Good things happen to people who wait, they say, and there cannot be a better example than Tigmanshu Dhulia. He’s been an actor, writer, casting director and director, but he had to wait quite a while to make an impression in the industry, which doesn’t give many chances to people who don’t taste success immediately. His journey began with Mani Ratnam’s Dil Se (1999) in which he was the dialogue writer. Films like Haasil and Charas followed in a directorial capacity, but he had to wait for the release of Paan Singh Tomar in 2012 for luck and the industry to finally smile at him. He happens to be a trained actor from the National School of Drama, but decided not to pursue it because he thought he was bad at it. Ask any fan of Gangs Of Wasseypur, however, and they will tell you that no one but him could have played Ramadhir Singh. Soon, he will be seen playing Shah Rukh Khan’s father in the superstar’s next film, Zero. But before that, Tishu, as he is fondly called in the industry, talks about the release of the third instalment of his much-loved franchise, Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster.

“The only regret I have, barring one or two films, is I’ve had very bad experiences with my producers. I don’t get good producers, for some reason”

 You complete 15 years as a director with the release of Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster 3. How do you look back at the journey?

 This needs a lot of introspection. Instantaneously, all I can say is that it has been very fruitful, looking at the fact that when I came into the industry, things were very different. Earlier, you had to assist someone and while assisting, whoever was acting in your film, you built a rapport with them, try and narrate a script, persuade him and then you get to make your own film. Back then, starting your first film was very difficult. Now it is very easy to showcase your work, you can put it on YouTube or have a private screening. Even shooting a film has become less expensive. So, coming to Mumbai with no back-up and no camps, wherever I’ve reached, I should be happy, but there were ups and downs. There was a gap of seven years when I would start a film and then it would get shelved, and for seven years after my second film, none of my films released, so those seven years were quite frustrating The only regret I have, barring one or two films, is I’ve had very bad experiences with my producers. . I don’t get good producers, for some reason.

Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster has grown bigger with every instalment. The latest one stars Sanjay Dutt. How important are stars in today’s cinema?

 Stars are important, and with time, they are going to be even more so. Not many people are going into theatres these days, getting the crowd into theaters has become a huge problem. Footfalls have dropped, so it has to be a huge film like Baahubali or a Hollywood franchise or films with huge stars. So many good films like Masaan or Ankhon Dekhi, these are good films and eventually these are the films that will be registered in Indian cinema. But people watch them on the internet, and not in theatres. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, there was a very successful parallel cinema movement that was taking place, and they were very popular, be it Govind Nihalani’s films or Shyam Benegal’s or Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s films. Even traffic has played a major role in reducing footfalls, be it big cities or small cities. Like in a place like Allahabad, my hometown, a cinema hall was a distance of 20-25 minutes on my cycle, but now even in a car it takes 45 minutes.

 

What was it like working with Sanjay Dutt?

When we began work on the film, we had a slight idea about the story. We were clear that we will follow the same story structure we had followed in the first two parts. The story is moving forward, but the motivations are the same. So we needed a new gangster, the rest of the characters will remain the same, and when you say gangster only Sanjay Dutt’s name pops up in everyone’s mind. So we met him, and he agreed. He is a very cool actor. He heard the story in the beginning and had asked for a full story narration just before we began shooting, and there was no third meeting. Also, I wanted to show him the way he looks best, given his age.

Irrfan Khan happens to be your senior from NSD, and he’s someone with whom you have worked the most. He’s currently in London for his treatment. Are you in touch with him?

 We have exchanged a few messages, but I don’t message him more, though one feels that one should check in. But, it doesn’t seem nice, as he knows best how his health is. But, yes, he is responding well to the medicines. He is very cheerful, and he goes about his days with a lot of joy, meets people, interacts with them.

 How open are you to online platforms, given that your friend Anurag Kashyap has plunged into it with Sacred Games?

 I’m so happy that this digital platform has come. I know I will do a lot of good work here. I feel I was made for this because, for me, the world is my audience now. I just made two episodes for a ten-part show for Applause Entertainment, for the Indian version of a very famous BBC show called Criminal Justice.

A film of yours that has been in the making for the longest time is Milan Talkies. A lot of big names were attached to it, then they dropped out. What is the current status of the film, and what has made you stick with the script for such a long time?

The film has been 70 per cent shot, and we will be finishing the rest of the portions very soon. The film now stars Ali Fazal and Shraddha Srinath — she’s an actress from Kannada films. Why I have stayed with the script for a long time is because it is so good; it is very rare to find a script like this. The film is my Bobby. Even Ekta Kapoor, who wanted to produce the film, tried a lot to make the film, so she also believed the film to be that good. In the end, I told her, ‘Give me the script. I will make it my way without any pressure,’ and she agreed.

You worked with Shah Rukh Khan as a dialogue writer in Dil Se, and now you’ve worked with him as an actor in Zero. How was the experience this time?

 My entire experience of working with SRK as an actor this time was very pleasant. I admire him for many things. He is so humble. He is respectful of everyone on the sets, even the actors who are in supporting roles. You don’t get to see something like this in our industry. If you want to, he will rehearse with you, be it 10 times or 50 times, and if you falter, he will be patient — and very cheerfully patient

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