Suniel Shetty's son Ahan Shetty is all set to mark his debut in Bollywood with the remake of Telugu hit "RX 100" titled Tadap, co-starring Tara Sutaria. It is scheduled to release in theaters on 3rd December 2021. The film is produced by Sajid Nadiadwala and helmed by Milan Luthria. Talking about this official remake, the director said, "We have changed the screenplay quite a bit but we haven't touched the basic story and characters."
At the same time, he praised Ahan Shetty and said, "He is very disciplined, observant and sensitive actor, I think he will go a long way in Bollywood."
Milan Luthria, who made his directorial debut in 1999 with the film 'Kachche Dhaage', has given some brilliant films like 'Once Upon a Time in Mumbai', 'The Dirty Picture', 'Taxi Number 9211', which have been well received by the audience. Talking about cinema and OTT content, the director said, "This is a very good phase. Now it is not necessary that you have to cast a big star, only then the producers will give you money. You can work with any talented actor. Earlier when I started in this industry, it was very important that some star should be there in your film, otherwise the film will not be made."
Ahead of the release of the film 'Tadap', filmmaker Milan Luthria had an exclusive conversation with Filmibeat where he talks candidly about Ahan Shetty's debut, his love for action-thrillers and remakes.
Excerpts from the interview.
Q. How 'Tadap' came together? How work began on this remake?
A. I got a call from Sajid Nadiadwala's office that he wanted to meet me. Our friendship has been very old. We meet often, especially at Salman's house. So I went to his office, where he told that I have signed this guy, but I am not getting anything satisfactory that I can start with him. Would you like to plan something? I told him that till now I had not thought that I would do a "launch film". But this will be something new, so let's do it. Then I met Ahan and I really liked his personality. There is an innocence in him, an emotional strength and there is a decency in him. Still, I wanted to do his screen test, just to see what kind of film it would be a good fit for. I talked to him too and asked that what kind of actor do you think you want to be? He said, "Sir, I like your films very much because of the sensibility behind it, the emotions that are there.. I feel connected to it. I want to do the same kind of role. I am very happy that I am getting a chance to work with you because I know you will do the something of that kind with me." However, we got many stories in the meantime, but nothing really worked. One fine day our writer Rajat Arora said that you all must see RX100. Then one day I, Sajid Bhai and Ahan saw this film separately in our respective homes and all three loved the film very much. We immediately finalised that we should do this in Hindi and within 24 hours Sajid bhai bought the rights of the film. Then we made some changes in the screenplay keeping in mind the pan India audience and started workshops with Ahan. We gave him two-three coaches and some action training. But he was already well trained, so we didn't had to work much on him. We soon developed a good understanding. Then we cast Tara Sutaria. We auditioned her too. We gave a scene from 'The Dirty Picture' to both of them. To be honest, I didn't even feel for a second that I was auditioning a new artist, such a great screen test they gave. I also showed that to Sajid bhai and he was very happy, and then we started the film.
Q. You said you haven't thought of doing a 'launch film'. What are the challenges one faces as a filmmaker while directing an actor's debut film? Also, Ahan is a star kid, so people's expectations are high.
A. I had never kept the outside expectations in my mind while making the film. I just thought that Ahan has to look like a hero, perform like a hero and at the same time he should fulfill all the requirements of the character. There are some tricks of filmmaking, which we have been learning from each other. Like I have worked with Ajay Devgn, with Amit ji (Amitabh) or with Akshay; so some things I learned from them, some they learned from me. Those things I have tried to teach Ahan, that how to make your presence felt, about body language, how much energy you have to give in emotional scenes etc. Tadap is an intense film. Many a times it happened that we shot till 4-5 in the morning and he used to get very tired. So I had to tell him that go home, take rest... then we will do another scene. On the basis of my experience, I guided him a little; that's it. It has its own beauty, if you can share your experience with someone. It was the first time I experienced that someone else was learning from me. I really liked it. Ahan has also approached this relationship very well. He is very calm, silent observer, does exactly as I tell him to do, never came to the monitor, never saw his shot, never asked any absurd question, never came late to shoot. He is very disciplined and very sensible boy. And the good thing is that he listens very carefully. I think actors who listen; always perform better because a director is closer to the film than an actor. The actor comes on the shoot, while the director starts working on the film a year before. So the actor should draw that experience from him and Ahan has done that. I'm very proud of him. I think he will go a long way.
Q. Did Suniel Shetty ever visited the sets?
A. He came on the very first day. He wished everyone the best and he told me that he was very emotional that his son is having his first day on the shoot. Also, he told that the first restaurant of his family was there at the shooting location of the film. We shot on the first day at Central Plaza Cinema. Then one more day he and his wife came on the set. That's it, he never visited again. Sajid (Nadiadwala) bhai had also came on the first day itself. He told me that you do the film, when it will get completed, we both will sit and watch together.
