After seven years of not having a single release, two of your films have been appreciated critically and commercially. Do you feel you’ve finally found your footing?
I always got appreciation. With Sahib Biwi Aur Gangster (SBG) and Paan Singh Tomar (PST), I have finally tasted commercial success. That kind of acceptance is very overwhelming.
Are you going to release films more regularly now?
I have four scripts ready to be made. There is the SBG sequel in May, Milan Talkies for Balaji Motion Pictures. I am going to produce at least one of my own films under my banner and many production houses have approached to make films for them. I will turn producer for others, as well. I am inviting likeminded people to make films under my banner. Sushen Bhatnagar, who made Soch and Monica earlier will direct a film under my banner and may start shooting this year, if his script is ready. I have also come on board to be a creative producer for my assistant Karan’s debut film.
Has the decision to help come from your own struggle to get your films made and released?
I am not helping anybody. I am just getting likeminded people under one roof to work together. It isn’t social service. It’s my business.
Has success helped you get producers easily now?
If you are making films that don’t follow the norms of regular Hindi cinema, then you face problems, which I did for many years. Sometimes, it benefited me. I didn’t know what else to do. I can make only these kinds of films.
But SBG and Paan Singh Tomar (PST) turned out commercial...
My debut film Haasil was commercial as well. It had drama and a qawwali number, but those days, family dramas and formula films worked better. Today, the audience is more discerning. If you can make people laugh, it’s commercial. But if I have made people cry with Paan Singh Tomar, that is commercial as well. I have nothing against commercial films. The difference with my films is that I bet on actors more than just popular faces. My scripts need a certain amount of acting prowess and not just pretty faces.
Is it a painful struggle to get a wider release for your films?
I produced SBG myself and released it in 700 screens. PST initially got 225 screens. UTV is a bigger producer than me. I don’t blame their hesitation about PST. It wasn’t a regular film, there wasn’t an item number and they don’t yet count Irrfan Khan as a huge star. He has a niche market. Yet, the film caught up via word of mouth. In its fourth week, they increased the number of screen to 425.