Dedh Ishqiya got fabulous reviews for its gripping story and rivetting performances. Did you expect it to translate into box-office collections?
I am not evolved when it comes to business and figures, but trade analysts did tell me that the film did not do the kind of business that was expected. But the film is still getting footfalls. Also it did well overseas in countries such as the US and the Middle East. Back home, box-office collections in Delhi and UP were substantial.
What are the kind of comments you are getting?
Dedh Ishqiya is unconventional without the regular song-and-dance sequences or women in bikinis. My inbox messages tell me that people loved the setting of beautiful havelis, especially the lighting. Naseeruddin Shah and Arshad Warsi’s portrayal of two irrepressible crooks and Madhuri Dixit Nene and Huma Qureshi’s conflicting emotional predicament were quite endearing.
Do you think the liberal use of Urdu in the film deterred the audience?
The theatre-going audience today comprises mainly college students and then there are families with children. But Dedh Ishqiya is not their kind of cinema. People in my age-group (in their 30s), who rue the fact that Bollywood does not make films like they do in the West, don’t go to watch them when a filmmaker attempts something different. Dedh Ishqiya was not art house, but it was funny and entertaining.
The idea of women turning men against men was interesting. What did you want to convey with that?
Both, in Ishqiya and Dedh Ishqiya, I wanted to move away from the regular gender roles. Generally, we tend to show how men look at women. I reversed that in Dedh Ishqiya and showed how
women — Huma’s character Muniya and Madhuri’s character Begum Para — look at men.
What draws you to the kind of cinema you make — unconventional characters in intriguing rural settings?
Settings excite me. I borrow from the real world and then create an alternate world. It is exciting to create a new world and what happens to the characters in it. I already had the street-smart Babban and Khalujaan (Naseeruddin) from Ishqiya. In Dedh Ishqiya, I took them to Mahmudabad and to a more refined world with good manners and tehzeeb to make it intriguing.
Now I have started writing my next.