Paan Singh Tomar was a game changer for Tigmanshu Dhulia.“It made me more acceptable in Bollywood. Actors were ready to hear my scripts,” says the National award-winning director. Bullet Raja, Dhulia’s first attempt at commercial cinema is his homage to the cinema of the 70’s and 80’s starring Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra. “Our characters challenged authority. Good always triumphed over evil. Bullet Raja is a plot-heavy film with lovable characters. It’s a happy film,” he says.
Another first is that he has a star in his film- Saif Ali Khan. “Right from the start, I knew that I wanted a certain budget to make the film. For that budget we needed a star to bring in the crowd. Saif was equally keen on coming on board and he wanted to experiment,” he confides. Knowing the actor’s uber cool image, was it difficult to transform him to the Lucknow-based, rustic, badass Raja? “We didn’t have to break our head over it. We just needed to take care of Saif ’s body language, to make sure he doesn’t use any urban gestures. Otherwise, he is a good actor and it was important to retain his naughty charm,” says Dhulia. Like in his previous films, his two regulars, Mahie Gill and Jimmy Shergill, are there. His earlier films, all had a deep rooted influence of his hometown, Allahabad (think Haasil,
Charas). Bullet Raja is a direct reference to the colourful gangster stories from Allahabad.
He likes to think that today, stars are keener on experimenting with their look than be bothered about their image. That apart, considering he is one of the first casting directors of Bollywood (Bandit Queen), how does he view the scene today? “Thanks to them(casting directors) today we get to experiment with fresh faces unlike the time when we used to make do with the same set of character actors in every film,” he says, adding that hailing from a theatre background automatically makes his job easier when hunting for fresh talents. He finds nothing wrong in adding item numbers (Mahie Gill does the part here) - “They are fun. We are in Europe. We need some relief now and then,” he laughs. Dhulia was a prominent feature on TV in the 90s and he is not too impressed with the current line-up of fictitious soap operas. He thinks we need more shows like 24 to do the rescue act on TV. He rates Haasil as his favourite film and has no acting assignments on his agenda except for a TV soap with Amitabh Bachchan, directed by Anurag Kashyap.
The movie is scheduled to release on November 29.