Exclusive: Amrita Puri, Tahir Raj Bhasin Talk About Mahesh Bhatt’s ‘Ranjish Hi Sahi’ And Recreating The Golden Era Of 70s Bollywood
The golden era of Bollywood was really back in the 70s and there’s no denying that. Be it a film from the 70s or the drama and gossip for that era… I may not have been born back then, but whatever I’ve seen and heard about it later, makes me think it was quite a time to be alive. Luckily, I’ve found just the show that takes us back to that time, with an interesting story to boot. Created by Mahesh Bhatt, written and directed by Pushpdeep Bhardhwaj, and starring Tahir Raj Bhasin, Amrita Puri and Amala Paul in lead roles is an upcoming drama series Ranjish Hi Sahi. This show is set to release on Voot Select on January 13, 2022. But hold on, that’s not the best part about it just yet. Mahesh Bhatt’s rather scandalous romance with the late actress Parveen Babi is weaved throughout the entire drama series and I honestly, cannot wait to watch it.
I sat down for an exclusive candid chat with the cast and the director of this anticipated series and I’ve got some interesting information about Ranjish Hi Sahi that you definitely want to know, if you, like me, are eager to binge this one. Without further ado, let’s dive into this conversation about a dramatic love story set in during the golden era of 70s Bollywood which seems like a full package with engaging twists, turns, action, drama, music and a scandal.
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Q. So, what made you say yes to ‘Ranjish Hi Sahi’?
Amrita Puri: It was Pushpdeep. It was all Pushpdeep (director) in a nutshell.
Tahir Raj Bhasin: I was really drawn to how complex and layered the character was. Of course, Pushpdeep’s narration helped me understand that. My character Shankar is stuck between a woman who he is attracted to and the duty that he has towards his wife who he is also very much in love with. And the journey of that conflict that he goes through and how he discovers himself and as a result, finally finding the story that he wants to tell as a director… That really made it interesting to play.
Q. Tell me a little about your characters Shankar and Anju.
Amrita Puri: There’s so much, there are so many layers. Pushpdeep really gets into details so, there’s a lot and I don’t know what to start with. I think I was definitely more respectful of other people’s decisions after doing this story because as a person I see things from a black and white perspective in life. So, I couldn’t understand this situation and why Anju would choose to be in it. But Pushpdeep really helped me see things from another perspective. So, what I enjoy the most about the story and the three characters is the honesty.
Tahir Raj Bhasin: I think Shankar was an amazing contrast of someone who was very aggressively a rebel, a creative rebel. But at the same time, he is vulnerable and romantic and the two character traits sort of merge. And what was great about the way it was written is that he’s a flawed hero and that’s great because in real life we all have flaws. No one is fully black, no one is fully white. I really believe that there is a little bit of good and bad in everyone, and it’s really circumstances in life that push you to become little good or a little bad. Shankar helped me discover that in the character.
3. What’s your take on these characters as a director, Pushpdeep?
Pushpdeep Bhardhwaj: The way Shankar, in the series, was looking for a story, I too as a struggling director tried my best to tell my story to the world in my own way. (Mahesh) Bhatt sahab told me a five-page long story in his words and I found it really intriguing. I felt this story has many layers and there are many emotional threads that show the humanity in humans and a story this complex could not have been told in a two-hour-long film.
I won’t take any names but I met many people in my life and heard stories of several people who inspired the characters in Ranjish Hi Sahi like Saurabh Sachdeva’s character Jagmohan. This character shows films to the sculpture of his God before deciding if he will further promote the film and invest more in it or not. So, several characters in the series were inspired by real people around me who I met and whose stories I heard. And then Mahesh Bhatt gave me an insight into his life and shared some personal stories from his life which made me realise that a story can be created out of it because there was so much emotional depth in it and I wanted the world to see it and understand it. The 70s world has always been exciting and intriguing because there was a certain kind of freedom that people had during that time which made me feel that the world needs to hear this story.
