Shujaat Saudagar file image | Image: X/Shujaat Saudagar
There is a fascination among filmmakers to tell stories about gangsters as it allows one to live vicariously through these characters, says "Bambai Meri Jaan" co-creator Shujaat Saudagar, who has explored the underworld in his new series.
Saudagar, best known for directing Farhan Akhtar's "Rock On 2", has co-created the series with filmmaker Rensil D'Silva. He has also helmed the 10-part series, currently streaming on Prime Video.
"There is a fascination, not just of filmmakers, but of humankind towards this world. I always compare it to the world of rock stars. And who doesn't want to see a rockstar film, who doesn't want to be a rockstar.
"I think it comes from the inherent nature that we want to live vicariously through these characters because there are certain things which are taboo socially. So, I think that attraction is what really kind of creates the impetus for us to tell stories. They're usually conflicted," Saudagar told PTI in an interview.
Set in the post-independence era, "Bambai Meri Jaan" chronicles the life and rise of a young man, Dara Kadri (Avinash Tiwary), torn between his father's law enforcement legacy (Kay Kay Menon) and his own journey into the heart of organised crime.
The show is based on a story by noted author and former journalist S Hussain Zaidi.
The filmmaker admits that there are about "eight or nine stories in the world" and "they've always been rehashed".
"For me personally, of course, this world has been seen, this world has been created and these stories have been told. But I haven't told them," Saudagar added.
Co-creator D'Silva said gangsters are "rule breakers" and that fascinates people.
"In our life, we can't break rules. You can't go up against authority figures. We all love to, but we can't. And who doesn't like a bad boy, right?
"We admire people who can do things we can't... So you live through them for those 10 episodes or three hours or you read a book about them and for a little while you inhabit their world and break some rules," he said.
Saudagar said "Bambai Meri Jaan" is set in the period after India became independent and Mumbai was growing as a city.
"On a micro level, it tells the story of this one family. The crime aspect of it, for me, happens to be a backdrop that is the overall environment and atmosphere in the social strata that these characters live in. So that is what attracted me to it more than anything else," he added.
The fact that stories of gangsters have been told on the celluloid before with films like "Satya", "Company", "Vaastav", "Once upon a time in Mumbai" and "Shootout at Lokhandwala" made Saudagar a little wary of taking up the project initially, he said.
"I toyed around with it for two months and I was just trying to avoid it because I was like 'What is the new thing that we can see in this?' And then Farhan called me one day and he said, 'Rensil has written this and I think you should give it a read.' And I have great respect for Rensil, not just because of 'Rang De Basanti' or 'Kurbaan', also because we go back to advertising days. And yeah, I read it for Rensil and I just couldn't stop reading it."
"Bambai Meri Jaan" also features Kritika Kamra, Nivedita Bhattacharya and Amyra Dastur in pivotal roles. The show is backed by Excel Media and Entertainment's Sidhwani, Kassim Jagmagia and Farhan Akhtar.
Making the show turned out to be an uphill task for the team, said Saudagar, calling its production process "emotionally and physically challenging".
"We went through two deadly waves of COVID because we had started shooting pre-COVID and the first one was really bad because we had no idea what was happening. Nobody in the world knew what was happening with COVID and it was something which was really new."
A major task was to create a set that would resemble Mumbai of the past era as Mumbai is not period friendly because of the growth the city has had.
"There was an immense amount of detailing and research that went on because it's a world that can be easily referenced. We wanted everything to look extremely believable and people to be immersed in that world, to be transported into that world without trying to be caricature-ish about it," he said.