“John gave me his blessings to make Marjaavaan” – Milap Milan Zaveri

Anish Mohanty

Milap Milan Zaveri started out as a writer with films like ‘Kaante’ (2002) and ‘Jhankaar Beats’ (2003) and went on to write several successful films after that. As a director, he failed with his first two outings ‘Jaane Kahaan Se Aayi Hai’ (2010) and ‘Mastizaade’ (2016) but bounced back in a big way with ‘Satyameva Jayate’ (2018). He is unabashed about his love for masala cinema and makes it clear that it is a genre he wants to be associated with for a long time. In this interview, he talks about his new film ‘Marjaavaan’, how a shelved Amitabh Bachchan film served as the inspiration for Riteish Deshmukh’s character in the film, equation with brother and editor Maahir Zaveri, why masala films are still ruling the box-office and more.

When did you write ‘Marjaavaan’?

‘Marjaavaan’ was actually written a long time back. I had written it for Emmay Entertainment and we were looking for a director to make it.  For various reasons, the film did not take off at that point of time. After the success of ‘Satyameva Jayate’, I regained my confidence as a director and decided to make ‘Marjaavaan’ myself. It is a script that was very close to my heart and I am glad I got the opportunity to bring it to the screen myself.

You had written the dialogues for ‘Ek Villain’ which had Sidharth Malhotra playing the protagonist and Riteish Deshmukh playing the antagonist. Was it a conscious decision to cast them together again in a film?

No, it was not a conscious decision as such. It was the requirement of the script to have them in the film. Nobody could have played these characters better than Sidharth and Riteish. People had loved Sidharth in a massy avatar in ‘Ek Villain’ and I think he should have done more films in that space. After that film, the audience mostly saw him in urbane roles. Raghu, the character Sidharth plays, is a tribute to the ‘angry young man’ characters Mr. Amitabh Bachchan played in the 70s. In the late 80s, Mr. Subhash Ghai had announced a film with Mr. Bachchan called ‘Deva’. The film got shelved but I remembered an interesting thing about it. In that film, the villain was a vertically-challenged person and was going to be played by Mr. Liliput. That trivia had stayed with me and that served as an inspiration while I was sketching Riteish’s character.

A director needs to have a good equation with his editor and vice-versa. Your brother Maahir Zaveri edits your films. What is your equation with him?

Maahir and I share a great equation as director and editor. Our cinematic sensibilities are quite different but I guess, it works for us. I love commercial, masala films whereas Maahir has new-age sensibilities and watches different kinds of cinema. Sometimes, he makes me see things which I fail to and at times, I bounce ideas to him which he likes.

Nikkhil Advani had co-produced your first film ‘Jaane Kahaan Se Aayi Hai’ and then, ‘Satyameva Jayate’. Now, you are directing all your films for his company Emmay Entertainment. How has your equation with him evolved in all these years?

Apart from being my producer, Nikkhil Advani is my mentor, guru and brother. We have worked with each other for several years now and I feel some of his sensibilities have rubbed off on me and he has adapted a bit of my style in his films. For instance, ‘Batla House’ was his most commercial film till date. The scene in which John crushes the phone with his hands is something I would do in my films. Emmay Entertainment is my family and I am equally close to Nikkhil’s partners, his sister Monisha Advani and Madhu Bhojwani.

You started out as a writer with films like ‘Kaante’ and ‘Jhankaar Beats’ and have been a part of several films as a writer and now, as a director. You had also co-written Sanjay Gupta’s ‘Alibaug’ which never saw the light of the day. Is there any film of your which, you think, did not get its due?

I think ‘Jaane Kahaan Se Aayi Hai’ is a film which did not get its due. It was my first film as a director and I made it with a lot of love. There was romance, comedy and good music in the film. It was a well-packaged film and it will always remain special to me. I just wish it had done better.

Masala cinema is still a huge genre in the Southern film industries. In Bollywood, not too many filmmakers are making such films these days. What do you think is the reason behind that?

I think a lot of filmmakers and even actors think they will be criticised for doing such films. Of course, most of these films do not get 5-star ratings from the critics but the mass audience still comes for these films in huge numbers. Despite negative reviews, ‘Housefull 4’ is one of the biggest hits this year. ‘Saaho’ got some of the worst reviews and yet, made so much money. This clearly shows that there is a huge market for these films. At the end of the day, the audience likes to be entertained and these films provide them with the same. The audience’s love for masala films will never die.

You had stated in an old interview that you regret turning down offers as a writer when you were making your first film. Do you plan to continue writing for other directors?

After ‘Jaane Kahaan Se Aayi Hai’ failed, it took me a while to bounce back as a writer as I had said no to a lot of work as a writer and was completely focussed on that film. So, at that that point of time, I felt I should not have refused work while I was directing my first film. Now, that I have found success as a director I want to consistently make films. I think I have finally been promoted from a writer to a director now.

Can one expect you to surprise the audience by making something drastically different – an offbeat film for an instance?

No, I love commercial films. The films that I make reflect my sensibilities and I am very happy making them. I do not think I will be able to do justice to an arthouse film as a writer or a director.

Was it a conscious decision to make a film between ‘Satyameva Jayate’ and ‘Satyameva Jayate 2’?

The script of ‘Marjaavaan’ was ready with me for a while and I really wanted to make it before stepping into the world of ‘Satyameva Jayate 2’. When I told John about ‘Marjaavaan’, he was very happy and gave me his blessings to make ‘Marjaavaan’. I am looking forward to start shooting with him soon for ‘Satyameva Jayate 2’.

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