Q: How was the process of bringing this cast on board?
Pushpdeep Bhardhwaj: You won’t believe this, but I’ve had a total of 127 narrations of the eight episodes of Ranjish Hi Sahi with Jio Studios and others. And every time, I have tried my best to narrate the story with the same enthusiasm. It was really exhausting to do that because everyone had so many questions and apprehensions. More so, because after Jalebi this was the only other project I had in my kitty. I also had several challenges to face but we did our best to navigate through them. But the most important part of all this is that we’ve all collectively created this series with a lot of love and hard work. Be it me as a writer-director or Tahir (Raj Bhasin) as an actor, Amrita Puri, Amala Paul, Jyoti Deshpande and all others, everyone was very emotionally involved with the process of creating Ranjish Hi Sahi.
And in fact, we managed to finish the 65 days long shoot in just 58 days. Everyone caught on to the flow quickly but the first week was really difficult for us because we decided to hold the bull by the horns and shot the climax of Ranjish Hi Sahi first. So, we shot the most difficult parts first and it was pretty challenging for the actors as well. They would get a new schedule every day and there was so much emotional juggling between them that it was equally surprising for them to brace themselves for the current scene and to learn and unlearn things every day and it was a similar rollercoaster ride for me as well.
Q. How was it like, going back to 70s Bollywood? What was your favourite thing about the experience?
Tahir Raj Bhasin: What I really liked about the 70s was the fashion and the music and you know the broader collars, two buttons open, bigger sunglasses and anti-fit denim and a lot of my scenes are on film sets that are set in the 70s. And it was so different to see the kind of technology that was used back then, like the editing machine where you have to splice the film and put it together instead of doing it on software like we do today and it was great fun to just put modern-day technology away. We would put our phones away in the vanity van and spend an entire day without any technology to actually feel what the world was like.
Amrita Puri: The simplicity. I really enjoyed the simplicity. Of course, the story is very complicated. But things were much simpler back then in terms of not having mobile phones, social media and what was expected of people back then. If you see Anju’s character, just her simplicity is beautiful.
Q. Tahir, what’s your take on your character who leaves his wife to be with the woman he falls in love with?
Tahir Raj Bhasin: On a personal level, what you learn in acting school is never to judge a character. So, it would be wrong of me to have a moral judgment or an opinion on what I think Shankar did. When I am Shankar on set and I have to serve the script. I have to live the truth of that moment that’s really how I approached it. It would be unfair of me to have an opinion and this is true, not only Shankar but of every character that I’ve ever played.
Q. Amrita, in your opinion, did Anju take the right decision to fight for her love even though he betrayed her (or so it seems from the trailer)?
Amrita Puri: So, when I was reading it, I had to really get out of Amrita’s mind and view it from Anju’s mind, and really it’s unfair of me sitting where I am to make a judgement on it. It was a different time back then and also very different circumstances. And Anju is an orphan. She met Shankar when they were very young and they have grown up together. So, it’s more than just a marriage. There’s companionship, there’s a friendship. So, as an individual, as Amrita, I couldn’t understand it because I am not someone who would be okay with infidelity. That’s the morality that I had to struggle with.
Also Read: ‘Ranjish Hi Sahi’ Teaser: Mahesh Bhatt Series Starring Tahir Raj Bhasin, Amala Paul, Amrita Puri Alludes To His Relationship With Parveen Babi
7. I want to address the elephant in the room. we’ve all noticed the similarities between the series and the real-life love story it seems to be inspired from. Is ‘Ranjish Hi Sahi’ really inspired by Mahesh Bhatt and Parveen Babi’s love story?
Pushpdeep Bhardhwaj: No, it is not. I used whatever information I received from Mahesh Bhatt to create something of my own. Several things that you will see in the story have not really happened in Bhatt sir’s life. It’s the story of a struggling director from Bombay. This story is inspired by some people I have met in real life like Mahesh Bhatt and several other people I have met during my struggling days who told me their life stories. So, it’s not like this is his biopic or is completely inspired by Bhatt sir.
