Biopics in Bollywood have often created furore. Mahesh Bhatt’s Gangster was reportedly director Anurag Basu and his interpretation of Abu Salem’s life. The real gangster, who was then in jail, had sent a legal notice to Bhatt for making a film on him without asking his consent.
Sundar Shekhar Mirza, said to be Haji Mastan’s adopted son, has sent a legal notice to Balaji Telefilms and director Milan Luthria for making Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai on his late father.
According to sources associated with Balaji, Mirza’s notice questions the production company’s rights to make a film on is father without the late don’s family’s consent.
It also makes hue and cry about the project linking Mastan with Dawood Ibrahim, who has been declared a terrorist by the Indian government for the March 12, 1992 Bombay Bomb Blasts. Besides, the US too has issued a red alert notice against him.
We tried contacting producer Ekta Kapoor and director Milan Luthria, but they didn’t revert to our text messages. Interestingly, in 2007, Mirza was taken to court by the late don’s daughters for misusing his name to carry out illegal activities.
Shamshaad Supariwala, on behalf of her elder sisters, Kamrunissa and Mehrunissa sent him a legal notice to stop using their father Haji Mastan’s name for illegal activities.
Who was Haji Mastan?
Born in the coastal town of Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu, in 1938, Haji Mastan Mirza came to Mumbai at 17. He started work as a Cooli (porter) on the docks and went on to become powerful and indispensable to the political leadership of Maharashtra.
By late ’60s, he expanded his clout to the Indian film industry and was also known for his links with Dilip Kumar. He also forayed into film production and distribution with Mere Garib Nawaz.
Apparently, Amitabh Bachchan met Mastan to study his mannerisms for his character in Yash Chopra’s Deewar, supposedly based on the don’s life.
Though he possessed a huge mansion off Peddar Road, he lived his life in a small room built on the terrace of his bungalow. But once out of his home, Haji Mastan was a man of style – Always clad in pure white designer wear, a pack of imported cigarettes in hand, Mastan used to travel in a chauffeur driven Mercedes-Benz, a status symbol in those days.
‘I prefer action dramas because there’s plenty of scope to perform’
After emulating a young politico in Raajneeti, you turn a Mumbai don next month in Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai. Apprehensive about the drastic difference in the characters?
No. Actually, I’m pleased with the feedback on the promos. Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai is about the underworld that was emerging back in the day. Smuggling was becoming rampant. My character’s name is Sultan. It’s been a while since Company. This film, I feel, is one of the better products in the genre since.
Several of your traits, including the way you sat through the script with Ram Gopal Varma, were incorporated in Company as Malik’s. Have any of your traits been woven into your new don avatar, Sultan?
Ramu had come with a script to me, which he wanted to work on after Company. The next morning, he called and said that the way I was listening to the script was how his character in Company behaved. So he wanted to narrate Company’s script to me. I guess you’re just born with certain traits. I can’t recall which mannerisms of mine have been turned into Sultan’s. But I try to be the person I’m playing on a given day with spontaneity. Right now, I’m too involved with Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai. Later, when I’m detached from Sultan, I might be able to tell you which aspects of Sultan were mine.
How different are Sultan and Malik?
They’re not the same people. We’re revisiting the genre but with a different film. Malik was cold, mean and devoid of emotions. Sultan is a colourful, flamboyant guy with a heart. He works against the government, not the people. He’s a smuggler who’s against drug pedalling.
Your character is reportedly based on Haji Mastan. Do you remember reading anything about him?
I have no memories of the name. We’ve not followed his life in the movie. Even though it’s inspired by Haji Mastan, Sultan is a fictitious character. Haji Mastan’s name comes to people’s minds because he was probably the only popular mafia guy of the 1970s. If you glamourise his character, it sounds like perfect fodder for a masala Hindi film. The film, in any case, doesn’t glamorize the underworld and mafia.
Any memories of the 1970s?
