After directing films like Ek Haseena Thi, Johny Gaddar, Agent Vinod and Badlapur, Sriram Raghavan is back with another thriller, AndhaDhun starring Ayushmann Khurrana, Tabu and Radhika Apte in lead. The film is far off from the usual intense thriller that are being made in our industry and belongs to a quirky space, which Raghavan wanted to always explore. Ahead of the film release, we got in touch with the director who spoke to us in length about the film, possibility of collaborating with Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan and Deepika Padukone, the importance that Box-Office collections hold for him and a lot more..
What gets you to shoot your films in Pune?
I have shot a couple of films in Pune and it may be simply because I am from Pune. I have this affinity because I love this city and the trees around. This story needed a smaller city, as it could not be set in a place like Mumbai or Kolkata. I had the option to shoot it in either Pune or Pondicherry, but then because of time constraints I went ahead with Pune.
Was Ayushmann Khurrana always your first choice?
I had the take off point of AndhaDhun before I started working on Badlapur and I had discussed it with Varun, which he even liked. But we decided to go ahead with Badlapur and this one was left back. After I got done with Badlapur, I started working on this script and took it further. When I finished the script of AndhaDhun, Varun was busy with other commitments, so I decided to go ahead with some other actor. Honestly, I needed to cast somebody who could learn music and I was also considering casting a new-comer. Ayushmann one day texted me saying that he would love to audition for this role. And that’s how it all started. If he would not have texted me, I might be still searching for an actor.
How does the casting process for your films happen?
When you are writing something, there are some characters you write keeping the actor in mind. For Badlapur, I had written one character keeping Nawazuddin in mind and in this case, I had written one character keeping Tabu in mind. For rest, it always happens through auditions.
AndhaDhun is inspired by a short film….
The source point for AndhaDhun came from a short film that I had seen long back. I won’t mention the film now because it is mentioned in the film credits. That was the take off point for this film. I wanted to do something that is quirky and fun after Badlapur and this was the perfect subject to venture into that space.
Has the perception around thrillers within the industry has now changed?
The producers still think that they wouldn’t get a good satellite deal for a thriller which in my opinion isn’t the right way to think. I believe the right film will always get good money from all sources, prime example being Raazi. The rules need to change.
Do you think it is essential for Hindi films to have a Hindi title?
I feel a Hindi film should have a Hindi title. Of course, you can have a sub-header which is in English, but I would prefer to go ahead with a Hindi title. There are exceptions wherein the English title makes more sense like DON, which is one of my favourite title. But most of English titles are a bit alienating for Indian audience.
Given a chance, would you like to make a sequel to Agent Vinod?
I love the spy genre, which is the reason why I made Agent Vinod. I would still say, Agent Vinod would be an exciting movie if you watch it on TV. It would be like watching 3 or 4 episodes of a web-series back to back. Had the film done well, we would have definitely gone ahead with the second part, but now that film hasn’t done well, I don’t see the second part getting made.
You worked with Varun Dhawan in Badlapur. What is one thing that you like the most about him?
The best thing about Varun Dhawan is that he can adapt to both kind of cinema – the hardcore massy cinema as well as the not so commercial cinema. He is from a filmy background, but he doesn’t care about the numbers. It is a really exciting choice that he makes for himself.
Any plans of making Badlapur 2?
Dinesh wanted me to carry forward the Badlapur franchise. That story is over, but the plan is to find another intense revenge story that we can call Badlapur 2. Let’s see what happens.
You were also supposed to direct Deepika Padukone in a film? What is happening with that?
That has been put on hold right now because I am not happy with the script. It is a great idea, but nothing is happening.
Do you think that this is the best time to be in the Hindi film industry as films are doing well irrespective of the star-cast?
You are from a business channel and you will know this better than me. But I think, even two years back a lot of interesting movies worked. Good movies will always work at the Box-Office but the audience for a Hindi film is now growing.
Do you think the concept of superstardom will ever fade in a country like India?
For me, when I grew up I idolised Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna, Dev Aanand and Dharmendra. I didn’t care about the reviews and I just went to watch the film for the superstars. Today, I don’t do that because for me the stars or superstars of today will only be actors. But I think, the youth have their favourites like Tiger Shroff, and Varun Dhawan. So stardom would exist, but not for me.
You are a self-confessed Vijay Anand Fan. Any film of his that you would love to remake?
I would not want to adapt any of Vijay Anand’s thriller because they are fantastic. I would want people to watch those films rather than watching the rehashed version. But one film which would be relevant even today is Tere Mere Sapne.
You have always wanted to work with Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan. Is there any step taken by you in that direction?
We have just met, but not discussed anything. I have not discussed any subject with either of them, but would love to work with them. It is just that I didn’t get any exciting subject.
Do Box-Office collections matter to you?
Box-Office collections are great to have but I can’t be just thinking about that. I am always curious about how the audience likes the movie, whereas the producers think about the commercial aspect.
Lastly, how essential is it to keep test screenings of your film to gauge early reactions?
I have a set of people I trust to whom I will show the film at 2 or 3 stages of the edit. These are few people who will give me an objective feedback. They will be brutally honest with me. I am the first audience of my film following which I throw it open to a lot of people. I look for patterns in their answer based on which I make a few changes.