Mikhil Musale’s Gujarati movie Wrong Side Raju (2016) has got one thing right – the backing of a co-producer like Phantom Films, which has several well-regarded titles to its credit, including Queen (2014) and Udta Punjab (2016). Mid-budget Gujarati films have been regularly showing up in cinemas over the last few years, but their viewership is restricted to language speakers in Gujarat and Maharashtra. Wrong Side Raju is the first co-production in a three-film deal between Phantom Films and Cineman Productions, raising hopes that Gujarati films will find new audiences from other parts of the country. Wrong Side Raju has already been released in Gujarat, and Phantom Films is distributing the movie nationwide from September 6 with English subtitles.
The crime thriller is about a chauffeur, Raju Bambani (Pratik Gandhi), who works for real-estate developer Amitabh Shah (Asif Basra). Raju is an earnest driver by day and a bootlegger by night. Shah’s son Tanmay Shah (Kavi Shastri) is involved in a car crash that kills two policemen, and Bambani is falsely accused of the crime. In an interview with Scroll.in, Musale spoke about the topical plot, the importance of the movie’s setting, and the future of Gujarati cinema.
Is the story of ‘Wrong Side Raju’ based on the 2013 BMW hit-and-run case of Vismay Shah in Gujarat?
Yes and no. Actually my writing team (Karan Vyas, Niren Bhatt) and I looked at many such cases that had a similar pattern of a rich man involved in an accident where the poor chauffeur is implicated. People in Mumbai have told me that the story bears resemblance to the Salman Khan case. Someone felt it could have been in Uttar Pradesh. We looked at lots of news reports to see how we could make it look as generic and universal in theme. My film’s character, Tanmay Shah, is involved in a car crash, but we have not taken any leads from the Vismay Shah case. If I wanted to make a film based on true events, I would do that and say so. My film is a fictional thriller.
The hit-and-run story is treated as a slick thriller that could have been situated anywhere else. Why Gujarat then?
Yes, it is what we were aiming for. The story could have taken place anywhere. But we also wanted to show the aspirations of an average person named Raju Bambani. He lives in Gujarat and wants to achieve a few things in life, and the film is about how he moves from being an ordinary chauffeur and a bootlegger to starting his own business. Gujarat happened to be the backdrop because our production house is there. Otherwise, it could be made as a French film, if we had the resources.
You have previously said in an interview that you wanted to follow a non-linear narrative and are a fan of the films of Alejandro González Iñárritu and Karthik Subbaraj. Any film that inspired you?
I am a big fan of both of them. Iñárritu’s films have a puzzling structure but it all comes together in the end. My film’s structure is a little different. It has two parallel narratives of the same character, going through his past and present, unlike Iñárritu’s films, which follow multi-character narratives. I won’t say this or that film has inspired Wrong Side Raju because I have tried to invent my own style.
How and when did Phantom Films become a co-producer?
It happened in 2015 when we completed writing the script. We approached Phantom Films, and they liked the script and decided to co-produce it with us. Getting them on board was a blessing because it meant that the film would not be restricted to Gujarat alone. Phantom Films has a large worldwide audience and it makes people curious to see why they are producing a regional language film. It automatically brings new audiences to us and also allows us to reach out to them.
Your company Cineman Productions has made films such as ‘Kevi Rite Jaish’ (2012) and ‘Bey Yaar’ (2014). These films are credited with having revived the Gujarati film industry and bringing urban audiences back into cinemas. What are the plans for ‘Wrong Side Raju’?
We want to take the film to a nationwide audience. Arijit Singh and Vishal Dadlani have sung the songs and the music is by Sachin-Jigar. The response to the trailer was overwhelming. The music of the film has already caught on with listeners everywhere and it shows that people are interested in seeing the film too.