A dashing Irrfan in a brown leather jacket, jeans and glares saunters into a room to share the frame with another actor. The scene unfolds in the washroom of the Anti Corruption Bureau. But unlike what we see in toilets housed in public offices, the plaster is not peeling off the walls. The room, instead, is bathed in ultra-stylised high contrast yellow light.
We are on the sets of a Sanjay Gupta movie, on the first day of shoot of ‘Jazbaa’, a film much in the news since its inception mainly because it marks the return of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan after a sabbatical of four years. The casting coup was pure serendipity. “I didn’t think of Aishwarya originally, but as Abhishek (Bachchan) and I were chatting, I casually told him about the idea of a film that demanded a star-female actor who was the hero of the story. When he bounced off the idea with her, she was game,” he says.
While his leading lady is not on the sets today, Sanjay Gupta and Irrfan appear in sync. For the texture of the particular scene, Sanjay Gupta was highly inspired by Gotham, a current American TV show about the stories of the Batman universe. Gupta and inspirations go a long way. Two of his major films, ‘Kaante’ and ‘Zinda’ were unofficial remakes of Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Reservoir Dogs’ and the Korean masterpiece ‘Oldboy’.
While he doesn’t have any qualms in accepting the blame of not having credited the originals, he believes that nothing is completely original anyway. “Movies are an alternate universe, where you are an outsider on a journey. I don’t think it should look realistic. It’s my way of seeing things and I want the audience to see it that way,” he says, as he takes a break from the shoot.
He defends his past choices by adding, “Oldboy itself was adapted from a Manga comic, which in turn, was a retelling of the classic The Count of Monte Cristo. I pick a story that excites me and which I can tell in an Indian context.” He isn’t a writer unlike a lot of other filmmakers and hence finds the need to take stories conceived by others.
“There is a serious dearth of writing talent in our industry. Since I don’t write, the only way I can get stories are from novels or foreign movies,” he says.
‘Jazbaa’, however, is an official remake of a foreign film he is not yet ready to give the name of. “All I can say is it is a thriller and a drama, about what ordinary people can do in extraordinary situations,” he says. The film, he says, will see a reinvented Gupta who went back to the drawing board after ‘Shootout at Wadala’, that released two years back.
“My 4-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter are going to grow up into teenagers and I don’t want to feel irrelevant to them. When this thought hit me, I got scared and that’s when I knew I had to up my game,” he says.
Usually his films are associated with violence, gangsters and music video-like song sequences but with Jazbaa, he enters into the family-oriented zone. “If there is one thing I learnt from ‘Shootout at Wadala’, it is the fact that in a film with stars, you can’t have sex or abusive language. They will unnecessarily alienate a segment of the audience. My stories need to be told to a larger mass of people and I have made sure there is no foul language, and even if there is, I have worked my way around it,” he says.
So does that mean he is pandering to the market pressures? “If I had to play safe I would have been making the generic south remakes or one of those inane slapstick comedies. My stories are still dark at heart,” he says.