In a free-wheeling chat with businessofcinema.com, Atul Sabharwal, first time director of the Arjun Kapoor – Sasheh Agha starrer ‘Aurangzeb’ spoke about cinema, Shakespeare, his lead stars and why he feels ‘Aurangzeb’ is a ‘drama- thriller’ film. Here are a few excerpts from the exclusive interview:
Q. Tell us about your switchover from TV to film – how did it happen?
Atul: My TV work was coincidental, I had no plans of doing anything in TV initially. I had this one concept, which was a very long story, which was about the drug trade. It was supposed to be directed by someone else when I wrote it in 2001, but Star Plus didn’t show any interest, so it was put on the back burner. The one day I met Raveena Kohli at Yash Raj and after a gap of 8 years it was produced. Since I’d written all the 26 episodes myself, and was so closely attached to it because of the continuous 7-8 year long research I’d put into it, I wanted to direct it myself.
Q. It’s been said ‘Aurangzeb’ is inspired from 1978 super hit ‘Trishul’ and is also eerily similar to the 1987 film ‘The Devil’s Double’ – put these rumours to rest once and for all?
Atul: ‘Aurangzeb’ is not inspired from any of these. It has nothing to do with these two films, and it has nothing to do with ‘Don’, or ‘Departed’ or any other Korean or Japanese film, as is usually stated on the internet.
Q. Tell us a little bit about ‘Aurangzeb’?
Atul: At the heart of it, it’s an emotional film. ‘Aurangzeb’ is a film about fathers and sons and their emotions and attachments, and wives and lovers, and what you would expect in a family drama. As the trailer says, “A family of policemen, and a family of gangsters”.. It is a drama in the sense of a Shakespearean or Greek tragedy, like a classic family drama. Even like the older Indian films like ‘Mother India’ or ‘Deewaar’, and the crime thriller element automatically lends itself to this genre. So, you can call my film a “drama thriller”, but it’s not a whodunnit.
Q. Why the title ‘Aurangzeb’? Most people would associate this with a period film.
Atul: We were aware this would be the general interpretation (of people expecting it to be a period film), but we wanted to create the impression and that intrigue ke what is it, what it isn’t? That’s why when we announced the title, we didn’t release any stills because we wanted people to discover later that it’s a modern-day film, not a period film. A film set in present-day Gurgaon.
I always wanted a title more Shakespearean. Shakespeare had done plays on the lives of monarchs and emperors like ‘Othello’, ‘Macbeth’, ‘Julius Caesar’. I wanted a title within that league, that symbolises the
power-struggle of the characters.
Q. How did you decide on casting Arjun Kapoor and Sasheh Agha together?
Atul: The decision to cast them was two parallel decisions, it was based on each individual’s talent and how they’d fit the part. Keeping in mind the demand of the roles, in Arjun’s case it was the fact that I’d been seeing him for sometime now, even before ‘Ishaqzaade’. I thought he had a powerful persona, and would be interesting to capture on-screen. In Sasheh’s case, the casting director had auditioned her and we were looking for a certain kind of girl, somebody who was a strong-headed, modern woman, and we all liked that audition of hers. So we tested her for the film, and decided to sign her on.
YRF’s ‘Aurangzeb’ features Arjun Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor, Prithviraj, Jackie Shroff and introduces Sasheh Agha. The film will hit screens 17 May 2013