Was it understood that Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster would have a sequel?
Well, the sequel happened because the first film did well. It was a low-budget film and I had a feeling that women would like the film. My heroine is not a victim; she fights for what she wants. So, I had put the germ of the sequel in the first part. The fact that the film did well at the box office gave me the confidence to take the story forward.
So what is happening with Saheb and Madhavi this time around?
The film is in the same space as the earlier one. It’s just more opulent and has more intrigue. There were elements like polo matches or ballroom dancing that I couldn’t incorporate in the first film because of budget constraints and that I have added here. In terms of the storyline, I have explored the phenomenon of bedroom politics further. Saheb (Jimmy Shergill) and Madhavi (Mahie Gill) continue to be at loggerheads. Saheb is in a wheelchair but being an invalid has made him more vicious. Madhavi is as ambitious as ever and again breaks social boundaries to get what she wants.
Sequels are trendy now. How do you look at this trend?
Sequels offer a certain familiarity to the audience. If they have liked the first film, they will not hesitate to pick the second or third. And that certainly encourages us to make more.
What was it like getting back into the director’s chair after having been directed in Gangs of Wasseypur?
I did not leave the director’s chair to become an actor. It was just a brief recess. I am back where I belong. And I will stay a director until I am called upon to act again.
| Mahie Gill
You are in the middle of promoting Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns, shooting Bullet Raja and preparing to act in Ketan Mehta’s Mountain Man. How crazy is your life right now?
I am enjoying every bit of this business right now. We are all blessed in this business. I am doing everything I always dreamt of doing.
Your association with both Jimmy Shergill and Irrfan goes back a long way. What do they bring to the table as actors?
Both Jimmy and Irrfan are close friends. Irrfan pushes me as an artiste and challenges me to perform better. Jimmy, apart from giving a good performance every single time, reconfirms my faith in friendship.
Your films have always been appreciated by critics. How important was the commercial success that came with Paan Singh Tomar and Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster?
They are both very important aspects of filmmaking. I am not an indulgent filmmaker. I make simple films for people to watch and enjoy. So I am glad that my films are now also making money.
Has commercial success made it easier for you to get a project green-lighted?
Yes. Paan Singh has opened doors for me. But the pressure to deliver on a Friday continues. Every time I have a film releasing, I feel like I am appearing for my 10th board exams again (laughs)!
Your films deal with politics, crime, sexual tension, betrayal and social order, and are set in small-town India. Will you ever move beyond this milieu?
North India is the space I am familiar with. So I take this question as a compliment. But I hope to be a versatile filmmaker. Vijay Anand is a huge inspiration for me.
Bullet Raja with Saif Ali Khan and Sonakshi Sinha is your first film with A-listers and then you have Milan Talkies with Imran Khan and Priyanka Chopra...
...It’s not a big deal. Stars agree to work with me, so it’s fine. But if tomorrow they don’t want to work with me, I’ll continue making films the way I used to. Saif and I had been wanting to work together for a long time. He was interested in doing a film in a rustic setting, so everything fell into place. He is a wonderful actor. Every director should work with him at least once in their career.