Not every film needs to be preachy or boast of carrying a socially relevant message. Director Milan Luthria is one of those filmmakers who believe in making entertaining cinema. With Baadshaho, too, he attempts to revisit the genre of the Indian Western. In an exclusive chat with InUth, before the release of the film, he talked about making a woman-oriented film, how Ajay Devgn is different from other superstars and why Aishwarya Rai was replaced with Ileana.
It’s not just Emraan and Ajay, you are also again collaborating with writer Rajat Arora. How did you find this brilliant combination?
Right from day 1, I realised Rajat had a very strong sense of commercial cinema, entertaining cinema (and) slightly fast paced narratives. His work goes deeper than the other films emotionally. He likes to have a full canvas, like me. So, even in Baadshaho, it appears to be an action film but there are layers of drama, suspense, romance, and humour. I needed somebody who could juggle all these elements in two hours and that’s where the combination works because we both think alike.
Baadshaho is also one of the films that have your signature style. But, is there something different that you would tell through this movie?
Baadshaho is like an (Indian) Western. It’s a Western told through today’s cinematic language, just like the film The Hateful Eight. And Western is a genre which has not been attempted much in India. It’s a genre I like very much. The dusty deserts, earthy stuff, folk music and guns – so for me it was a wonderful experience to go back into the same terrain after a long gap since Kachche Dhaage.
The other thing was (that) it’s a film about six gray characters who are involved in this heist. Again, I think there are not many films made on (a) heist in India.
But, most of your characters are gray characters. Neither of them is a complete hero or a complete villain. Where does this come from?
It comes from a dislike of very goody-goody characters.
So let me ask you straight, why do they have faults?
I think we are all faulty. I think we are all gray in some way. We all have a little bit to hide. We all make mistakes. We are all humans. We are all doing things which we shouldn’t be doing. We regret them. We all lose our temper sometimes. We take rash decisions. I think that’s what life really is [about]. It fascinates me.
There’s so much more to explore in a gray character than in a sugar-sweet character. I find those extremely boring. Fortunately, the viewers have picked up those things — these are more interesting guys or women.
To talk about strong female characters in your films, there’s one brilliant woman that you portrayed on screen — Silk Smitha. Are there plans to make a woman oriented film again?
Definitely. I would love to go back there. It’s just that having done such a powerful story (The Dirty Picture) – a story which left us all emotionally moved and empowered – was very tough to do. It took a lot out of me. It took a lot out of Vidya. And the fact that the genre could be made to be respected in this country, was a very big personal achievement for me. I have to find something which is as challenging and hopefully (as) gratifying and entertaining. If that kind of energy comes my way and I find a performer who can do full justice to it, (I’ll take it up).
Why not Vidya again?
Of course. Why not? 100 percent. It just depends on the character.
Aishwarya Rai was approached for Ileana’s role initially in Baadshaho. What went wrong?
Nothing went wrong. In today’s time, when you are casting for a film with so many actors, there are meetings [and] conversations [and] you look at their availability. You look at the final combination. So, we had a talk and it didn’t work out. I happened [to] bump into Ileana on the sets of Rustom. I had gone to have lunch with Akshay. I didn’t recognize her. She came and introduced herself to me. I found her [to be] looking different than in her earlier films. She carried a period look in that film. I immediately told her that let’s meet and talk about the film. I called her a few months later and she told me that she was keen to work with me. We had a couple of meetings and something just clicked.
How is Ajay Devgn different from the other superstars you have worked with?
I have worked with most of them, (even) with Akshay and Salman. And I find that they are all actually the same. They are very relaxed people. They are very easy to please. They are not difficult at all. It’s their temperament which has got them where they are today. If they didn’t get along with people, if they couldn’t handle stress, if they couldn’t work with different filmmakers… You need to have a very fine temperament because there is a lot of pressure from fans.
There’s media, there’s a director, there’s a producer, there are co-stars (and) you (need to) travel all the time. You cannot be seen behaving rudely to anybody or (be) impatient or late. It’s only (having) a good temperament that has eased these people through their stardom.
And do you think that today’s generation lacks that?
I am not saying that. Today’s generation is also extremely hard working.
Then, why do we say that the kind of superstars we have had till now, there can’t be any from the new generation?
I didn’t say that. Their journey has just begun. They will have their own path. It’s an extremely focused generation. It’s a generation who knows they will have to work really hard to match up to the older generation. And they have to be given an ample time to get the experience and to work with the seasoned filmmakers (and) to get closer to the medium. It’s not that Akshay, Salman, Ajay and all these people learned everything in five or six films. They are a hundred films old, each one of them. So, it takes time and I think that these guys (the newer generation) are making a very strong impact.
So early in their careers, their films are doing really well. Their fan following is huge. They know how to handle the media. They know how to work on their characters. They work on changing their looks. It’s fantastic.
So, what are the upcoming projects?
I haven’t decided yet. There are a couple of projects we are working on. It took a lot out of me to work on a film with six actors. I need to take a bit of a break. It’s been (for) eight months that we have been working almost 16 hours a day.
But, don’t take too long to wear the director’s hat again.
Everybody says that. But, we have two ideas that have in mind. At least one of them will kick start soon.