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Drishyam 2 director Abhishek Pathak: ‘We were pretty sure the film would work’

Abhishek Pathak on the making of Drishyam 2, his equation with Ajay Devgn and the possibility of Drishyam 3.

Sameer Salunkhe Mumbai Published 07.12.22, 04:00 PM

Director Abhishek Pathak is processing the overwhelming response to Drishyam 2, starring Ajay Devgn, Tabu and Akshaye Khanna, which is in its third week at the theatres. In a candid conversation, Abhishek talks about his vision for Drishyam 2, what he has learnt from Ajay Devgn over the years, exploring the unexplored aspects of films and filmmaking, and the possibility of Drishyam 3.


How does it feel to give your first big hit as a director?

Abhishek Pathak: It always feels good, whether it’s your first film or second, third or fourth. A hit film for an ardent filmmaker is always a good feeling. That’s what we look for. We make films for the audience and when they come to watch the film in theatres in huge numbers, it’s a win-win for all.

When you produced Drishyam seven years ago, did you ever think you would direct its sequel someday?

Abhishek Pathak: Never. Even when the Malayalam Drishyam 2 was announced and when I saw the film, I didn’t plan to direct the film. When the question came up of who would direct the film, my dad (Kumar Mangat Pathak) told me to give it a thought. It was a big responsibility. The Malayalam film as well as Nishi Sir (late director Nishikant Kamat) had set a big benchmark. I took my time and then thought let me do it because as a producer I had a certain vision for the film. And if that doesn’t get translated to the director, then it might not be the film I was thinking of. So, I said yes to directing the film.

So, what was your vision for the sequel?

Abhishek Pathak: The first thing that I wanted to do a lot was to work on screenplay writing. What we loved about the Malayalam sequel were the story and climax. But I wanted to set the film in a certain mood and pace for the Hindi audience.

Also, when we make thrillers, we usually don’t focus on visual storytelling and sound. So, that’s what we did in this film; the treatment of visuals, colour palette, how the film was to be shot, and the sound.

We were clear that we wanted a very good BGM (background music). A thriller needs a good BGM. There’s so much scope for BGM in thrillers to create the mood and mystery about the whole world. That’s what we tried to do and people are loving it.

Even in horror, there’s a lot of scope for it. In India, we do put up songs and all. But I think if you treat BGM like songs as you do for many commercial films, you can really create magic. People should connect with something that they hear while watching the film.

How did you approach directing actors who had already played the same characters seven years ago?

Abhishek Pathak: When the actors read the script of the sequel, they loved it. They liked the humour and how we got Gaitonde back with some other characters and the way we had designed the film in the writing itself. They have seen me as a producer, and they have seen me winning a National Award for a short film, so they had an idea about what I would bring to the film. They showed trust in me and I think I delivered pretty well for them. It’s been a good journey working with such brilliant actors.

The audience seems to have participated wholeheartedly in Vijay Salgaonkar’s quest to protect his family. Has the ‘common man got the better of the system’ angle worked best for the film?

Abhishek Pathak: Everyone connected with Vijay Salgaonkar and his family’s journey in part one. So, they were looking forward to part two. It’s an underdog story. People don’t know that this character could do something that they were thinking. And suddenly when he does it, people clap for it. He (Vijay) won when nobody thought he would win, which we all love in cinema. Be it Lagaan or any other film like that, it’s a victory for the audience. They love the underdog winning and we delivered it to them with beautiful twists and turns.

Were you thinking while writing whether it’s going to work for sure or not?

Abhishek Pathak: While we were writing, we knew that the climax was beautiful. When we were bringing the Gaitonde character back, we knew that it was going to work for the audience big time. We were pretty clear about which scene would work and how the audience might respond to a dialogue.

In older times, writers and producers used to say that while writing the screenplay, a writer should know when the audience is going to clap. I put that in my head while writing this film. The kind of energy the screenplay has would pull the audience and force them to talk about the film. We were pretty sure the film would work.

Which part of filmmaking satisfies you the most creatively?

Abhishek Pathak: Writing satisfies me the most. Because I know what I am going to make. The execution part is something that people are believing in me blindly. But the material on the page satisfies me because we know what we are talking about. Eventually, my favourite part of filmmaking comes in when editing starts. Which is where I think films are made. The writer writes the film, the director shoots the film, and then the director and the editor sit together and make the film. That’s where you see your vision unfolding on screen. So, for me, writing and editing are the two most satisfying processes in filmmaking.

You have worked with Ajay Devgn closely. What was it like to be in the company of such a huge star in the formative years of your career? What have you learnt from him?

Abhishek Pathak: Ajay sir is very patient with everyone. Whenever I have worked with him as an AD, production guy, and later on as a producer and director, I have seen that he is a very disciplined actor. Be it coming on time, being aware of the lines, and knowing what is to be shot next, he’s too disciplined. On the set, he is alone, thinking about his scene. I have learnt dedication and commitment to work from him.

The only complaint I had from Drishyam 2 was that we didn’t get to see more of the tussle between Ajay Devgn, Tabu and Akshaye Khanna. So, will we get to see that happening sometime soon? Is Drishyam 3 happening?

Abhishek Pathak: Maybe, maybe. As for their tussle in Drishyam 2, that is how the story was supposed to be told. Anything beyond that would have dragged the film unnecessarily. It sets the platform for maybe another story to come forward.

I believe that any scene in a film should be either entertaining or informative. Anything apart from that is just boring. The audience leaving the theatre wanting more is a better feeling than them leaving the theatre saying that the film was stretched too long.

Drishyam 2 has given a much-needed boost and hope to the Hindi Box Office. As a producer-director, what have been your learnings from 2022? What corrections have you made at Panorama Studios?

Abhishek Pathak: I think we have always tried to do something different. We have produced films such as Pyaar Ka Punchnama, Special 26, Omkara, Section 375, Raid and Drishyam. We have never tried to work on the formula way of filmmaking. And I think that has worked in our favour all the time.

If you keep giving the audience the same thing, they won’t come to the theatres. They will watch it on a free platform at home. If you want them to come to the theatre, you have to give something new to them. And if it has an edge, and it’s visually good and well executed, people would watch it.

They say that things have changed because of Covid, but no. People are watching movies in theatres. They came in big numbers for Drishyam 2, they came in for Kantara, and other films that worked. Only bad films haven’t worked because people didn’t connect with them.

What genres excite you as a writer and director?

Abhishek Pathak: I love thrillers. It is my favourite genre. But I don’t want to restrict myself to thrillers. I would love to do a comedy and a horror film. Because horror is an unexplored territory in India right now. We need to work a lot on the script and execution part. I think horror is all about execution. If you can really crack it, it’s a very big genre. It’s a theatrical experience. People love to watch horror in a dark theatre. But no one is doing it really well at the moment.

Which filmmakers have had an influence on you?

Abhishek Pathak: I am a big fan of David Fincher. I love Anurag Kashyap’s work. I have worked under Kashyap as an AD on No Smoking. I love the way Rajkumar Hirani sir writes his scripts and creates his worlds. It is outstanding. I was very inspired by Bandit Queen. I loved Shekhar Kapur’s work. I liked Mr. India when I was a kid.

What are you directing next?

Abhishek Pathak: I have been figuring it out. Too much is happening in my life right now after Drishyam 2, which is very overwhelming. I am trying to grasp it at the moment. Then I will figure out what to do next. I am not rushing into anything. I think choosing the right subject is very important before going into screenplay writing. So, I’ll spend a couple of months choosing the right subject that I want to do next.

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