The Juggling Acthttps://indianexpress.com/article/entertainment/play/the-juggling-act-4/

The Juggling Act

Adman and writer-director Nitesh Tiwari on his passion for making happy mass films and Bhoothnath Returns

A still from Bhoothnath Returns
A still from Bhoothnath Returns

RANJIB MAZUMDER

Do we laugh only as kids? As we travel onward with age, laughter that is no-holds-barred sinks down and perhaps dies out, like the flickering light of an oil-lit lamp. A conversation with Nitesh Tiwari, adman-cum-writer-director, tells you about that worldview where everyone is happy like a child. Like Rajkumar Hirani, a director he admires, Tiwari intends to make only happy films.

“I want people to feel happy that they have spent money on something that makes them happy. I want them to go back home with a smile. I like all kinds of films but there are only certain kinds of films I see myself making. You can take it from me in writing that I will never make films that have sad stories,” says Tiwari, who has just finished the shooting of Bhoothnath Returns, the sequel to the 2008 Bhoothnath.

Between the widely conceived divide between mass and niche films, he is very clear about the side he wants to take. “I always want to be a part of mass films. I don’t want to say this is my film, take it or leave it,” he says. Not traditionally trained in cinema, he wants to inhabit the world of filmmaker Steven Spielberg. “Not that it has influenced my work anyway but I am a big fan of Spielberg. He had probably the biggest, successful mass films but if you look at it, all his films are different. Or for that matter, look at Christopher Nolan,” says Tiwari.

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Bhoothnath Returns, the Amitabh Bachchan horror-comedy, is Tiwari’s second film after Chillar Party. When he was approached to do the sequel of Bhoothnath, he had absolutely no idea about what can be done in a sequel since the first part more or less rounded off the story. But Tiwari couldn’t give up on a chance of directing his childhood hero. “I have been interacting with Mr Bachchan for the past four years,” he says, who is also the Chief Creative Officer at Leo Burnett, the ad agency that features Bachchan in its campaigns.

Incidentally, he co-directed Chillar Party with Vikas Bahl. As the film got over, he went back to advertising, getting caught up in his own world while Bahl went ahead and formed Phantom Films, a production house with his peers, Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane and Madhu Mantena. “I don’t know how he manages the dual role of a producer and director,” he says, of his ex-collaborator who is ready with Queen. There’s no fallout between them. “He’s a very good friend. Like I know about Queen, he knows what Bhoothnath Returns is all about,” he says.

Tiwari has a rather unconventional background. Born in a family where his father had a transferrable job, he travelled all over Madhya Pradesh during his youth. “I was fortunate to see such a vast range of landscape and interesting characters, which I try to incorporate in my work,” he says. A bright student throughout, his world changed drastically when he got through IIT Bombay. “I went there with the perception that all the kids will be studious. But I was zapped. Everybody was so unconventional when it comes to dealing with day-to-day things,” adds Tiwari.

After completing his B Tech, he ditched his software job for a stint as a trainee copywriter at Draftfcb Ulka, on the basis of a poem he wrote during his hostel days. Though he finds it difficult to juggle between films and advertising, he tries to take a sabbatical during his film projects. He has also written Shaad Ali’s Kill Dil, along with his team of writers.