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‘So what if Nana yells on the sets’

Shagird director, Tigmanshu Dhulia backs Nana despite his peculiar ways as he offers 'good suggestions' to improve the film


Nana Patekar in Shagird

Nana Patekar is not new to this branch of cinema that is trigger-happy. Having played an encounter cop in the past, in Tigmanshu Dhulia's 'Shagird', he returns in a slightly twisted avatar, as a corrupt cop with a sense of humour. Difficult to digest? Well, wait for May 13 for the film's release to find out how it translates on the screen. Meanwhile, in an exclusive for Yahoo! India, Dhulia takes us through his journey of filming his latest and yes, putting up with Bollywood's most idiosyncratic actor, Nana.

What triggered the idea to write Shagird and what helped you in completing this script from scratch to final draft?
I had never done a thriller before and I wanted to do it very badly. I had a plot that required a character who was approximately the same age as Nana and of his fitness level as well. Luckily, he liked the script and then I tried to make the best use of it. Nana's walk is just like Garry Copper also the fact that the attitude Nana carries is just what I wanted for this role. Then, Anurag Kashyap, who agreed to do a part in the film, is an absolute treasure in the film.

What kind of research did you do to craft the characters in this film and are some of them based on real encounter cops?
I've never dealt with encounter cops before, Nana had. So I met a few cops in Delhi but I was more interested in their personal lives than how they did their job. I don't think I've based any of my characters on real people. There was a cop called Rajveer who was shot dead in Delhi some time back, so I've named one of the characters in my film after him but that's it.

Nana Patekar has proved himself in this genre so did you think he would be safe bet? Why do you think Nana manages such roles easily?

Physically he looks the part. He has short hair, keeps himself fit at his age. I guess the fact that he was introduced to army training for his role in in Prahar did influence this. About the similarity with Ab Tak Chappan, I would like to clarify that this is not just a film about encounter cops, it's like a treasure hunt. Also, in Ab Tak Chappan Nana played an intense good cop. Here, he is a corrupt humourous cop and this is not a grim film at all either. The lines are crisp, short and effective.

How have you infused humour into a thriller since it can be very tricky and excess could lead to making the film frivolous?
Firstly, the plot is not that of a comedy but there are situations which are light-hearted. Like for example, Nana loves old Bollywood songs, so there's a scene where Nana and his team are going to break in and bust a drug deal. While they're waiting to barge in and storm the deal, an old Hindi song booms out of somewhere and on hearing the song, Nana starts chanting random trivia about the song and the film. So scenes like this ease the tension, yet don't take away from the scene either.

What were the challenges that you experienced while filming Shagird and how did you overcome them, if at all?
The only challenge was to handle Nana. I had heard that he's short-tempered and foul mouthed, so I was scared. In fact, when I first went to meet him, I took a friend along who waited under the building, just in case the meeting went foul. I was told that he even hits people if they cross him. Luckily, my meeting went well and he agreed to do the film. But then he is a peculiar person and everybody used to get tense on the sets when he was around. But then I realised that if he yells on the sets once in a while, its OK, since his suggestions and ideas for improving the film were commendable. He has age and experience and a strong theatre background. Unlike most actors who don't have any professional background, he has even graduated from the JJ school of Arts and doesn't talk frivolous. He's a bit strange as he prefers to makes his own tea at home but as long as we got to discuss the film months before going on the floor, we had everything cleared out and there was little scope for differences while shooting.

As a director and writer, what were your learnings from Shagird?
Because I was dealing with a thriller, logic had to be correct. It's not a love story or a horror or a comedy that I could manage without connecting the dots. In a thriller, when it's over, it has to have a rewind quality and that is what I realised here. So, I knew the end before the rest and then I took the story towards what I had planned to and yes, I had to write in reverse. Also I learnt things like you can't make a star wait when he gets on the sets. Things like lights and camera have to be prepared in advance.

Shagird is being pitched as a thriller with comic elements, so which are your favourite films in this genre and why?
Scorcese's Godfellas is one of my favourites. Scorcese just knows the art of transforming a frightening situation into one that makes you feel like laughing. The idea is to make it so real that if someone acts out of the ordinary, it becomes funny by itself.