The climax is my favorite sequence in the film: Milan Luthria
[dropcap]“I[/dropcap] consciously decided not to do what other filmmakers do with their sequel”, tells Milan Luthria, the director of Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai Dobara while talking about the making of this film sequel. In an exclusive conversation with Pandolin, the ace filmmaker who earlier gave us a National award-winning film like The Dirty Picture, talks about the casting, locations, styling, story and the music of his upcoming film.
It happened during the making of The Dirty Picture when many people came up to us and expressed their love for the first part and wished to see more of the same film. Gradually, we started thinking from the story point of view about what will happen to Shoaib, Emraan Hashmi’s character who killed Ajay Devgn’s character in the first film. What if he is now in a position where he feels that somebody else might betray him, will he be able to handle it or loose it completely. So, these were the initial thoughts that we had, which laid the basis for this film.
Simultaneously Akshay and Ekta met where he told her that he is interested to work with me. She mentioned it to me and we immediately decided to cast him for our film. We changed the whole pattern and the last thought was what should the fight between the two men be over because it would have been boring to again show a fight over the city. So we came up with this idea that it would be over a woman. The fact that it’s a romantic triangle set against the underworld backdrop makes it different from any other film. Though, we have retained certain elements which were really liked in the first part, for example, the punch lines and the speedy narrative but the drama is more personal this time involving lots of romantic scenes.[pullquote_left]I think as a filmmaker, we should respect the audience in every way. The fact that from my brand of filmmaking, they are looking for a mix of entertainment and drama and a bit of loyalty to the first part, so my job was to give them a mix of the old with new.[/pullquote_left]
What are the key things that a filmmaker needs to keep in mind while making a sequel or taking a franchise forward?
I think as a filmmaker, we should respect the audience in every way. The fact that from my brand of filmmaking, they are looking for a mix of entertainment and drama and a bit of loyalty to the first part, so my job was to give them a mix of the old with new. I consciously decided not to do what other filmmakers do with their sequel, which is basically a same thing in a new way. I think that is a very repetitive thing that has been happening in our industry. There is no discovery or surprise for the viewer, there is nothing to take home and talk about differently when you watch a generic sequel. So my approach was to make a film which could give the viewer a taste of being old yet surprisingly new in its content.
What kind of research went into the making of this film considering it’s a period drama and how much was your contribution in the writing process for this film?
Well, we looked at a couple of things like what was the fashion in the eighties, what were the kind of cars, the magazines etc. during that time. But more than these tangible details, we looked at the environment of the eighties. It was an era when for the first time, a huge fascination was developed for the film industry. We would see film stars attending parties at places like Sharjah and hear about the linkups between gangsters and starlets. Then sometimes we would hear that somebody from the underworld has financed a film or somebody had dropped in on the sets of a particular movie. So, we found that environment very interesting and picked up a lot from this. So essentially it was about the milieu that we researched.
Now, Rajat Arora and I have become a team and it’s our fifth film together. I do get involved in the process of writing, but primarily the way we work is that I give him a free hand to write the way he wants. And when it comes back to me as a first draft, only then do I point out what I think can change and whatever is not working for me. Actually, it’s a long process that almost goes till the last day of shooting.
We had a very talented cinematographer, Ayananka Bose, for this film, whom I met on the sets of a commercial that I had directed. I just told him that we want the film to be very flamboyant, colorful and larger than life. We mainly wanted to present our three actors in an extremely different light from what people have seen them before. Because of the cinematography and people like Manish Malhotra and Kunal Rawal who came in as designers for these actors, we have been able to achieve a very different style and look.
Though the first part was a little realistic in its visuals, this film looks a bit glossy, as we have gone over the top in its treatment. This time, we got very large sequences such as on top of a train and a roof top chase where we had to vacate more than 300 homes. Also, there is lot of beautiful location coverage in Oman and some lovely sets created of Dongri.
You’ve recreated an old Bombay look in the film. What was the criteria in choosing the locations for the same? How much of it is shot on real locations and how much had to be recreated on sets? Did you face any difficulties to find the appropriate locations?
