Congratulations on Takht. What can you tell us about the film?
Only that it’s based in the Mughal era. It’s history. It’s about two warring brothers and it’s based on facts as we know them. Beyond that, it’s too early to say anything.
Would you say that this is your most ambitious project to date?
Yes, opulence-wise and scale-wise it’s my biggest to date. It’s scary and nerve-wracking. I’m scared every minute of the day. The announcement shook me up. I’m really petrified. It’s not the scale. It’s also the relationship dynamics. It’s like the K3G of the Mughal era. But it’s more extreme, there is more betrayal. It’s has the tropes of court politics. It’s so rich in texture.
You have a spectacular star cast. Were all these actors cast because they fit the role or is it also because you wanted stars?
It’s an unusual mix of talent. They are actors who have walked the parallel path, we have the superstar dynamic with Kareena (Kapoor), there’s Anil Kapoor who I have never directed before – but each actor fits the part to the tee. It’s not that I have gone to them because I have access. It’s a strange dichotomy. Each one has never played a part like this and yet each one fit it perfectly.
The Takht announcement also created a flutter because you gave your writers Sumit Roy and Hussain Haidry, center stage. Why did you decide to do this?
It was my instinct. I have always said we need to empower writers. Films fail and succeed because of the writing. How can they not be given center stage in a film that is all about the writers? I will execute it but the true leaders in the game are the writers. I really respect a director like Shoojit Sircar who gives Juhi Chaturvedi so much respect and prominence. Raju Hirani does the same with Abhijat Joshi. I’ve been in the industry for 20 years and it’s about time. I didn’t even speak to anyone about it. This just had to be done. I wanted to give writers deserving placement.
The bar for historicals in Hindi cinema has been set by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Are you afraid that Takht will be compared to his films?
I would be lying if I didn’t admit that the comparison is very challenging. I love Sanjay’s aesthetic. The comparison scares me but I hope I can find my own voice. I hope I’m not doomed by comparison. I’m just recovering from Sairat and I can’t go there again. I also don’t want be overwhelmed by it. He has set the bar high and if I pay homage to his work, I will be proud of it. So much of my cinema pays homage to Yash Chopra but I still gave it my own vision and my own palette. More than the comparison, I’m afraid of not living up to the potential of the narrative. I just hope I can do justice to the material.