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John Abraham's whole back became red and black in five seconds when the table was broken on it: Milap Zaveri on 'Satyameva Jayate 2' shoot

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The Times Of India
25th November, 2021 16:57 IST

'Satyameva Jayate 2', sequel to the 2018 Independence Day movie, that released today, promises to be an actioner. The film's writer-director Milap Zaveri and actress Divya Kumar Khosla talk shop with ETimes. Excerpts:

What made you make a sequel to 'Satyameva Jayate'?

On 15th August 2018, when 'Satyameva Jayate' released, touchwood, it did so well and became such a hit and got that opening. That evening itself, I was in John's office with our producer Monisha Advani and I told John that we have to make part 2. Because the topic of corruption that part 1 addressed will not end, we will always find a story to weave around it. John was busy for a year, and so, after that, I made 'Marjaavaan' in between, and then I started writing 'Satyameva Jayate 2'. And then the pandemic hit, so we had to wait and for things to subside and shootings to resume. The idea came from the success of part 1. It's a great franchise because the love we got from the masses made us feel that this could become a franchise where you keep fighting various forms of corruption.

What made you have John Abraham in three different characters?

Originally, when I wrote the story, it was a story of two brothers, Satya and Jay, one who takes the law in his own hands and one who is the law and their clash, their fight. When I wrote the script, I realised that the father's role (Dadasaheb Azad) was the strongest out of the three. So, I called John and said that how could I take another actor in a film where he's the lead hero, and he has a better role than him. I told him that he should play the father too. He said, ' Are you crazy!', I said ,' No! There have been instances where Amitabh Bachchan sir, Rajnikanth sir, and Kamal Haasan sir have done triple roles before. If I can give the audience three Johns in the price of one ticket, it's a great deal for them'.

Divya, what made you work in this project, and what excited you the most about it?

I think when Milap approached me, I remember my first question was whether my role would be strong or not, that's when he convinced me and I went by his trust and faith. Vidya's character is that of a politician and the way he has written her and presented her is so strong, powerful, and dignified. It was really challenging for me. When I heard the entire narration and script, I was like, 'This is just wow!'

How was it playing the character of a politician for you?

For me, it was challenging to become her, because I'm totally unlike her. I'm very emotional and childlike and she's a strong woman who has a commanding presence. So the challenging part was to become her and I can just guarantee you and promise you that once you see her on screen, you'll never find me there. Once I became her, I think everything else came out naturally. The dialogues that Milap had written also helped me a lot. Because they were such strong lines, that they really helped me emote her and bring her out.

Are you taking a backseat from your career as a director or as a producer?

Yeah, right now I'm not directing or producing; I'm totally focused on acting.

Milap what made you cast Divya for this role?

I really wanted to clear the air on this. It's really easy to think that Bhushan (Kumar) sir suggested that I should work with Divya, but that's absolutely not the case. In fact, it was the opposite. It was Monisha Advani, our producer, and me who told Bhushan sir that we would like to approach Divya for the part. I had met Divya many times because I kept coming to the office, I had seen all her videos, I had seen all the superhit songs that she had done, I had seen the short film that she has done, which is 'Bulbul'. And I felt that she's a good actress and I knew that she was interested in getting back into films.

When you make a film for 6 months or a year, you need to be around good people, it's very important and I felt that vibe from her. I also felt that she would not come with any baggage or insecurities. Because eventually, there are three John Abrahams in the film, so maybe the present actresses who are working in the industry could have insecurities or issues of being in the film. She had none of those insecurities because she was so focused and she knew what her role was, she knew the impact her role would make as she's also a writer, director, producer. When she heard the script, she said,' Milap, I loved the script and I loved the film. I think this film will do good'. In my entire career, I've been through actors who often think about only their roles that they forget to think about the whole film. And she thought about the whole film. She is popular, she has a huge fan base, her songs are all superhits, she's beautiful, she's talented, people want to see her, so I thought that just because of who she is, why should we hold that against her that she should not act in films.

