In the middle of filming his dusty, rugged entertainer BAADSHAHO, MILAN LUTHRIA tells NICHOLA PAIS that the viewer has made up his mind that he will no longer be fooled by gimmicks.
In a lot of ways, it has been a watershed year mainly because the viewer has made up his mind that he is not going to be fooled by gimmicks. He is extremely clear – it has not got anything to do with stardom. Of course, the scale will vary but primarily he wants to watch well-made movies. Whether they are small-budged, medium-budget, big-budget, regional… it doesn’t matter, which explains the success of films like SAIRAT and PINK.
When DIRTY PICTURE was released, they said women will not watch this film. And I said women will be the highest percentage of my viewers. And I fought it till the release. And on the Monday after the film’s release, there were only women in the cinema halls! They thought the film would titillate men, but the women could see through and realise that this was material of value.
The value aspect of filmmaking has emerged and the whole sham that was making a project, or just being lazy about your work – that’s gone away. I think the change started a couple of months before 2016 began. With so much information being distributed so fast, there is a growing understanding that it is worth going and watching a film like AANKHON DEKHI. But just because somebody has spent Rs.80 crore on a film, doesn’t compel viewers to go and watch it. I think that is what everybody has realised – at least the audience has realised it; some filmmakers may or may not accept it. For me, that’s been the wake-up call of the year.
Content is king – we have always been talking about it but now no shortcuts will be tolerated. Whether it carries a star on its face or doesn’t, whether it is a big filmmaker or a small one, if you don’t do your job really well and if you don’t work really hard on your film, they will discard it. So, marketing, appearing on hundreds of TV shows, running all over the country – it makes no difference. You make a good film, it makes all the difference.
I think we are close to the debutante ball of the Indian webseries. That is going to be introduced to society. There was so much talk about it in the early part of the year; now it is all falling into place. Again, it will take time before we can separate the wheat from the chaff; just like what happened with Doordarshan and other television platforms. In the beginning, everybody will rush there to dump their rubbish and give it a second-hand treatment. But that is not what the viewer is going to accept. He wants you to give him something you have done yourself, or believe in very strongly. Or if you are mentoring, it has to be very deeply felt – not just put your brand name to something and send it off. Again, content will be king.
Speaking of the tastes of a cinema-going audience vis a vis a webseries-watching viewer, they would not differ. I think it is just connecting with the story, connecting with the characters. A lot of filmmakers would feel that now they are not compelled to cater to the bottom of the spectrum, which is the meaty massy bottom. They might feel that on the web they can go a little more niche or hard-core. But I don’t agree. I think that if the country is coming of age yet again – we are said to be the youngest nation with the highest percentage of youth – if they are to consume, they will consume across all bandwidths, all across strata. When you look at mobile network companies giving you so much data free, and you are looking at wifi everywhere, then the labourer, the driver, everybody will consume it! Why won’t they? They will learn – they are using smartphones, aren’t they? I don’t agree that it is a purely niche-driven platform.
I have always tried to find the Golden Middle where my films have been slightly massy as well as have a certain kind of sensibility. So I have followed that and I think I will continue to do that. I don’t want to alienate anyone. I want emotions and stories that will connect with people, generally. There are always people who won’t like a film or who won’t connect with a particular kind of film. But if you balance it out well, the larger number of people will connect.
We have already shooting; we shot a song with Emraan Hashmi and Sunny Leone and a couple of scenes. We soon leave for a long schedule in Rajasthan, we come back for Christmas and New Year and then we go back again for 40 days. So we are all going to be on the road together. It is a tough film, it has a lot of action; also it is a multi-starrer so it has six to seven principal players. The challenge will be to do justice to everyone and keep everybody comfortable, motivated.
It’s a nice dusty, set-in-the-rugged-locales entertainer. It is very different from anything I have done before. So we have had some wonderful recces to find virgin locations. We have a foreign action crew flying down. There are some new interesting technicians we are working with. So it is a very different energy compared to what I have done in the past. Hopefully I will stay a little bit ahead of falling into where people are trying to slot me! They have already said that I only do male-centric films, then they said I only do gangster films, so I am trying to give them something else whereby they can’t slot me again!
I have taken my time to put this film together. It has been a very relaxed time, a time for polishing the script and taking mini breaks, and looking at it from a distance, and also planning ahead after this movie – which way am I going, which actors am I working with, which formats am I working on… But the last two months have been absolutely heavy-duty. If you are having a costume trial, you are going to be having seven actors doing a costume trial! But it has been fun.