Inspired by history

Inspired by history

back in time

Inspired  by history

He started out with Haasil, a love story set against turbulent college politics, in 2003. The film was barely marketed and did not do well, but over the last 14 years it has achieved cult status.

Tigmanshu Dhulia has never been a ‘hit’ film-maker — his Shagird (2011) featuring Nana Patekar is also lost in the mists of anonymity despite its brilliance, again due to producers cold-shouldering its marketing and release.

Luckily for Tigmanshu, his Paan Singh Tomar, completed in 2010, has joined Haasil in making him a respected name in industry circles with the waves it made abroad. In 2011, he also made another now-cult-then-break-even film, Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster, a delightful confection of crime, dark humour and illicit passion. Paan Singh Tomar released in 2012, did reasonably well and scored high with critics.

The director burnt his fingers with the commercial Bullett Raja and the Saheb… sequel in the following years and seemingly seemed to go off the film-making radar, acting instead in movies like Gangs Of Wasseypur, Shahid, Hero and Manjhi-The Mountain Man and doing a few insignificant films as a co-writer.

After the break

But now, he has announced Sahib Biwi Aur Gangster 3 with Sanjay Dutt, is slating the delayed Yaara for October and has just released a remarkable film, Raag Desh.

We ask if the three-year sabbatical was planned or organic and Tigmanshu declares, “I make films, not college skits or drawing-room comedies! Yaara was to take off immediately after Bullett Raja but the producers delayed it as they wanted to finish a more commercial film first, which incidentally bombed! Now Yaara will release in October. By that time, I got Raag Desh. This film needed 18 months of research and a year more to shoot.”

Raag Desh is unique — it is the first-ever feature produced by none other than Rajya Sabha Productions. The film’s teaser and trailer were both released in Parliament, and the movie has already been shown at Rashtrapati Bhawan. 
So how did this honour happen? Shrugs Tigmanshu, “They had the subject, so maybe the subject chose me! We worked on the script together. You see, I am not one of those uneducated film-makers but a graduate and a History student from the Allahabad University!” he adds sardonically.

For those who came in late, Raag Desh is the saga of three brave soldiers from Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s INA, who faced the infamous Red Fort trials and were executed. 
Naturally, the research had to be exacting. “It opened my eyes!” states Tigmanshu. “Like millions of Indians, I was under this delusion that the negotiations and pressures of the Second World War caused the British to be fed up and that eventually got us freedom. But, do you know that 26,000 INA soldiers had laid down their lives for the nation?”

He goes on, “As for Netaji, he was the complete and idealistic Indian. The Left, the Right and the Centre keep talking about him, but no one knew his entire ideology. He was also one of our most secular names, and carried a rosary, had the Bhagwad Gita next to him, and considered Swami Vivekananda as his guru.”

The Red Fort trials really laid the foundation for the process of freedom for India, as the British realised that if they could not control the Army, they could not hope to rule over the nation. The film-maker says, “So since the trials heralded the birth of a nation and were like a song to commemorate this, we locked the title ‘Raag Desh’ (country).”

Casting right

Tigmanshu’s casting process was interesting. “Of my three protagonists, Shah Nawaz Khan was intense, measured, logical but also emotional. Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon was brash, a quick-tempered man and a great friend to have. Prem Segal was soft, polite, charming, the son of a High Court judge,” he says.

The director knew he had characters suited to the T to yesterday’s Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra and Shashi Kapoor respectively. “I knew Kunal Kapoor, and we always wanted to work together, so he became Shah Nawaz — Amitabh! Amit Sadh, who has worked in Yaara, became my Gurbaksh — Dharmendra. But I had to do many auditions before I got my Prem — Shashi Kapoor in Mohit Marwah,” he explains.

Tigmanshu is himself acting in an Aanand L Rai-film with Shah Rukh Khan. How does he balance film-making and acting? “I act only for friends, that too if either the role or the money are good!” he replies. “I have no time to breathe now! Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster 3 rolls on August 15.” With a big star, will the scale go up? “Arey yaar,” he quips. “It will always be a Tigmanshu Dhulia film!”
Now, that’s confidence!


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