Q. Some parts of the film were shot during COVID. How challenging was that period?
A. Fortunately, the big schedule we had was finished pre-Covid. After that the film got stuck for 6-8 months, then we had to go back to Mussoorie again for the second schedule. That time was very challenging. At that time we were shooting a song and 150-200 people were involved in that song. There were dancers, musicians whom we had called from Goa, some junior artists came from Delhi and the entire crew had gone from Mumbai. Don't know how many times the test was done. We have kept everything available on the sets. There were doctors, there were a lot of staff who did the tests. We became friends with them too. The makeup and costume department had to wear PPE kits throughout the day. To be honest, it seemed a bit strange. The first few days it seemed that anything could happen because so many people were there together. But we were very careful. No positive case was reported during the entire shooting.
Q. From Kache Dhaage to Baadshaho, the music of your films has always been well received. What would you like to say about Tadap's music? And how much is your participation in the music of the film?
A. When we were having our initial conversation about Tadap's music, I had said that if we are including romantic melodies, then Pritam is the best. Pritam was very busy at that time, he was working on some other films. But we are friends, so he agreed for Tadap. Our planning was that how can we keep the music young and with emotional connect at the same time. We wanted a maturity in the songs. What happens is that if you only include light-hearted songs in the film, than you don't connect emotionally with it. You will dance on it, play it in the party, but there will be a lack of emotional connect. Pritam had told me on the very first day that don't rush, I will give you 25 to 30 songs, out of which you can choose four songs, I know your taste is very good. And he literally gave me over 30 songs. Irshad bhai has written very good lyrics. We wanted to bring back the era of romantic melodies. The film has four songs and all are romantic.
Q. How easy or difficult is it to remake a film? That too when the original film is of some other language.
A. First of all, it is very important to understand that with what thinking the original film has been made. What was the motive? The motive behind the story you are adapting has to be fully understood, otherwise you will not be able to present it in your own way. So we tried to understand the nuances of 'RX 100'. Then we wrote our screenplay; made a few changes but we have not touched the basic story and characters. Since now the cast of the film is different, the director is different, the music is new, shot on a slightly lavish scale... so the way of telling the story is also different.
Q. Talking about writing, you and Rajat Arora have had a long association. What do you want to say about this partnership?
A. It's all about coordination and understanding. Like I have with Ajay Devgn too. We did 4 films together. There is a connection with Rajat, we understand each other. I know his weaknesses, his strengths; he knows mine. And we kind of like same things. There has been a partnership of many writers and directors who like to work together again and again because they are on the same page.
Q. Most of your films have been in the action-thriller genre. Have you always wanted to explore this genre?
A. I like intensity. I like action, thrill and pace. I don't like slow movies or typical family dramas. I want intensity and drama in stories, action is just an attitude which tells audience that there is a fire inside you, there is passion. Action means the same fight scenes, blasts, bullets.. but what is important is how you incorporate it into your story and how the attitude is reaching the audience.
Q. How do you see the future of OTT and theatre as a filmmaker?
A. I think both the medium are doing good on their own. A lot of new talent has emerged from OTT, who might not have got a chance from films. Writers, directors, actors, technicians.. all are getting a chance to showcase their work. This is a very good period. Now it is not necessary that you have to bring a big star only then the producer will give you money. You can work with any talented actor. When I started work, it was very important that some star should be in your film, otherwise the film will not even be made. Now the production value has changed. I think these two industries will support each other. We will learn from each other.
Q. You have worked with stars like Ajay Devgn, Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, and now on the other hand, you are bringing in a new artist. How different is this experience?
A. When a big star comes the director completely goes on the toes, as the stardom of the actor can be felt on the sets. At the same time, even when there is a new actor, the director goes on the toes because he knows that if any mistake will happen, it will be the director's fault, not that of the actor. The actor is new, people will give him another chance. So this is a big responsibility. The second thing is that the new artist stays a little away from you. There is a sense of respect, there is an admiration. I told Ahan many times that don't treat me like a senior, let's eat together, hang out together. I wanted to bring him to the same level. But that senior-junior thing always remains. At the same time, while working with Ajay, Akshay, John, we gossip a lot, we have fun. It's a complete different atmosphere.
Q. Many directors are making sequels or remakes of their films. Do you have any plans?
A. Just a few days back I met someone, and we were discussing that why not make a sequel of Taxi No 9211. I may plan something about this. Even I have an idea in my mind, but a remake or a sequel is not my priority at the moment. I want to make a film on fresh story. But if I come across a good story, then we will definitely do a sequel.