Stories matter, places don't: Tigmanshu Dhulia
The director on staying off the beaten track when it comes to making films
When he sits down to express his views, it becomes apparent that he’s very similar to the kind of films he makes. Tigmanshu Dhulia speaks his mind without mincing words. The filmmaker, who started his career with Doordarshan before switching to the big screen, sounds thrilled to work with Irrfan again in his upcoming sequel. In a chat with us, Tigmanshu talks about cinema and its various facets...
What drives you as a filmmaker?
Society, the rights and the wrongs in it, the newspapers, random incidents of our industry, politics, biographies, the lack of a hero whom I can personally admire... these are some of the factors that inspire me to keep writing and coming up with films.
Is that why your work tends to reflect reality?
Not only mine, even others’ too if you notice. Earlier, the stories used to be way too unreal. If you talk about all the Shava Shava movies, you often end up asking yourself “Was that for real?” and the answer you usually get was a very simple: “They don’t exist.” Those films were meant to cater to the NRI crowd. Storytelling as an art is changing now.
So we’re moving towards rustic backgrounds for unexplored plots?
See, the practice of classifying a Bollywood film into urbane and rural is quite misguided. Any film that doesn’t take place in Mumbai or Delhi is conveniently labelled as rustic. It doesn’t matter even if the story is happening in Lucknow, which has equally large malls and multiplexes like any other city! To me, stories matter, places don’t.
And is it a conscious decision to sketch strong women characters?
When I first thought of adapting Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam, I knew that somebody would be taking Meena Kumari’s role forward. I couldn’t just delete or dilute her part. That’s how Mahie Gill’s character took form. And she naturally comes across as a level-headed fearless woman with a distinct voice of her own.
What was the greatest challenge in writing Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster Returns?
With every sequel, you introduce new characters. So that introduction of a third actor — Irrfan in this case — raises obvious conflicts. He had to be written in a certain manner.
How is your equation with Irrfan?
We two go back to our National School of Drama days. I respect him a lot, not only because we are close friends but also because of the way he has carved himself a place in the pantheons of actors. There is nobody else who comes close to the varied work he is currently doing.
Do you see yourself going back to television for a change?
TV has no life. It has become too regressive. Things were far better when I was making television shows. Nowadays, it’s all about TRP. I’m 45 so my priority should be to create things I’ll be remembered for, right?