Writer-director Tigmanshu Dhulia loves to cook, his speciality being mutton. But when we meet for lunch at the fine dining restaurant Ubuntu in Andheri, Mumbai, he orders only vegetarian dishes. This is some sort of superstition prior to the release of his new film Sahib Biwi Aur Gangster, so a crispy veg starter precedes nazakat ke kofte, kaali daal, tandoori roti and mixed veg raita, all washed down with fresh lime soda.
Allahabad boy Dhulia trained as an actor at the National School of Drama (NSD) but a bad production of Ibsen’s The Wild Duck in his second year helped him decide he was a very bad actor. Twenty years later, he was persuaded to take on a pivotal role in Anurag Kashyap’s film Gangs of Wasseypur, making him one of Bollywood’s most multi-faceted men.
How did you end up in Bollywood?
I moved to Delhi from Allahabad because I wanted to go to a place of intellectual indulgence with a liberal environment and girls. I checked out NSD and saw Irrfan Khan and Mita Vashisht performing in a very good play. The girls on campus were pretty and some were smoking. And I thought, I have to come here! After graduating, I became an assistant director on Pradip Krishen’s Electric Moon and then joined Shekhar Kapur on Bandit Queen. Shekharji said come to Bombay, so I did. In Bombay, I worked with Shekharji, did some TV shows, wrote dialogues for Mani Ratnam and Rajkumar Santoshi and then I directed my first feature film, Haasil (2003).
You have only made four films so far, including Charas, Shagird and Sahib... How come?
Well, Paan Singh Tomar should release by March 2012, and I had begun others like Killing of a Porn Filmmaker (with Irrfan Khan), Ghulami (with Sunny Deol) and Showman (with Govinda), all of which got stalled for various reasons. I have two other projects brewing now – Milan Talkies and Bhiwani.
How different is Sahib Biwi Aur Gangster from Guru Dutt’s Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam?
My film takes its premise and the three characters from the Guru Dutt film, but has a completely different plot. My film is an exploration of betrayal. The Sahib (Jimmy Shergill) has feudal values and for him betrayal is not immoral. The Biwi (Mahi Gill) thinks she will betray her husband for a while and then take control of things, but they get out of hand. The Gangster (Randeep Hooda) betrays for love. In our case, the title came first, then the location and then the script.
You are a trained actor. What do you think of the acting talent pool today?
The lack of acting talent is the greatest difference between Bollywood and Hollywood. In the West, the actors are trained. But not here. For instance, a classical singer does riyaaz for his or her art. But here all an actor has to do is go to the gym. It’s a joke. My biggest strength as a director is getting performances out of my cast. Men between the ages of 14 and 60 are terrible actors, because they are inhibited and afraid to make mistakes. Since I am a trained actor I get a performance out of them. However my films may fare, no one can say there is bad acting in them.
How come you decided to act again?
Anurag asked if I would do a part in Gangs of Wasseypur and since he had just played a part in my Shagird, I felt I should do it. I only read the first part of this two-part film, not realising that I play the main villain in both parts. My character ages from 45 to 75 years. I have not acted for 20 years and this role requires a seasoned, trained actor. But Anurag insisted, so I did it.
Fave directors: Vijay Anand, Raj Khosla, Guru Dutt, Raj Kapoor.
Recent films i liked: Nauka Doobi, Dabangg, and The Burning Plain by Guillermon Arriaga.
New talent: Anushka Sharma and Ranbir Kapoor. He is the best, and like his father, he is effortless.
The Khans: Salman is the true superhero of this industry; nobody can match his charisma. Aamir is the finest actor we have. He is the best combination of actor and star. Shah Rukh is the most charming of them all and is full of energy.
From HT Brunch, October 2
Follow us on twitter.com/HTBrunch
Connect with us on facebook.com/hindustantimesbrunch