC: I will not say that that it is a female-dominated movie. But it is a script-dominated film. Here, the female is not just like a flower vase. She has lots to do, apart from dancing and singing. When you watch the film, you will know that. But yes, the male lead is more prominent. This is Ankur’s film.
This is the first time that you both have worked with Baba Yadav…
MC: Baba has been choreographing me since my first song. But I have not worked in films directed by him before this one. I always wanted to be directed by him, because he has made some major hits. He is one of the most sorted choreographers that Bengal has today. He comes up with amazing songs. Who would not want to be a part of them? And he has made some great commercial films too. Baba is amazing. He is such a cool-headed director. Sometimes we would lose our calm. It happens to everyone. But he, despite being the director and captain of the ship, never did. We shot in the worst of conditions where the entire unit of about 100 people was out in the rain, but Baba would say, ‘Koi baat nahi. Ho jaayega.’ That was a moral boost for everyone.
AH: My tuning with Baba Yadav is great because I have worked with him on several songs in the past. But this time I was directed by him. It was a lovely experience. I know him really well. He has great leadership skills. Every technician on the set loves him. He is very cool-headed. His biggest plus point is that he is extremely sorted.
You usually work with Jeet and Subhashree (Ganguly). What made you cast Ankush and Mimi this time?
BY: It is the demand of the story that dictates our choice of actors. I have always loved Ankush. His comic timing is great. He is a good dancer too. He had taken a hiatus and the way he has transformed himself during that time is incredible. You will see a totally new Ankush on the screen. At the same time, I know what Mimi’s strong point is. She is a wonderful and beautiful actress. She is very strong in her zone. She can portray any kind of emotion beautifully onscreen. She is a great a performer in the truest sense of the word. I was lucky enough to have them in Villain. We discussed the scenes and talked about doing them differently, and things worked out very well. Most of the time I have been lucky with my actors. They already knew what to do, from Jeet and Subhashree to Ankush and Mimi. They are really good actors. I do not have to prepare them. They make my work a little easier. I make sure that all the actors in my films stand out. There is always something more that I ask them to give me as actors. For that, we do work. Fortunately, the outcome has always been good.
Ankush and Mimi, this is the second film where you are cast opposite each other….
AH: Yes, this is the second film where I have been cast opposite her. We are very good friends. People will take it otherwise if I say that Mimi and I are more than friends. We share a thick friendship. People misunderstand our friendship. Mimi is very close to me. I know her and became friends with her before we joined films. This is our fourth film together. It is always a delight working with her.
MC: He is a very good friend. We have known each other since our struggling days. He is a buddy. It is always great to work with a friend. We fight a lot too. He is a great co-star.
In an era where the focus is on content-driven films, do you think there is space for commercial cinema?
BY: I watch all kinds of films. I also watch films from different countries. So I firmly believe that our Indian audiences love commercial films, their music and action sequences. There is no other industry where music is an integral part of action films. Here, our action films also have music. I don’t think people will be tired of watching commercial films. Such films will never die. Audiences enjoy watching them. Even in Bollywood, people enjoy watching films like Singham so much. Having said that, I agree that it is high time that we upgrade and bring the right content to the audience. Because after a point, they will get bored of the same kind of content. They will want newer and fresher stories. Our main aim is to give them that. Content is very important. Even commercial films require a strong storyline. But commercial films will never stop being made. Mainstream commercial films will continue to survive.
MC: There was a time in Bengal when commercial films were so dominant that nothing else could come close. But then they started collapsing suddenly, because we failed to create good content. We could not give our audiences anything new. We kept giving them the same kinds of films that they were bored of watching. It was our failure. If you watch the movies of Arindam Sil or Shiboprosad (Mukherjee), they gave a new direction to the industry. Commercial films will work very well if the makers come up with brilliant scripts. Look at films like Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani and Badrinath Ki Dulhania… They had simple storylines, but there was something about them. We need to find that ‘something’ in our commercial films and then deliver them to the audience. We should get in touch with our audiences so that we know what kinds of movies they want to see us in. People are tired of watching monotonous stories.
AH: Yes, a lot of content-driven films are being made these days. But it is only the hard-core commercial potboilers that rake in 300 crore at the box office. Nobody can deny that. I am not belittling anyone, but it is a Herculean task for content-driven films to touch the 200 crore mark. But films like Baaghi 2 and Judwaa 2 can easily reach that level. It is the mass audience that decides the fate of a film. It is the mass audience that gave birth to stars like Amitabh Bachchan, Dilip Kumar and Shah Rukh Khan. The audience is our God. I believe that if we can really make a film that people can go to the theatres to watch and hoot, scream, clap and whistle, then it is our achievement. These are the films that are major money-spinners. They will earn bigger bucks than content-driven films, any day.
Your films are known for their music. How involved are you in that aspect?
BY: I am very, very involved in the music of my films. I am a choreographer. If I don’t get a song to dance to, how will I make the audience dance (Laughs)? I like sitting with the composers when they make music. It is important for me to understand the rhythm. If I am there during the making of the music, I know what kind of dance we will have in the film. We can also decide what visuals we want for a particular song-and-dance sequence. Being a choreographer of the film that you are directing is an advantage. I am very particular about the flavour of music that I want in my films.
Do you look at the box office numbers of your films?
MC: Yes, box office matters a lot. Who does not want their movies to be super hits?
BY: SVF will focus more on box office collections of the film than me (Laughs). I know my audiences expect a lot from my films. I hope and pray that they come out of the theatre happy and not disappointed. Then my job will be done. That is what a director wants.
AH: Box office performance really matters. People who say that it does not matter, they lie. It is a fact that even if you win awards, people judge you based on the commercial success of your films. Box office matters because we need to get back the money that we have invested. Producers need to survive. I do not know how Villain will perform. But it is an acid test. We are trying to find out where our single screen audiences are. We made Villain to wake them up. Let us see what fate has in store for us. It is a minus point that so many films are releasing during Durga Pujo, because we have very limited cinema halls. I pray that whatever money has been put in by Shrikant Mohta comes back to him.
What are your future projects?
AH: My upcoming project is D 4 Dance, which we had to halt due to budgetary issues. The film is absolutely ready. We are planning to release it soon.
MC: I am shooting for a film for Shagufta Rafique. It is tentatively titled Taxi Driver. Yash Dasgupta is cast opposite me.
BY: There are a couple of projects in the pipeline, but nothing is finalized as of now. But yes, you will see something very different from me next. As a director of mainstream commercial films, I am constantly thinking about what new and different things I can offer my audiences.