On Monday, Sunil Bohra, co-producer of the forthcoming Sahib Biwi Aur Gangster, is planning a special preview of the film for late filmmaker Guru Dutt’s family, including his sister Lalita Lajmi, her filmmaker-daughter Kalpana Lajmi, his first cousin Shyam Benegal and son Arun Dutt. “I’ve already spoken to Shyam babu, who is in Delhi, and he has promised to be there. It’s a film he had shortlisted as a must-watch even before we extended the invitation,” says Bohra.
However, he is quick to refute misconceptions that the first screening for the Dutts is because his film is a contemporary take on the black-and-white classic, Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam (1962) that he admits to having watched a few times. “There are no similarities and no comparisons,” Bohra asserts. “It’s just that the two words, sahib (master) and biwi (wife) have become iconic today thanks to Guru Dutt’s film. When Tigmanshu (director Tigmanshu Dhulia) and I were brainstorming on a title, we locked on these two words first since the story is about a husband and a wife, then added the Aur Gangster because his entry turns their world topsy-turvy. It’s a different and wacky story having little in common with the original apart from the fact that my sahib is also of royal blood, a prince who’s lost everything but his family pride.”
The film is set in Uttar Pradesh but was shot in Badai near Surat, Gujarat. “The rajasahab (king) is a friend of Tigmanshu’s and we filmed at his palace. And the costumes of Jimmy (Shergil) and Mahie (Gill) are designed by Digvijay Singh, who is a prince himself,” informs Bohra, adding that his actors, along with the crew, took huge pay cuts to give the film its rich’ look. “We were like a group of friends working towards living out a technicolor dream.”
Interestingly, just last month, Mahie played the lead in Ram Gopal Varma’s Not A Love Story in which her character was modelled on Maria Susiaraj, who was an accomplice to the horrific murder of Neeraj Grover, along with her fiancé Emile Jerome. After seeing her as an aspiring Bollywood starlet who swings to the Rangeela beat, will people accept her as a regal biwi? “Why not?” quips Bohra, who produced the earlier film. “Not A Love Story got her a lot of appreciation as an actor and that can only help when she returns with a drastically-different role. Didn’t people accept Meena Kumari as a woman who takes to drinking in a desperate bid to keep her saiyan (lover) home back in the ’60s? Why won’t they accept Mahie?”