When director Milan Luthria decided to film his don drama, Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai, in real locations in the city, he did not anticipate a female don landing up at a seedy bar on Raey Road, on the last day of the schedule. Reportedly, she had come to meet Ajay Devgn and strolled to his van that was parked some distance away. An attendant then informed her that the star had already packed up and left. Upset, she abused, and even slapped the guy.
Luthria admitted that the story was true and says that she even threatened to burn down Ajay’s van unless they paid up. “Since Ajay’s van is worth a lot more than what she wanted, we eventually had to give in to her demand,” he says, refusing to disclose how much money exchanged hands. “The production team had sorted the issue out by the time I reached the place.”Luthria met the godmother later and was surprised that someone so thin and wiry could wield so much power and evoke such fear. The experience didn’t deter Luthria from returning to shoot there again, when high tide prevented an action sequence from being filmed on a barge.
There was trouble in Dongri, too, when he was shooting with Emraan Hashmi. Hashmi’s character, Shoib, is modeled on Dawood Ibrahim who had grown up there and the locals were curious to meet him. Luthria recalls that two rival gangs were getting a little too close, so the security guards were asked to push them back.
“I’m told that an argument flared up between them and our production guys, who were caught in between, were bashed up and a couple of cars were damaged,” says Luthria, who admits that it was an effort to not say anything provocative in the circumstances. “These are secluded areas with the sea bordering one side and a narrow gully the only way out. I knew that if things heated up, we could be hemmed in.”
Luthria is all praise for his actors who didn’t complain that their vans had to be parked some distance away, that there were no restrooms and even a sandwich was a 15 minutes walk away. “But,” says Luthria, “When you see the film, you’ll agree that it had to be shot on real locations.”