Sriram Raghavan: Saif Ali Khan and I are discussing something

Sriram Raghavan on his Agent Vinod, reclaiming The Accidental Apprentice and gearing up to roll with his next, a biopic

Three years after the Varun Dhawan-starrer Badlapur, Sriram Raghavan is back with another thriller, AndhaDhun, with Ayushmann Khurrana as a blind musician and also featuring Tabu and Radhila Apte. The movie developed from a short film his filmmaker-friend Hemant Rao had shared with him a few years ago.

“I’d gone to Chennai for a workshop where I met and befriended many aspiring filmmakers, among them Hemant whose concept I really liked and asked him to expand on it but he got busy with his own film while I started work on Badlapur,” reminisces the filmmaker, adding that after the intense 2015 crimedrama, he wanted to return to the space of his 2007 neo-noir thriller Johnny Gaddaar. “I had finished the first draft when I read about Hrithik Roshan and Yami Gautam’s Kaabil which revolved around a blind couple and thought it would get too much if two similar films vied for attention together. So, I put the script aside till I saw Kaabil and realised it shared no similarities with my film. The journey began again.”

He goes on to confide that he had narrated the idea of the film to Varun too and while the actor had liked the subject, he was more excited about Badlapur then. Later, he did consider taking the film again to him, but by then the 31-year-old actor had got busy with other projects and having already spent a lot of time waiting for it, Sriram started auditioning newcomers. “Then I got a text from Ayushmann saying that he’d heard I had a script and would like to audition for it. I warned him it wasn’t a slice-oflife kind of films he does but I narrated the story to him and he loved it. I also realised that since he’s a musician and a good actor, why not cast him?” Sriram smiles.

His next directorial which will reunite him with his Agent Vinod and Badlapur producer Dinesh Vijan, is the biopic of Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal who was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra. “Ritesh Shah is writing the script, it’s actually two stories in one film — one of a soldier martyred at a young age and the other, of his father. I will start casting after the script is locked and spend some time prepping for it. We start shooting next year,” he informs.

Quiz him on Agent Vinod and what went wrong with the spy thriller and Sriram admits it was too long and if he’d had more time, he’d have reduced the length by half an hour. “We tried but back then I was too close to the film to edit it,” he acknowledges, admitting that there were some disagreements with his leading man and producer . “But that was because both of us loved the subject immensely.” Any plans of collaborating with the actor again? “Yes, Saif and I are discussing something,” he informs.

Even Neil has been requesting him for a sequel to Johnny Gaddaar but Sriram points out that he doesn’t have a story yet. “Even with Badlapur I don’t want to do a sequel to that story as it’s over. If there is another story that we can give the title Badlapur to help the producer, why not? For now, Dinesh and I haven’t found a script yet,” he sighs.

What happened to his screen adaptation of Vikas Swarup’s novel, The Accidental Apprentice? Buzz is, Deepika Padukone was approached to play shop assistant Sapna Sinha, who can become the CEO of a business empire if she can pass seven tests. “I have multiple versions of the script but they didn’t excite me. Later one of my friends purchased the rights and has asked me to direct it for him. If I crack it this time, I will reclaim The Accidental Apprentice,” Sriram signs off.

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