Be it the ravines of Chambal Valley in "Paan Singh Tomar" or the murky lanes of Ghaziabad in "Shagird", Tigmanshu Dhulia's films have been rooted deeply in the interiors of India and he admits he doesn't have a knack of making films like "Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge" that require glamorous locations and pretty faces.
Having grown up in Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh, the filmmaker tries to incorporate his small-town experience in his cinematic presentation.
"I come from this kind of background and I know it well. To say that I will make a film like 'Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge'(DDLJ), I will fail at it," Dhulia told IANS in an exclusive interview.
Finally, recognition came his way.
First it was with the success of his crime saga "Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster" franchise and later he cemented it with Irrfan starrer "Paan Singh Tomar", about the former national steeplechase champion-turned-bandit. It fetched him a National Award.
" 'Paan Singh Tomar' was a game changer for me. Things are way easier for me now," admits Dhulia.
With the recognition came also opportunities of working in films with bigger budgets and a starry cast.
His forthcoming "Bullet Raja" is in that league - focussing on mafia based in Uttar Pradesh, the film starring Saif Ali Khan in the title role.
"When you know the budget of a film will be more than Rs.50 crore, then you require a star. This is economics...you need a star for these kinds of films," said Dhulia who is eagerly waiting for the release of "Bullet Raja" that has another star, Sonakshi Sinha, in the cast.
"When we were writing 'Bullet Raja', we knew what kind of scale we are looking at and what kind of budget the film will require," he added.
Many feel that the stars come with their specified image, but Dhulia argues that the trend is changing.
"Cinema is changing and stars are willing and ready to experiment with different images. They don't just want to continue doing what they are doing. They are also ready to change and experiment with different characters," he said.
The filmmaker is aware that there is no secret to success in the industry.
Dhulia feels that franchises work well with the audience.
"I feel that franchises work. There is so much competition in the market that everyone is using it now. Hollywood is also functioning because of franchises. As long as your work is original, there is nothing wrong with it," he said.
Filmmaking is a tricky skill, he says.
"You have to strike a balance between your creative satisfaction and the producer's satisfaction as well. 'Bullet Raja' justifies both. The film is all about attitude...but the scenes and dialogues also have some weight as well," he said.
(Anjuri Nayar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)