Writer-director Tigmanshu Dhulia
Shaheen Parkar (MID-DAY; July 12, 2017)

Tigmanshu Dhulia’s last directorial venture was the Saif Ali Khan and Sonakshi Sinha-starrer Bullett Raja (2013), which failed to live up to expectations. The maker of the National Award-winning film, Paan Singh Tomar (2012) and Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster (2011) is back on the scene after a gap with a slice of history, Raag Desh, which releases later this month.

“I hope there are expectations, and I hope I live up to them this time,” the filmmaker tells mid-day, adding, “To make a historical, you need to be interested in the subject and be its student. Not everyone can make one.” Dhulia’s film is based on the 1945 Indian National Army (INA) trials, which saw the court martial of officers Colonel Prem Sahgal, Colonel Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon, Major General Shah Nawaz Khan for treason.

Dhulia believes that it is great performances and not big names that decide the fate of a historical, and backs his star cast comprising Kunal Kapoor, Mohit Marwah and Amit Sadh. “In a historical, it is better to work with actors. When you work with a star, the audience sees the name, not the character. It is easier to mould actors into the characters,” he says, adding that his love for history inspired him to make this film. “I studied history at Allahabad university. You need to do extensive research to make such a film. Luckily, we had visual references too. I was keen to tell people about the role that Netaji Subhas Chandra played in the INA.”

Dhulia was keen to shoot at army outposts, but was denied permission following the surgical strikes in September 2016. He settled for makeshift studios in Dehradun, Delhi and Mumbai instead. The filmmaker plans to release the drama on July 28, following which it will also hit the small screen as a six-part mini-series. “We can reach out to a bigger audience,” he reasons.

Raag Desh clashes with Madhur Bhandarkar’s Indu Sarkar and Anees Bazmee’s Mubarakan, but Dhulia says he has limited options. “Every week, several films are lined up. I wish the Film & Television Producers’ Guild of India would take up the issue and segregate releases accordingly.”

A still from Raag Desh