Dinesh Vijan on producing a myriad range of films, from Angrezi Medium to Bala
Dinesh Vijan, the owner of Maddock Films, talks about his upcoming films, from Made In China to Roohi Afza.
Dinesh Vijan is a busy man, and content with the films that take up his time. “Over the next two years, we’ve got six releases lined up. There’s Made in China, Angrezi Medium, Bala, and then, Imtiaz Ali has finished filming Aaj Kal (tentative title), and then there’s Roohi Afza. Sriram (Raghavan) will soon begin the biopic that we are making,” he says.
Without fuss but with a definite beat to its step, his banner Maddock Films has carved out a space for telling relevant, entertaining stories centered on the Hindi heartland. “ I think now is a time for good people. The directors that I am working with are genuinely nice people, and I am getting along so well with them. So are the actors. I strongly believe there’s another curve coming, in about two to three years. I am trying to figure what that could be. We are good for now with what we make, and we are proud of all these films. But I instinctively feel that something else is coming upon us,” he introspects.
Vijan gave up banking to turn film producer, surprising his father but determined to give this a serious shot. In recent years, films like Stree (which completes one year today on 31 August), Luka Chuppi, Hindi Medium, and Badlapur reflect firm focus on the non-typical Hindi film protagonist, and non-standard film plot. Milieu and context of a story also play an important part in these films. “The life that I have lived so far I believe has influenced the kind of stories that we make. My grandparents were from Rawalpindi. My grandfather had come to Mumbai with Rs 5,000, with a brother. He built a business here. Made in China is the story of an entrepreneur. It’s this journey of a Gujarati businessman who has tried his hand at 15 businesses and failed; and then a trip to China changes his life. It’s a rag to riches story, which reminds me of my grandparents’ journey. I am not from this business (of making films). I draw from my life, and have been fortunate to have the right people around me from the beginning. I am very excited about Made In China, because it’s relevant, and working with Rajkummar Rao is special,” he exults.
Vijan had once joined hands with Saif Ali Khan to launch Illuminati Entertainment, but it is his turn as independent film producer that has drawn keen talent across the board to tell Hindi film stories that are easy to related to. His knack for choosing the right actor for a film has also brought him unique equity in a name-driven industry. “Be it Rajkummar Rao, Irrfan Khan, Kartik Aryan or Ayushmann Khurrana, they are actors first. They happen to be heroes in our films because those are the characters that they are playing. It’s very important that all of us want to make this film. When that happens, then there’s a very easy vibe to making it. This happens when everyone on a film set wants to make that film,” he introspects.
In fact, Vijan backed Angrezi Medium with Irrfan in the lead after the actor’s battle with cancer. Other projects starring the prolific star did not materialise but for Vijan, making this film is important for personal reasons. “My father is no more. He passed away five years ago. I have two sisters, and he was close to my younger sister. This film is essentially about a young girl from a small town who dreams of going abroad to study. It’s this fascination that some have with an education abroad. It’s a father-daughter story, and I can relate to it. For me, Angrezi Medium is not about the business part. I am emotional (about the film), and used to be on set for most of the shoot just to stay positive. Irrfan has played this part with a certain sufi-ness to it. It also validates my understanding that one knows what it means to be a father only when one becomes a dad,” he recalls.
Vijan is currently backing a whole bunch of films that have new writers, or directors, or both. A city-bred man, who has spent most of his life in Mumbai and abroad, that these films smack of colloquial cultures, beliefs and inherent Indian societal traits makes you think about his method behind green lighting a project. “Ultimately, it’s a gut feeling. Generally, it’s analysis after a decision (of what went wrong or right). I am also surrounded by a great set of directors, who are good friends, and we work together to develop stories with a strong emotional core. We develop a lot of content, and spend a lot of time on our scripts. We give each script a year. We want to be relevant, and want to tell stories that our audience connects with, so we become the audience. I am the bouncing board for my directors. In making a film, there are two crucial parts, the script and the edit. If you go wrong with the first, then there’s nothing that you can do about it later. I am that detached resource that is available to them when they want me to be.”
Bala, starring Ayushmann and Bhumi Pednekar, and made by Stree director Amar Kaushik, is a good example of this process of creative collaboration. “For instance, Bala is about a young man who is balding, and how in our country, we tend to call out such men as ‘takle’. Bhumi plays a girl with dark skin. Somewhere, all of us are insecure about some aspect of our appearance, of how we look, and we hope that someone’s love will overcome this flaw. It’s about this thought. Amar Kaushik has lived across different parts of India while growing up, small towns and cities; so he could connect very strongly with this. He was meant to be a creative producer on this one, but he fell in love with the story, and decided to direct it. “
A space that Vijan has always bet his money on is horror comedy. In 2013, he co-produced Go, Goa, Gone, the first zombie film in Hindi. Not a success, the film earned positive reviews for its funny, quirky characters. Stree changed this, as the biggest runaway hit of 2018. “It’s a strange thing. Deepika (Padukone) and I had dinner with Charles Rogen, a Hollywood producer, who has co-produced films like The Dark Knight, Wonder Woman, and American Hustle. While talking to him, it hit me, this idea of developing the horror comedy universe. So there are three teams working on Roohi Afza, where we have Mrighdeep Lamba as producer, as we have a new director, and another team developing Munja. It’s a male ghost. At some point, Stree should meet the supernatural being in Roohi Afza, and the other. Does it happen? I am working on developing that.”
Maddock Films has its hands full, which Vijan credits to being a combination of a positive work environment, and conviction in developing good content. Apart from two web series in development, he is fairly emotional about filming Angrezi Medium, despite the odds stacked against its leading man. “I only wanted to make the film with Irrfan. When you see it, you will be so proud of what we’ve made. If I mention what we’ve done, it won’t be as special. It has been a beautiful journey. More than a film for me, this one was an emotion. We took care of him (Irrfan) as best as we could, and we finished the film without any difficulty."
All images from YouTube.
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