I was a kid, so can’t recall much. I remember there wasn’t so much traffic and the roads were wide, there were open spaces. We used to watch a lot of films, especially Amitji’s (Amitabh Bachchan) movies.
Reportedly, your character also draws from Amitabh Bachchan’s white outfits in Deewar .
The look is character driven. It’s about a man who has lived in the dark all his life, worked at coal docks. He hates dark colours. That’s primarily why chose to dress up Sultan in white. The costume and the hairstyle have been borrowed from that era, complete with the long side-locks and hair covering the ears.
This is your third film with Milan Luthria after Kachche Dhaage and Chori Chori.
I’ve known him for over 15 years. He was assisting Bhatt saab (Mahesh Bhatt). He narrated Kachche Dhaage to me. I liked it and the film worked well commercially too. We understand each other really well. I know how he might want a scene. He knows exactly how I’ll enact it. He writes the script accordingly then. We have a certain synergy now.
An action scene featuring you in great proximity with a train has become talk of town. What runs through your mind before filming an action, stunt-heavy scene?
We had a train sequence in Kachche Dhaage too. I can’t talk much about the scene in Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai because it’ll give quite a bit away. It’s a thrilling sequence. Before any such scene, I ensure that all the safety checks have been completed. Once everything is okayed I just do my bit for the scene. Thinking too much is distracting.
After a string of comic entertainers like the Golmaal series and All The Best, you’re back with intense characters like Suraj in Raajneeti, action films like Priyadarshan’s Aakrosh and the remake of the Malayalam hit, Puthiya Mukham with Rohit Shetty.
Look, I’m trying to balance the picture. Aakrosh has a dose of action. It’s encouraging you’re appreciated for action, comedy and drama. Sanjay’s (Sanjay Dutt) production is a comedy called Rascals and that’s the only comedy film I’m doing apart from Golmaal 3. Rohit and I will start working on the Puthiya Mukham remake next year. I wanted to do an entertaining action film. I’m glad Priyan’s Aakrosh came my way. There’s another one with him in the pipeline too. Rajji’s (Rajkumar Santoshi) film is an action drama.
There’s a difference between an action film and a stunt-based film.
I prefer action dramas because there’s plenty of scope to perform.
In hindsight, did you expect Raajneeti to become a hit because few political dramas are made in India?
I expected it to do well. The idea the idea of merging Godfather with Mahabharata keeping the current political milieu of Central India in mind was fantastic. The youth today is becoming more and more politically aware and conscious. That worked in our favour and it will help bring about a change in the system. During our debates at the various university campuses before the film’s release, we observed that the youth understands politics really well in a lot of places. They take interest and form strong opinions.The media has done its bit too to make the youth politically aware.
Your absence at the Raajneeti premiere sparked off speculation that you were upset with Prakash Kha for promoting the film with Ranbir Kapoor-Katrina Kaif’s romantic angle.
I was preoccupied with preparations for Golmaal 3’s the next schedule. I was dubbing for Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai too. Besides, I’m known for avoiding premieres and promotions (smiles).
The audience seemed eager to see the drama your character Suraj introduces when he’s on screen. The promos reflect that now. Poetic justice, you think?
I think the reaction is because probably people want to see me in a role like that. Before the release, I was told that the audience was missing me in serious intense roles. Although the audience has appreciated the comedies I’ve done, but it’s been a long time since I had done a hard-hitting film like this. People were waiting for that. So I’m glad it worked.
Many wished they could see more of you in the film and felt bad for Suraj when he’s shot by Ranbir Kapoor’s character Samar.
That’s what Karna’s character was like in Mahabharat. He was the only character who was wronged and a lot of people sympathise with him because he didn’t want to do what he did. Karna stuck by his friendship with and promise to Duryodhana. He even went against his family for that. Karna went through tremendous pain.
Lastly, what do you look forward to the most in the months ahead?
Second round of fatherhood, without a doubt. And all my family is eagerly looking forward to it too.