[pullquote_right]Though the first part was a little realistic in its visuals, this film looks a bit glossy, as we have gone over the top in its treatment. This time, we got very large sequences such as on top of a train and a roof top chase.[/pullquote_right]
It was difficult because Bombay has changed a lot over a period of time. Most of the filming was done in south Bombay, around the fort area, near the docks, and Marine Drive, as these places are still untouched. We searched for old houses and bungalows plus lots of Parsi structures, which have stood the passage of time. Also, we went to Muscat for shooting few portions of our film since that place also hasn’t changed as much as Dubai. We did a lot of research, location recce, came up with photographs, took videos and tried various new places. Besides, we had many different location scouts searching for us. It was almost a six to seven month process for finding all these things. And eventually, we managed to shoot our film, 50 percent on the sets and rest on real locations.
What was the casting process for the film like? While writing a script do you envision particular actors that would fit each role and accordingly sketch them or casting comes at a later stage? Was it a conscious decision to have a completely new cast and not carry forward the same cast?
We had to go with a completely new cast because if we were going to take the story forward, Emraan Hashmi could not have played a 42-year-old man. Also, he could not have had Imran Khan as his protégée, so the cast had to be new. The fact that Ajay Devgn’s character dies in the first part had already defined that we would have to go with a new star cast if the story had to go forward.
We knew that we would need a slightly older person and when Akshay got in talks with us, we thought he would make for an interesting casting. Now, Akshay plays an evil character, the bad boy in the film, hence for the protégé role, we wanted to find an actor who is exactly the opposite of him. And I think Imran really fits the bill as he could represent the loyalty and goodness that was required from him. For the girl’s role, my criterion was to cast an actress who could look good opposite both these men. It was very important because when two men are going to fall in love with a woman, she should look good opposite both of them. And I think Sonakshi is one girl who met this requirement. She is beautiful, sensual and one of the most interesting talents of our times.
Please tell us about your rehearsal process with the actors. How do you familiarize them with the characters to bring out the best in them? How is the experience of working with an ensemble cast in both these films?
We did lots of readings and prepared them about the period. Also, we did a lot of look and makeup tests for them. We changed their styling, hairstyle, clothes, attitude, everything. And since they all had seen the first part, they understood the mood and adapted to it very well. I had an interesting experience working with them on this film. I think Akshay is a wonderful guy and an extremely easy actor to work with. He is always laughing and joking on the sets and pulling everybody’s leg. Even Imran is a very relaxed guy. The fact that I have made films, which have been massively appreciated, I sensed a lot of respect from my actors this time. I sensed that they really wanted me to get good performances out of them. But all said and done, ultimately it is as much the actors as the director who contributes to the performance, and I must say that all the three actors have delivered very fine performances in this film.
[pullquote_left]I think, music is something which you don’t really plan out carefully. You just come across good tunes and you pick them up.[/pullquote_left]
What role does music play in this film and how do you go about choosing the kind of music? What was your brief to the music director?
We took Pritam, who had done the first part also, as we wanted to keep the same kind of ambiance in the music. We have tried to maintain the same Sufi touch in all our songs. In the previous film we had bought the rights to an old song, Monika Oh My Darling and for this film also, we were lucky enough to get the rights of the song Tayyab Ali. I think, music is something which you don’t really plan out carefully. You just come across good tunes and you pick them up.
What were the major challenges faced by you during the shooting of this film and how did you overcome them?
Of course, films do have challenges like you have to finish it on time, do your work well and manage everybody. But apart from these regular challenges, the major pressure for me was to keep in mind the things that people have enjoyed in part one and give it again to them. For example, the kind of dialogues, punch lines and one-liners, which the first part had, I was determined to create something better than that.
There is a sequence in the beginning of the film where we have shown a little bit of match fixing. I enjoyed that because we shot it with a large crowd and had a helicopter in place to show the match being played plus the commentators and the private boxes, which makes it a very interesting sequence. Also the song, Tayyab Ali was a lot of fun to shoot amongst hundreds of dancers and people in the background. But my favorite sequence in the film happens to be the climax that has come out really well. It was shot in the night at the sets of Dongri and very dramatically. Basically, it’s a fight to the finish and I quite enjoyed it.