But at the same time, I cannot deny the fact that some incidents of this story are inspired by the incidents from his life. For example, Devdas has been made and remade several times but no one has questioned it. If I tell you that the screenplay of Avatar is very similar to Sholay, it’ll be a very technical point but the fact of the matter is that there are a limited number of ways to tell a story and ways in which you can play around with the screenplay. The world does not have any more screenplays to play around with. So, even if this series is similar to the incidents that have occurred in Mahesh Bhatt’s life I won’t say that it is his story because I have added my own touch to it and actors like Tahir, Amrita and Amala have added their essence to it as well. So, we haven’t simply taken real-life people and turned them into these characters. So, this is a refraction, not a reflection of a story. So, there is no elephant in the room, to be honest.
Q: How was the experience of working with Mahesh Bhatt?
Pushpdeep Bhardhwaj: When I was working with Vishesh films, I used to have discussions with Mahesh Bhatt about his life and his story. So, I won’t say that he personally guided me through making this film. Moreover, Bhatt sir does not teach you how to make films, he teaches you about life with his life stories. So, he taught me what he has learnt in life. To put it in simple words, he’s the Dumbledore to my Harry Potter.
I had a lot of creative freedom from his end, from Jio Studios and I had a lot of support from them as well as from the actors. More so because I am also relatively new to the industry. Mahesh Bhatt trusted me but getting actors to trust me was a challenge but I had a lot of backing from them especially in terms of communicating my story to them. I’ve had debates with the actors where they have agreed to disagree and show their support for me. I shared my knowledge with them about the characters and they explore the rest so, no one really guided me through creating Ranjish Hi Sahi.
To be honest, this is from two years ago. And only I know how I have completed the editing of this series during the pandemic induced lockdown. I’ve been beaten up by the police on the streets of Mumbai, there have been incidents where I had to run from the police personnel as they chased me. So, it was under such circumstances that I have completed the editing. This is a passion project for me, to recreate 70s Bollywood and give life to these characters. When you watch Ranjish Hi Sahi, you’ll also get a glimpse of several other characters apart from Mahesh Bhatt. This series also explores the world of Bollywood sets and the life of a director. This series demanded a lot of research so, it was not easy but we did have Mahesh Bhatt’s blessings with us that kept us going.
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8. Have you ever been in a love triangle IRL? And what’s your personal take on infidelity?
Amrita Puri: No, no love triangle that I was aware of at least. And my take on infidelity is – cancel, cancel, cancel. It’s a big no-no.
Tahir Raj Bhasin: My personal opinion on infidelity is obviously that it’s not recommended. I would never want to be in a situation like that. Just to add to that, as actors we explore and select stories, characters and scripts because we get to live the lives on-screen that we would never really live or want to live off-camera. But the truth is that as an actor it is fun to portray characters that have conflict and even the audience enjoys it, any story that has conflict has drama. So, I would love to do characters with conflict, but never actually live that.
Pushpdeep Bhardhwaj: I’m completely against infidelity but when it comes to a story, what will I show if there is no conflict? What will the audience see if there is no conflict? No one would want to watch Shankar as a man who loves his wife and is looking for a story and then dreams about one and that’s it. This story would be over in 15 minutes and what will I show for the rest of the eight episodes? So, I need some sort of conflict. Be it about Shankar breaking his leg during a chase sequence or something or the other. So, there has been a conflict in the story and in my shooting too. Stories are made from tragedies. We won’t have anything to tell the world if it’s a smooth ride and no one wants to watch a smooth ride.
Well, we wish the cast and crew all the very best for their upcoming series. I’m blocking my day on January 13 to watch Ranjish Hi Sahi on Voot Select, what about you?