Star Gazing

Star Gazing

He delivered a hit in 2011 with Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster and announced a sequel soon after.

He delivered a hit in 2011 with Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster and announced a sequel soon after. The critical and box-office success of Paan Singh Tomar followed. Since then,director Tigmanshu Dhulia has signed on Imran Khan for Milan Talkies,and is working towards finalising a film with Saif Ali Khan in the lead role as a rustic gangster. Whatever time he gets between work is spent promoting Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur where he plays a key role in both parts of the film,the first of which was released last month.

The filmmaker is pressed for time,but he isn’t complaining. The recent spurt of work comes after a long lull of seven years,a period Dhulia spent waiting for his films — to first get made and then be released. “It’s all destiny,” he says with a laugh,“In those seven years,nothing worked in my favour. I started making two films,but could never complete them. I made Paan Singh Tomar and that,too,took two years before it hit the theatres. Shagird in 2011 earned some acclaim but failed at the box-office. And then,one day,the tide just turned,” he adds.

He attributes his success to Haasil,his debut venture. “I was not in the news but people kept revisiting the film. They had faith in me,” he explains. Perhaps Irrfan’s rise as an internationally acclaimed actor and the director’s long-term association with him (Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns is their third film together after Haasil and Paan Singh Tomar) helped too.

Now,Dhulia’s canvas has grown bigger and so have his budgets. He admits that Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns,with Jimmy Shergill and Soha Ali Khan alongside Irrfan,is essentially in the same space of bedroom politics as its predecessor,but more opulent. Similarly,Milan Talkies,a love story set in a small town,as well as the untitled film with Saif require him to up his spendings. “Some scripts need to be executed on a larger scale and to justify that budget,one needs stars on board,” Dhulia explains.


Imran’s casting stemmed from the need for an actor who could play a small-town boy with innocence. Saif’s role,he assures,will not clash with his popular Langda Tyagi avatar from Omkara even though the actor will play a gangster from Uttar Pradesh. “The film is about the attitude of a gangster,which drives the story,” he says.

All of Dhulia’s recent films use a non-urban backdrop,a reigning trend in Bollywood. He feels that it only marks the return of films “rooted” in our culture. “Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge was a great film,but it perhaps triggered a trend of urban settings,which evoke no geography or culture. In comparison,small town India offers great characters because people there are still experiencing life. People in cities have turned complacent,” he asserts.

The director clarifies that by making films with stars,he isn’t the one taking the commercial route. “I am not going to change the way I make my movies and I will also continue to make small-budget films from time to time. By casting stars in my films,I let these stars enter my space,” he quips. Dhulia also assures that he will continue to work with Irrfan in the future. “He is of a stature that I cannot take just about any film to him,” points out Dhulia,“He is my Robert DeNiro,” he adds.