“This isn’t a Bombay-Bombay story — and that’s what attracted me to the script,” says Hadi Ali Abrar, director of the film Dongri Ka Raja that hit the screens earlier this month. “In the past, a lot of noted filmmakers such as Ram Gopal Varma and Vishal Bhardwaj have explored the milieu of the Mumbai underworld and they’ve done a great job in films such as Satya, Company and Maqbool, respectively. I wanted to specifically look at Dongri, which has been the hub of criminal activities in Bombay, and Lalbaug. But what drew me to the film the most was the love story,” he says.
Written by M Salim, Dongri Ka Raja is set in the downtown Mumbai neighbourhood that is ruled by Mansur Ali, a ganglord played by Ronit Roy. “He was cast before the lead pair. In the beginning, he was apprehensive because I was a new director for him and Filmy Keeda is a new production house. But once he heard the narration of the script, he came on board. We didn’t agree on the first two days but from day three, Ronit and I discussed the scenes and he became Mansur,” says Abrar. The lead pair of the film, Gashmeer Mahajani and Reecha Sinha, were selected after they auditioned for the roles. “I’d heard of Gashmeer because of his work in Marathi cinema, and that he is a very sincere actor. What impressed me is that he was interested in knowing about everybody else’s character as well. Reecha is somebody who submits to the director, without question,” he says.
Abrar is now working on another film but is not closed to the idea of a sequel. “We can go ahead but only if the story is right. I don’t want to disappoint the audience that has liked the film. It makes sense only if we can take the story a step ahead,” he says.