Milap Zaveri on embracing potboilers like Marjaavaan, Satyamev Jayate: Moved on from adult comedies
Marjaavaan director Milap Zaveri says the success of Satyamev Jayate has nudged him into making masala films, his calling for many years.
For the longest time, screenplay and dialogue writer-turned-filmmaker Milap Zaveri was known for sex comedies like Masti, Grand Masti, and Kya Kool Hain Hum 3. He also directed Sunny Leone-starrer adult comedy Mastizaade, that almost gave him the tag of ‘king of adult comedies’.
But 2018 proved to be a turning point in Zaveri’s career when his John Abraham-led action entertainer Satyameva Jayate became a success and a Rs 100 crore plus hit at the box office. For someone who grew up on masala potboilers, Zaveri is thoroughly enjoying this space.
His next is Marjaavaan with Ek Villain actors Sidharth Malhotra and Riteish Deshmukh, along with leading ladies Tara Sutaria and Rakul Preet.
“It is a dream come true. I grew up on the films that Manmohan Desai, Prakash Mehra, Raj Kumar Santoshi, late Mukul Anand, and Sanjay Gupta churned out. I always loved these larger-than-life masala entertainers, in which there was a lot of dialoguebaazi and action. I love it when audience claps, whistles, and has a good time,” says Zaveri.
While Satyamev Jayate was an action thriller, Zaveri says Marjaavaan is a love story with lot of action, dialoguebaazi, and some beautiful tender moments. "It harks back to the massy potboilers of the ’80s and ’90s, and that was intentional because I feel that the mass audience in India is humongous. Riteish is a unique part of the film. His character Vishnu is defined as teen foot ka kameenapan and six foot ki akad. Years back, someone had told me that Subhash Ghai had planned a film called Devaa with Amit ji (Amitabh Bachchan), where the villain was Lilliput sir. That film got shelved, but that piece of trivia always stayed with me. Riteish's character is a larger-than-life villain even though he’s a dwarf. He has a dark sense of humour. We wanted an actor who can do humour, and at the same time, look wicked. So it’s an interesting face-off between him and Sidharth,” says the director.
Zaveri may have had good innings with his writing (since 2002) but the debacle of his directorial debut, Jaane Kahan Se Aayi Hai (romantic comedy with Riteish and Jacqueline Fernandez), and Mastizaade six years later made him angry. Satyamev Jayate was a direct response to his failures, he says. “The films I made then were reflective of my state of mind at that time. Also, as a writer my comedies had done more business than the action films. So the natural tendency was to direct those kind of films. But when these films failed, I did a lot of introspection. I was angry with myself that I had not worked to my potential. I had made bad films, which were not just rejected but got me disrespect like what adult comedy Mastizaade did. I wanted to prove it to myself first that I am capable of better things, and that led me to do a short film called Raakh. That gave me as well as others the confidence that I can do something other than comedy,” says Zaveri.
“Then John Abraham came into my life and gave me Satyamev Jayate, and after that, Sidharth showed faith in me and did a massy film for me. Satyamev Jayate worked, and when I made Marjaavaan, I felt I should continue doing what I enjoy doing as a director,” says Zaveri.
Zaveri wrote the dialogues of Ek Villain. Since then, he has been in touch with Sidharth. “Sidharth has gone through a low phase, and his last four to five films have not performed well. My understanding is that somewhere, he has gone away from his core audience. His two biggest grossers are Ek Villain and Brothers, both of which are action, massy films with a certain amount of heroism in them. The moment he started doing rom-coms and other cinema, it didn’t work,” says Zaveri.
“Since Satyamev Jayate worked, Sidharth reached out to me. He was very clear that he wanted to do something powerful so I told him to surrender, and go all out. He trusted my vision. If it is a masala film, you have to be daring, be on a front foot, and not worry about critics and criticism. We have to be honest towards the film we are making, and do everything it requires. I think after Ek Villain, he has reinvented himself and done something so commercial. Marjaavaan is a way more masala film than Ek Villain,” says Zaveri.
This brings us to Zaveri’s view on critics. Though he has been very sporting about criticism, he has never believed in pleasing the critics.
“If you see the biggest grossers of this year, they have got bad reviews; like, for, instance, War, Kabir Singh, Housefull 4 but audience has said ‘go to hell’. The negativity that Housefull 4 has faced, and yet, it is not stopping at the box office. Obviously, there is a strong divide between certain critics and audiences. It is critics’ point of view. They are not right or wrong. We respect that. But if we make films keeping critics in mind then we will only have five stars, and no audience in the theatres.”
“Ayushmann (Khurrana) has given hits after hits. His best film may be Andhadhun but his highest grosser so far is Dream Girl, which didn’t get great reviews. It is a complete David Dhawan kind of mass comedy. Ranveer Singh’s Gully Boy is extraordinary but Simmba’s business is double. Today, Varun Dhawan is a star because of Main Tera Hero, Judwaa 2, Badrnath Ki Dulhania, Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania. These are his big hits, and Coolie No 1 is coming up. Today, Sid is doing a Marjaavaan and Ranveer Singh is doing a Simmba. Kabir Singh is one of most massy films that Shahid has ever done, and it has changed his career. Earlier, R... Rajkumar was his highest grosser. Ranbir Kapoor has done a Sanju. Salman’s (Khan) career took a turn when he did Wanted and Dabangg. This genre has often resurrected actors’ career. John’s highest opener was Satyamev Jayate. Eventually, content for me is what audience accepts. Just because it doesn’t cater to intelligent audience or people who like the world cinema doesn’t mean it is not content,” he adds.
Further, talking about the leading ladies in Marjaavaan, Zaveri says he wanted a fresh face for Zoya’s character. He went for Tara Sutaria while for Rakul’s part, of that of a bar dancer, he needed someone with “class”, “dignity” and “glamour”. “And someone who would be able to deliver my powerful dialogues. The role is somewhat like Rekha ji in Muqaddar Ka Sikander or Tabu in Jeet or maybe Devdas’ Chandramukhi,” says the director.
“When Marjaavaan came to me, I was shooting for De De Pyaar De, and Milap’s selling point was the role’s similarity to these iconic characters. Milap told me that I will get many regular heroine roles with songs and dance but this one will have an impact and appeal. He wanted a performer for it. When I heard my role, I felt it was very different from what’s seen in the recent past. Nobody among the younger lot has played a prostitute who is headstrong, fierce, and fearless. I thought it would be challenging to take up something so different. Though small, it was an impactful part. I wanted to see how I will be able to pull this off. It is not a role that is written every day,” says Rakul.
It is often said the dialogue writer in Zaveri overpowers the director in him. He defends his stance, “I grew up with those dialoguebaazi films, whether it was Kaante, Shootout At Wadala or Ek Villain. I have primarily been a dialogue writer. It has been my forte, my strength, my weakness. It comes naturally to me. I try to change that sometimes but the first line that comes to me is always a punchline. It’s just who I am. That’s the way I want my heroes and villains to talk. The day Satyamev Jayate released, a film critic called to say that the whole industry felt the film has become successful because of the dialogues, and not direction, so I said both the job has been done by me, and I am fine with it (laughs). I can’t escape the fact that I am a dialogue writer, and that comes out in my films. If a small section of people find it dated, I can't do much about it,” he signs off.
All images from Twitter.
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