I am not here to make x number of crores – Sriram Raghavan
Sriram Raghavan feels Badlapur is not for under 10 year olds but wishes India had ratings like a PG13.
What kind of films did you grow up with?
Films I saw as a teenager have stayed with me. That’s why I am a huge fan of Vijay Anand and his films – Johnny Mera Naam, Jewel Thief, Teesri Manzil, Guide. I still like the grammar, the technique. He is a very underrated filmmaker. He was ahead of his time and was an expensive director. He charged 25 lakhs in those days. At that time I was working with Vinod Doshi who made Black Mail.
What was the trigger behind making Badlapur?
When Agent Vinod didn’t do well, for 2-3 months, I was feeling down, wondering what to do next. I was reading a lot online and came across accounts by people who have lived in the jail for many years. There was this one story about someone who loses his wife and child at a very young age, which happened in Europe, but it had a universal appeal. In such situations, after 3-4 years you might move on from the tragedy and restart life. But what if you can’t and you are trapped in that? This is a story of a man who wants revenge but doesn’t get a chance to have it for 15 years. He leaves his work, goes to a small town, lives there. He is tired of receiving sympathy wherever he goes and wants to escape that. He tries to kill himself but doesn’t succeed. You root for him to take revenge, but wonder what he is doing. It’s about the victim and the villain and how their lives have changed.
Were you convinced that Varun could play the role when you met him? Who else did you meet?
He is the first actor we met. I had not seen Student Of The Year as it wasn’t my kind of film. I have seen Karan’s other films. After casting Varun, I saw his film.
I went by his enthusiasm for the whole thing, how he responded to the story. A newcomer would say I have just started out, I want to do positive roles. But his only question was ‘do you think I can do it’. I said yes because I saw a newcomer hungry to do something different. I was worried that he might say yes and two days later his father (David Dhawan), who is my senior from FTII, might call and question me as to why I’m casting his son in a dark film. But that call never came, Varun hadn’t told his father the whole thing but told his brother Rohit who encouraged him. It’s a bold step. The story is dark; grief, anger and pain eat him from inside and he smiles just once in the entire film.
How did you help Varun prepare for Badlapur?
I showed Varun a lot of films. The reason was not to copy or imitate but grow beyond watching Hindi films alone. I made him see Dead Man Walking, 21 Grams – some films which are a little more serious. He might have seen Vijay Anand’s films on his own as his father is a huge fan of the filmmaker.
I lost my father many years ago. Sometime’s horrible things happen in life. I told Varun how different people react to loss, so he went and spoke to people who dealt with loss. Then we gave him a gap to grow the beard. By then Varun had met so many people, he was a different man. He was more the character than Varun. It had affected him, even his father and mother said he was behaving strange at home.
Has there been a growth from the actor who came to look for a role to now, in Varun?
I have seen a solid growth in his performance. How he can internalise things as opposed to projecting things outside. It’s hardest for an actor to do nothing. He got that right. I can see his eyes talk.
Neil Nitin Mukesh never made that kind of impact again after his debut with you. Comment.
He was very good in Johnny Gaddar. Sometimes there is a bad choice of roles. If you are the actor, your talent will come forth. One good film will bring him back into the limelight.
Your box office success has not been great.
I am not here to make X number of crores. As long as we don’t lose money and earn some profit, I am good. Most people saw Ek Haseena Thi online, Johnny Gaddar was out of cinemas in the second week, Agent Vinod – though a lot of people saw, they didn’t like it. But the film didn’t lose money. It hurts more because I made a mistake of thinking we should at least make some money on that. I went for a U certificate, made a lot of changes, in the true film that mujra song wouldn’t have happened, that character wouldn’t do it. But I felt that since we had Kareena we should use her… that little dishonesty didn’t work for me.
Your film has got an A certificate. Are you happy with the rating?
I don’t think this film is made for under 10-year-olds. I would have liked if there was a rating in India like a PG13.
You have made very few films.
I am trying to hurry up now. While making Vishwaroopam, Kamal Haasan told me ‘you are going to live for 200 years that’s why you are waiting for so long to make your films’. He told me to make films faster which made sense.
Has Raghu gone out of Varun’s system? Did you help him come out of it?
I still see the reflection of the other person in Varun but it has gone down thanks to ABCD 2. He did so much dancing that the physicality might have helped him, otherwise he was in an odd place while shooting this film. I didn’t help him come out of it, he is working on it himself.
Will you do Agent Vinod again?
When a film doesn’t do well, everyone feels disheartened but personally if I get a good script, I will make a good spy film with Saif Ali Khan in lesser budgets.
What is the USP of the film? Message for audience?
Come on time, beginning is important, be attentive to the movie. It’s a character driven story; how one crime screws up the lives of so many people after so many years.