‘There is nobody like Irrfan’: Tigmanshu Dhulia

Tigmanshu Dhulia is no stranger to digital streaming platforms. The writer-director, who made the National Award-winning film Paan Singh Tomar, has directed Out of Love for Hotstar, and has been a part of the cast for OTT (over-the-top) platform shows like Rangbaaz and Fixerr.

His latest film, Yaara, is now streaming on Zee5 although given a choice, Tigmanshu says, he would prefer making a web series over a film if presented with another opportunity to work for an OTT platform.

Yaara though was stuck in a financial quagmire for a while before earning its digital release. “The content you watch on the web (OTT), it is not about the plot. It is about the world. You create a world, you get into its details and that is what makes the content interesting and watchable. In feature films, you are always pushing the plot forward,” he says, over phone from Mumbai.

Having a digital release means not worrying about box office clashes and first-day collections; now a thing of the past. “It is very comforting. Only big producers would get better shows and more screens. The rest [of the films] were getting slaughtered. These are good times for filmmakers,” says Tigmanshu, who is a co-producer for Yaara.

Tigmanshu Dhulia

Yaara is a remake of the 2011 French film Les Lyonnais, which, the filmmaker adds, takes inspiration from Sergio Leone’s 1984 classic, Once Upon a Time in America (OUTA). “I would not have remade the film otherwise. OUTA is my most favourite film. When I was watching Les Lyonnais, it felt like an easier version of OUTA.”

Weight of words

Tigmanshu’s writing is noted for one peculiar quality — zero obscenity. Finding an expletive in the dialogues he writes is as difficult as finding a needle in a haystack.

The reason, he clarifies, is not that it is because he is “traditional”, or if he prefers to avoid confronting the country’s infamous Film Certification Board. “People who use excessive abusive language [in their content] look like they have lesser abilities as a writer. There is a why and when you should use an expletive. It could be that you are making a film set in the geography where the story is set, or if it is a film on gangsters and dacoits,” he says.

Survival skill

  • With the debate on nepotism in Bollywood raging on social media sites, and taking on a political hue too lately — in the aftermath of actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s untimely death (the actor died by suicide) — Tigmanshu says a film family scion’s only advantage is the ability to make their first step easy. “They don’t have to struggle for that first opportunity, but there is no advantage afterwards. They need to prove themselves,” he says and cites actor Kumar Gaurav for reference.
  • [Kumar Gaurav] had the best launch ever. He was supposed to be the next Rajesh Khanna. But look at what happened to him after one or two films,” he adds.

“But I made Paan Singh Tomar, a film about a dacoit, and there was not one expletive used in the dialogues; because when you set a film in the hinterlands, their language itself is so choosy you don’t need to rely on abuses. My first film Haasil was based on campus politics and there was not a single gaali there. It just shows the writing was strong,” he adds.

A graduate of the National School of Drama (NSD), he was a frequent collaborator with the late Irrfan Khan, also a graduate of the NSD. Has he come to terms with the loss of a dear friend? “It is too fresh,” he says.

Irreparable loss to cinema is how most people in showbiz described the loss of Irrfan; the actor died in April after a long battle with cancer.

“The industry will look to someone else [to fill his spot] but the people who really knew him know the kind of loss not having Irrfan around is. Very few people, and I can count myself in that list. I have not seen anybody around who can prove themselves worthy of his space. More than that, the kind of human being he was, and the actor that his humane qualities made him… aisa banda hai nahi koi (there is nobody like him),” he adds.

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