I revel in thriller-gangster genre, says Sanjay Gupta

Komal Panchamatia
·4-min read

Mumbai, Mar 18 (PTI) 'Mumbai Saaga' director Sanjay Gupta says he is more than happy to be known as a genre filmmaker as he is not in the Hindi film industry to impress people with a wide range.

Gupta, who is synonymous with the gangster films in Bollywood, started his career in 1994 with the action film 'Aatish: Feel the Fire', but it was the 2001 stylish multi-starrer 'Kaante' that brought him recognition. His credits also include 'Musafir', 'Zinda', and the 'Shootout' series.

Gupta takes pride in the fact that he is the only director in the industry who continues to make films in the thriller-gangster space.

'I am not inclined towards making social films or love stories or comedies. This is the kind of cinema I enjoy and watch. I revel in this genre. I don't think there's anybody else doing it. With each film, I have to reinvent be it the language, technique or storytelling,' he told PTI in an interview.

After a string of forgetful films in the late 2010s, Gupta received commercial and critical acclaim for the 2017 action thriller 'Kaabil', starring Hrithik Roshan.

'After 'Kaabil' I got a lot of love and affection but it has not given me the cult status that 'Kaante' has. I remember 'Kaante' premiered at Fame Adlabs in the presence of all the stars and everyone loved it. I knew my life had changed,' the 53-year-old writer-director recalled.

'I am not here to impress anybody with a wide range. I am happy in (my) space, which is thriller-gangster (genre). I am fortunate to get to make films that I want to,' he added.

Gupta said growing up, films such as 'The Godfather', 'Scarface', 'Heat' and Oscar-winning filmmaker Quentin Tarantino's movies left a a strong impression on him.

'Tom Cruise was the hero because of 'Top Gun'. But the real heroism was in bad guys both in Bollywood and Hollywood. Like you remember Amitabh Bachchan from 'Deewar', 'Trishul', 'Hum' and not from 'Bemisal' or others,' he noted.

In Hindi cinema, Gupta was inspired by the works of former screenwriter duo Salim-Javed, and directors Mukul Anand, Ramesh Sippy, and Vijay Anand.

'One remembers the dialogues, the treatment, the heroism, somewhere we have forgotten that. As a kid, when I would watch Mr Bachchan's films in Gaiety (cinema) and would walk out of it, I would feel I am Amitabh Bachchan,' the filmmaker said.

'Kaante' was also special as Gupta had his hero, megastar Amitabh Bachchan as part of the 2002 action-thriller, but it was not all that rosy.

The director recalled facing financial issues as no producer was willing to back the movie.

'Every time you try to do a clutter-breaker, there is more opposition to it than acceptance,' he said.

To make 'Kaante' a reality, Gupta and his leading man Sanjay Dutt formed the production company, White Feather Films, which is a co-producer on his latest offering 'Mumbai Saga'.

'I remember meeting all the top producers of that time narrating the story and everybody refused saying, all the heroes are above 40, there is no love story, there is no scope for music and songs. But all of this was the USP of the film,' he said of the film that went on to become a major box office draw.

Citing Mani Ratnam's Tamil crime drama 'Nayakan' as one of his influences, Gupta said he owes it big to the iconic director. Starring Kamal Haasan, the 1987 film was loosely based on the life of the Bombay underworld don Varadarajan Mudaliar.

'My entire base of becoming a filmmaker was understanding cinema through 'Nayakan'. It was a pure gangster film. This film, 'Parinda' and 'Hum' were responsible for influencing me. They are my masters.' In 'Mumbai Saga', Gupta revisits the power dynamic between the city's police force and underworld in the '80s and '90s.

The key intention with 'Mumbai Saga' is to reach out to the younger audience, who have been his fans since 'Kaante' days.

'The kids who are watching films now don't know how Mumbai was in the '80s. Today if you tell someone there is a gangster around, they won't believe it because all of that finished 20-years ago. That was a way of life, there was violence on streets, people were getting killed and how the police ended it all. People who have not seen this world will marvel at it,' Gupta declared.

The nexus of mill owners, gangsters, police men and politicians was responsible in the evolution of Mumbai and it was fascinating to explore this world, he said.

'The landscape of today's Mumbai is because of shutting down of mills and high rises that have come up. That's the time Bombay became Mumbai, why did that happen, who made it happen, who was responsible for it, who was for it and against it.' 'Mumbai Saga' stars John Abraham, Emraan Hashmi, Kajal Agarwal, Mahesh Manjrekar, Suniel Shetty, Prateik Babbar, Rohit Roy, Gulshan Grover, and Amole Gupte.

It is produced by T-Series, White Feather Films, and Sangeeta Ahir, and is slated to be released on Friday. PTI KKP RDS BK BK