Also, while there's glamour and songs and she's lovely in all of them, it's a very dignified role, there's a certain strength in the role and I feel there's a certain inner strength in Divya, the way she conducts herself, the way she meets people, there's a lot of niceness in her. It's an anagram, Divya-Vidya, so I wrote it that way. Initially, I thought to let it be Divya, but then I thought people would irritate me and think of me as a lazy director, so I changed it to Vidya. I would want to say on record that despite who she is, everyday she came on the set, she came as an actress. She never came as my producer, or Bhushan ji's wife, or Divya Khosla Kumar who's such a big music video sensation. She came like Vidya on set. She was down to earth, positive, she was always laughing and smiling. The whole unit used to look for the day she came because they knew there'll be no drama or tantrum and the heroine's mother won't be with her since aunty never used to come on set. There was no paraphernalia, there was no stress.

Honestly, I was worried also. Because of who she is, I thought that if I upset her or if I am not able to do justice to her character, I'd lose my job. So there was a pressure that I have to do justice to her character. But she never let me feel any pressure. And I must say, every first take of hers was always okay, but she's so dedicated that she wanted to give more takes and then she would come saying that the first one was better and then I was like ,'Divya I told you before only that the first take was the best, you only wanted to do more takes'. So these are the reasons that I approached her with Monisha and touchwood, I think it worked out beautifully.

You recently said that, John Abraham is the Hulk, the Amitabh Bachchan for you...

Well after 'Mastizade', I had no career. There was nobody who wanted to work with me and in that time John Abraham worked with me; he gave me 'Satyameva Jayate', he gave me a career. So for me, he's my real-life hero. Nikhil Advani, our producer, often jokes and says that according to Milap, one John can do anything, to obtain logic and convince us, he has kept three Johns. But according to him, a single John can do everything--he can lift bikes, tear tags, break the tables--he can do anything. So, for me, he's my Hulk.

But did he get paid thrice?

He didn't get paid thrice. Bhushan ji got three Johns for one price

Divya: When you see the film, you will get so emotionally invested in the film that everything would feel real and you'd actually cry at some points. Everything will feel very natural, even John lifting the bike.

There are reports that you might be working with him in your second film. How true is that?

No, I won't like to answer that over here.

Milap, you said that this film is dedicated to directors like Manmohan Desai. So what is that which we will get to see in this movie where you're going to dedicate the story to them?

See, it's not the story, it's the genre. I grew up watching movies of Manmohan Singh, Prakash Mehra, Subhash Ghai, Rakesh Roshan, Mukul Anand--all larger- than-life commercial Hindi cinema which had a hero, songs, action, comedy, dialogues, Hindu-Muslim equality. 'Satyameva Jayate 2' is a tribute to that kind of cinema, which is larger-than-life, preaches heroism, goodness, respecting women, raising voice against injustice, but in an entertaining manner. I grew up watching cinema. I used to go to the theatre and clap, applaud and whistle. I used to buy tickets in black and watch these big stars and the films of these directors. Now, I'm like a child in a candy store, I'm getting to make what I want to make and I hope the audience likes this film, so I continue getting to make what I want to make.

When Nora Fatehi was shooting for the song, she actually got injured. Shooting seems to be no easy task...

Yeah, Nora got her neck hurt. She got a piece of glass into her foot while shooting 'Kusu Kusu' and she was bleeding and she thought we were all thinking about the song. She was like,' You all are thinking that I won't shoot', I said, ' No, I know you'll shoot'. She bandaged her leg and she danced with the bandage on the leg. John got injured so many times during the shoot. If you see the trailer, there's a shot where a table is broken on his back. When that broke, his whole back became red and black in five seconds. He came to the monitor and said, 'Superb shot!' I said, 'No John, we can do one more'. He was like,' No Milap, it's done, it's okay!' Then suddenly I saw his back and realised that his back had got smashed and he got injured. Divya didn't get injured in any point, she was always sarso ke kheto mein. I could never let her get injured, she's my heroine, so I was more careful around her. We take safety, we do everything, but it happens sometimes. Like there was a scene where Harsh (Chhaya) was supposed to fall back and John was supposed to hold him, but Harsh fell in the wrong way and it sprained John's hand and he tore a tendon. He got injured by something as simple as that and he had to go for an X-ray. So we take all the precautions, we do our best, we have a great action team, we have safety measures but sometimes these things happen, it's inevitable.

Do you somewhere feel that promoting is very important even though we are going through this Covid situation?

I feel visibility is definitely important. The first and foremost thing is that people should know that this film is coming. Once they know and once they see the trailer, the song and all the units then they would want to watch the film. So it's really important to reach out to them.

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