What is your new film Aazam about?
Aazam is basically a story of one night in Mumbai where a series of events shake up the entire underworld, political system and the police force. No one understands what’s happening and who’s doing it. The beauty of Aazam is its screenplay. It is one of the finest screenplays that I have read in Hindi movies. Shravan Kumar is a very talented director.
Were you reluctant to sign the film and why?
Initially, I was told that it’s a story of one night. When you hear night, you imagine you’ll be shooting through 30 to 40 nights straight. My whole system gets shaken up with night shifts. I have done many films like that, some of them were about ghosts and what not. Aisi filmon ke liye shoot karte-karte aadmi khud bhoot bann jaata hai (One turns into a ghost while shooting for such films). I like to wake up early in the morning. So, I’m a little reluctant when it comes to night shoots. It has purely got to do with health and nothing else.
What changed your mind?
I had conveyed my reluctance to do Aazam. But my team knows that I love to read scripts. Even if you have narrated a film to me and I liked it, I’d still ask for a bound script to read because I love reading. And it gives me a fine idea as to what kind of story I’m getting into.
So, some time passed and I was just looking at a pile of scripts to read from. One of those was written in detail and that too in Devanagari Hindi. Otherwise, scripts are usually written in roman Hindi. So, I thought I should read it. I read a couple of pages and got hooked on it. I read the complete script in one go. I am a fan of thrillers. I love to watch and read thrillers.
I called my manager immediately and asked whose script it was. My manager said that it was someone I had said ‘no’ to. I told my manager to contact Shravan and tell him that if he hasn’t already cast anyone else, I’m doing the film. I’m ready to give him 80 nights instead of 40, if need be. And if he had cast someone else, I was ready to do another role that hadn’t been cast. I wanted to be a part of Aazam, because I had that respect for the writer.
Did you convey the compliments to the writer Shravan Kumar?
It was later on that I found out that Shravan Kumar was also the director. That makes our job a little easier because the director has scripted his vision. I told Shravan that, even if he achieves 50 percent of what he had written on paper while directing the movie, he will win the battle.
How important is the director for you while assessing a film? You have worked with a lot of new directors in the past as well.
It’s about the timing. Whether it was Aanand L Rai’s first film (Strangers, 2007) or Tigmanshu Dhulia’s first film (Haasil, 2003). Things got aligned. I feel happy that all these directors have achieved so much. I have never said no to a director because he was new.