A shoestring budget, relatively newer faces and a subject not-so-mainstream for Hindi cinema, Tigmanshu Dhulia's debut film 'Haasil' could have gone unnoticed.
The film, which completes 20 years on Tuesday, went on to acquire a cult status and kept its director afloat in the industry through a bad phase.
"For seven years I was able to get work because I made ‘Haasil’. People have not forgotten me because of 'Haasil' and I have attained so much because of it... You will always be remembered for your first film," Dhulia recalled.
"Haasil", starring Jimmy Sheirgill, Irrfan Khan and Hrishitaa Bhatt, presented a template for cinema around student and caste politics with a dash of love-hate relationships. It was released in theatres on May 16, 2003.
Dhulia remembers his directorial debut as something that gave him his identity.
"I am what I am because of my first film. I always say this to young directors that whatever you do first, don’t do it for money, just do it in the best way possible... whether it works or not is a different thing," the National School of Drama graduate told PTI.
It took him seven years and one failed film, "Charas", to come up with another blockbuster in "Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster".
It also became one of the most memorable roles in Irrfan's career, showing a brilliance that shone through his character of an aspiring politician whose manipulative ways force a law-abiding student, played by Sheirgill, to turn to pick up arms. Dhulia, Khan and Sheirgill later went on to collaborate on "Charas" and "Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster Returns".
Sheirgill, who had by then done films such as "Mohabbatein", and "Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai" and "Maachis", remembers hopping from one movie set to another to complete "Haasil".
"My dates for other films were already fixed, so if anything would get cancelled in between or postponed, I'd immediately give those dates to 'Haasil' because I enjoyed it so much. Everything was very real, no sets, all real locations in Allahabad," Sheirgill said.
He added that Dhulia's direction technique involved using "guerrilla-style cameras" as he told the actors to run into the crowd.
"If you see people's reactions, too, they were wondering who's this guy running with a girl and screaming. Those were such wide, real shoots in Kumbh... it was very memorable,” he added.
Sheirgill also remembered Khan, his arch-rival in the film, with affection and called him his "favourite actor". Khan died at the age of 54 on April 29, 2020 following his battle with a rare form of cancer.
"I respected him a lot as an elder brother. I wasn't very open or free with him, if we'd work together, we'd end up sharing recent stuff. It was a very formal relationship, nothing over-the-top.
"His loss though will remain forever for everyone. I count myself very lucky that I ended up doing quite a few films with him, and created wonderful memories, especially those associated with 'Haasil'," Shergill shared.
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