Hiren Kotwani (BOMBAY TIMES; July 1, 2017)

Milan Luthria's tryst with Bollywood began 18 years ago, with his directorial debut, Kachche Dhaage. With hits like Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai (OUATIM) and The Dirty Picture, he soon became a name to reckon with in the industry. Coincidentally, both his last successes were set in the 1970s. While Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai Dobaara! didn't repeat the success of its predecessor, the response to the trailer of his upcoming venture, Baadshaho, set against the backdrop of the 1975 Emergency, suggests that he's back in form. We chat up with the filmmaker on what makes the 70s his favourite decade, his friendship with Ajay Devgn, the music and dialoguebaazi in his films and more. Excerpts...

While Baadshaho is reportedly inspired by true incidents during the Emergency, when the government conducted raids on the royal families of Rajasthan, the title suggests that it's a mainstream masala film. So, is it a hybrid of fact and fiction?
These incidents did happen during the Emergency and are documented. So many valuables, including antiques, gold and jewellery were taken away, but nobody knows what happened to them. That is the premise on which our film is set. We wanted to make an entertainer that is larger than life and with six strong characters, the title had to justify them all. All six are baadshahos.

Your film OUATIM was also set in the 70s. What's it about that era that fascinates you?
I am enamoured by the period, with its larger-than-life elements, machismo and drama. More than me discovering the era, it seems to have found me. Baadshaho began with a friend in Rajasthan narrating a story he had heard. I was figuring out what to do next, and this tale fit the bill. While multi-starrers were easier to make in the 70s, it's tougher today. To begin with, it wasn't easy getting the cast in place. However, I must add that the film has been styled differently. While OUATIM was shot in the 70s' style, this movie has a different energy as far as the music, visuals, styling and attitude of the characters go.

Ajay Devgn seems to be your favourite actor. You began your directorial journey with him and then followed it up with films like Chori Chori, OUATIM and now, Baadshaho. What makes you two click?
The energy and understanding we share bring out the best in each other. It's evident in the work we do. There is that X-factor when Ajay does a movie with me, as he looks different from his other films. We have never talked about it, but we know that there is a connect. This is also my third film with Emraan Hashmi, after OUATIM and The Dirty Picture. On the other hand, there are also actors like Ileana D'Cruz, Vidyut Jammwal, Esha Gupta and Sanjay Mishra, with whom I am working for the first time. So, it's a nice mix of new people and some whom I am familiar with.

You go a long way with Ajay and Emraan. How did you zero in on Vidyut?
I was looking for someone who can match up to Ajay and Emraan's personality. Vidyut is very good with action, and I felt that their combination would be extremely interesting.

What about Ileana and Esha? Are their characters central to the plot? Did women play a pivotal part during the 1975 raids?
The impact of the raids on the women in royal families is well documented. I found Ileana perfect for the role. She is a good actress and is yet to get her due. Esha is more in the Zeenat Aman mould, the saucy tough girl. She has a great personality.

Pacy background scores and interesting soundtracks played important roles in OUATIM and The Dirty Picture. Did Baadshaho offer you as much scope to experiment with music?
Music adds flavour to films and if one stays close to the genre, it enhances the product. In Baadshaho, the music merges the Rajasthan of 70s with slight hard rock sounds, lending it a new-age feel. I believe that the audio is subconscious while the visual is conscious. Ajay once told me, 'People talk about your background score,' which is not the case with most filmmakers. Background score is very important and if you look at the West, their greatest films feature memorable background music.

You seem to lay a lot of emphasis on dialogues as well...
Rajat (Aroraa, writer) and I don't overdo it. We ensure that even a normal dialogue gets applauded. I'm sure that he slogs a lot on the dialogues before discussing them with me. It's nice that there is an audience that likes dialoguebaazi, it's probably in the DNA of Indian viewers.

What's next on the cards? Any 70s film you'd love to remake?
The movies of that era were milestones. Deewaar, Amar Akbar Anthony, Trishul... you can watch them repeatedly and admire them. I have many stories and am waiting for the right time.