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‘I try to attempt something new every time’

Filmmaker Mohit Suri talks about the vision behind his latest release Malang and more

IN A FILMMAKING career spanning one-and-a-half decades, Mohit Suri has made a strong reputation for himself as a filmmaker who isn’t afraid to experiment with bold and unconventional ideas. Some of his best-known films include Zeher, Kalyug, Awarapan, Murder 2, Ek Villain, Half Girlfriend and Aashiqui 2. His latest film Malang starring Aditya Roy Kapur, Disha Patani, Anil Kapoor, Kunal Khemu, and Elli AvrRam opened reasonably well at the box-office.

In this interview, he talks about the creative vision behind Malang as well as the casting choices, importance of box-office success, web as an emerging alternative platform, and his influences and upcoming projects.

EXCERPTS:

 Tell us the vision behind Malang.

It usually starts off with a small basic impulse. Actually, I had gone for a party to Goa with my cousin and I saw a young couple on a bike late at night. They were without shirts, high on life, completely unconcerned about anybody else. My cousin then asked me if I would ever be comfortable allowing my own daughter to go to Goa after what we saw that day with that young couple.

So, the question is how you survive that age when you are living your life from one high to another. And when parenthood hits them, how would they adjust to that. So that was essentially the emotional impulse of the film. Now I have always had this idea of trying out a mad thriller which has pace, energy and twists and turns. I must say Aseem Arrora did a brilliant job of writing these characters and that’s how we wove it all together. It’s really an organic process that starts with something small and then you just let it grow.

 How important are box-office figures to you as a filmmaker?

To tell you the truth, I am greatly relieved that Malang got a good opening at the box-office. And with it I have also completed 15 years as a director. It’s been a great learning experience for me. Speaking of the box-office, I feel the figures are very important because a person who makes money on your film comes back and makes more movies with you. So, you see, this allows you to make the kind of movies you want to make and in the genre, that you believe in. Malang doesn’t belong to any conventional genre. It’s A-rated and pushes the line when it comes to morality, edgy characters and the level of madness. The bigger the numbers at the box-office, the higher are the chances that they will let you make more such films that try to break free of conventions.

What were your expectations from Malang to begin with?

I am not someone who likes to put the expectations too high, to begin with. There is a certain amount of risk when you are trying something new. But I feel that trying to repeat the past formulae of success is surely the formula of failure. The safest thing for me and Aditya to do would have been another love story. But the challenge is to try to attempt something totally different. I would rather try something new and fail rather than fail while doing the same thing.

 How did you decide the casting for Malang?

I had seen Aditya at a party in Goa a long time ago. So, I knew that he knows that world. Also, I knew that he has an aptitude for action. Perhaps because I know him closely I was able to see something that others couldn’t. And then Kunal is a great actor whom I have known for a long time. I had launched him in Kalyug.

I needed my best actor to play Michael Rodriguez. It’s very easy to look funny in such a role and so I didn’t want to take any risks with the part. Now, I have been a fan of Mr Anil Kapoor since Tezaab. So, the part of Agashe was perfect for him. It’s something he hadn’t done in a long time, so he too was quite excited about it. Disha has a high level of emotional intelligence which not many people are aware of and so I was really lucky to have been able to explore that side of her in Malang.

Interestingly, Elli is a Swedish girl and yet she has mostly played Indian characters. This is really the first time she is playing a Swedish character in a film. So, it was a relief for her also. The basic idea was to cast the right actors instead of casting big, popular actors.

 How does the web appeal to you as an alternative medium of entertainment?

I personally love it. I think finally we have a medium where we can compete at the international level and we really have the talent to do it. If you look at some of the recent shows like Mirzapur and Jamtara they are really at par with international quality.

So I feel that the web should be used to allow Indian filmmakers to compete with the world’s best. I think it is a great medium to experiment with newer ideas and relatively newer actors. It is really a platform for the future. In the times to come the content is going to become bolder and I don’t mean it in terms of nudity or language but in purely creative terms. I think it is a great portal to showcase one’s talent. I would love to do something but not one just to utilise the time gap between two films. It really has to be something that can help me position myself on a global level.

 Who are the filmmakers that inspire you?

Well, the way I see it, Hitchcock is not just a filmmaker but I like to see him as a genre in himself. In my films, I usually like to pay tribute to the kind of films I have grown up watching. I have tried doing that with Malang as well. Now, I feel that we often tend to overlook our own filmmakers. But I must tell you that I am genuinely a big fan of  Vijay Anand. People think that thrillers and romantic films are two different entities but Vijay Anand has proven the notion wrong time and again.  And the kind of music he has had in films such as Jewel Thief, Teesri Manzil and others it’s just amazing. Also, his films had great moments of comedy as well.

 What are you working on next?

Next I am working on Ek Villain 2. I still have to cast the female leads. I like my female actors to have meaty roles and so I am very particular about their casting. As far as the male leads are concerned, John Abraham and Aditya Roy Kapur are already on board. It’s a newer story and hence a fresh cast, but it does have references to the previous part.