With one quick blow, Milan Luthria has managed to make everyone stand up and take notice of his craft. His Once Upon A Time In Mumbai is one of the very few clean hits that Bollywood has seen this year (most notably Raajneeti, Housefull, My Name Is Khan and I Hate Luv Storys). For a film that had to pass through quite a few challenges before hitting the screen, OUATIM has turned out to be one of the most watched gangster films ever. No wonder, Milan looks back at the entire movie making experience quite fondly. In a two part conversation with this correspondent, he also comes clean on some of the portions in the film that came under fire from quite a few.
While Once Upon A Time In Mumbai is now officially one of the biggest money spinners that Bollywood has seen this year, some feel that the love story was a little stretched at the beginning when audience was waiting for all the drama to begin.
Initially, I myself wanted to cut it a little short myself. However, I stopped myself because I felt that if you are talking about a film that has five main characters, you need to have strong characterisation of females as well. If I wouldn't have done that, audience would have lost the connection with them. Also, the emotional turning point in the second half of the film is due to Kangana Ranaut. Had audience not spent time with her and Ajay, it would have been difficult to understand Sultan's decision of quitting his illegal activities.
On the other hand, a few also felt that the ending was a little abrupt.
It was meant to be that way. No, it wasn't a matter of cutting it short to save time. I did that because it was a question of getting a gasp from the audiences who were caught totally unaware. When Emraan shoots Ajay, not many thought that it would actually happen. This is how audiences got a shock.
An epilogue may have helped though, isn't it?
See, in Hindi films you do expect a little bit of dialogue-baazi in the end but I wanted to take a slightly different route. I wanted to wind up the film just a minute before. I think this is where the thirst of watching the film again is created. You feel that you could have stayed on with the characters for a few more minutes because your emotions are attached there. So if someone says that he was disappointed with a sudden ending, I would take it as a compliment because it was all intended that way.
With the film being hailed most for its dramatic quotient, comparisons were made with the likes of Salim-Javed, Prakash Mehra, Subhash Ghai and others. Flattered?
Of course, it has been unbelievably flattering. You don't ever imagine that your name would be taken in such breath with these giants of 70s and 80s. I have been lost for words. In fact we were consciously trying to imbibe the narrative style of these great film makers. During the writing process, we used to have discussions around how these greats would have picturised such scenes. Once you start referring to their films, you don't have to look much beyond. You have to keep their attitude in mind because these were men who used to make films for the big screen guys.
In the middle of the film being made, recession had struck. Did that lead to change in plans?
Yes, we did deviate though not from the look and feel perspective but the choice of technicians. We did not go for the big names and instead roped in young and talented technicians for departments like costume designing, background score etc. Also, for supporting actors, we went for lot of theatre actors and for that there were hundreds of rounds of auditions that took place. Another deviation was to move away from the luxurious way of filmmaking. We knew our job and did everything in the budget.
(Smiles) I am under the contract where I cannot discuss numbers. However, I know that it is a fair priced film rather than being exorbitantly budgeted. The idea was not to make something that would result in a producer taking a king size profit while distributor was left in a lurch. (Producer) Ekta Kapoor has been fair in her game. Money was not her primary objective to make the film. She wanted something that was good, path breaking and saw good response from critics as well as audience. She is here to establish her banner and she has managed to do that.