Sridevi was a fantastic actor; many people I worked with said she was their inspiration, says Hansal Mehta

Seema Sinha

Mar,12 2018 12:57:06 IST

While actor-director Nandita Das is eagerly awaiting the release of celebrated writer, Saadat Hasan Manto’s biopic — which is set in India and Pakistan with Nawazuddin Siddiqui playing the titular role — Hansal Mehta is looking forward to the world wide release of Rajkummar Rao-starrer Omerta. It's a film that captures the bloody trail of British-born terrorist Omar Sheikh who plotted the 2002 kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter, Daniel Pearl.

But not many are aware that at one point of time Mehta was also working on the script for the Manto biopic.

Hansal Mehta.

“Both Nandita and I were working on the Manto script at the same time, about five to six years back. Nandita heard this and one day she called me to ask whether I was making the biopic. I told her that I was planning to but then I suggested that she may go ahead and make the film as I wasn’t getting producers to back my film. The scale and budget at that time wasn’t feasible,” said Mehta, further adding, “This was immediately after Shahid. In fact, we had shot the look test and had done a photo shoot with him.”

So would he like to revisit the film? “I haven’t decided but first I’m interested in seeing what Nandita has made because I had worked on the film and I am really keen on knowing what her perspective is. Nandita was destined to make Manto and I was destined to make Aligarh (laughs). But yes, Nawaz is a great choice, he is such a fine actor. He is so good that he can play anything,” said Mehta.

However, calling it herd mentality, the filmmaker said that these days everyone wants to make a biopic without giving a thought on how interesting it would look when presented on celluloid.

“Biopics have become easy to sell even; not every biography is an interesting story. You go to a producer, or to an actor and say that you are making a biopic and they get interested. But not every biopic is a film. I don’t want to name them but some very famous people have approached me with their biographies. I have read those and told them that their stories are not yet complete. It’s an inspiring life but there is much more to explore. The problem that we see with many of our heroes, they do not want their flaws to be made public. The moment the person becomes holier than thou the biopic becomes boring,” he asserted, adding, "Now why was Airlift (starring Akshay Kumar) so interesting? Because the character had a conflict. He was a reluctant saviour.”

After travelling to several film festivals, Mehta’s Omerta will be released next month, and the director says that the film has provoked the reaction that he wanted it to. He said, “Omerta has been well received. I loved the response because people hated Rajkummar's character, and that is what I wanted. Omerta makes you angry and it gives you an adrenaline rush. I wanted to make a thriller because I love the genre. So here is a thriller with the character who is a complete anti hero, who is an antagonist. There’s nothing redeeming about it. It was a challenge for both Rajkummar and I because in our filmography it was a new thing to explore.”

Rajkummar Rao in a still from Omerta. Twitter@RajkummarRao

Rajkummar Rao in a still from Omerta. Twitter@RajkummarRao

Premiered in Toronto, Omerta and has been doing the festival rounds. Next, the film will be showcased in the Hong Kong film festival.

What recently gave a jolt to Mehta was the sad demise of veteran actress Sridevi, particularly since he had bought the rights of a “beautiful” story with the actress in mind, and he was looking for an opportune time to narrate it to her.

“There was this beautiful story that I bought the rights of from a book, a novella. It is a Chinese tale, I read it and felt it would be wonderful to do it with Sridevi. I had thought of narrating the idea, the story to her and if she liked it then I would have developed it. But two weeks later she passed away. It was shocking," said Mehta. “She and Boney (Kapoor) would come for my film trials. She had seen my work. She had even come for my Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar preview but I had very little interaction with her. But Rajkummar had interacted quite a lot with her in the past,” he further said.

Further talking about the movie he was planning with Sridevi, which he now wants to make with another actress, Mehta revealed, “The movie was about her, about a heart warming soul. It would have been a departure from the films I have been making. It’s a very warm, very human, very loving tale. It’s about a woman in her late 50s discovering womanhood. It’s about discovering the emotions of it, discovering marriage and motherhood without being either a wife or a mother herself. Sridevi was a fantastic actor. I have worked with so many actors over the years and if one asked them who was their inspiration, they would say Sridevi. I will make the film but now I have to see who I will cast."

Sridevi. News 18.

Besides writing and mentoring The Accidental Prime Minister, a biographical political film (based on Sanjaya Baru's book of the same name) with Anupam Kher that will roll next month, Mehta is also co-producing Kangana Ranaut-Rajkummar Rao starrer Mental Hai Kya that recently made heads turn with the talented actors flaunting many quirky and funny looks. The film will go on floors this month and is directed by National Award winning director, Prakash Kovelamudi. “I’d seen the look before and it's a very good script. So here is an opportunity for two fantastic actors to come together and feed of each other," said Mehta.

Next, as a director, Mehta will once again collaborate with Rajkummar, on their fifth piece of work together. “I’m now looking for the next project to direct as my focus is on directing.I am ready with my script and we will start our film some time mid next year,” he said.

Updated Date: Mar 12, 2018 12:57 PM