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LA-134394.jpg.crop_displayOn Location: Hair-raising tales from the shooting of a film based on the underworld

I have never experienced as much pain and stress in my career as I did during the shoot of my next release, Shootout At Wadala. As the director of the film, the end of every day was immensely satisfying and washed away all the pain we went through during the day.

Pakmodia Street is where Dawood Ibrahim, Sabir and the brothers grew up. We shot a confrontation scene between Sonu Sood and John Abraham there. It was night and John and Tusshar were standing in the middle of a crowd of around 10,000 people. He was shouting at Sonu Sood, provoking him to come down. It was a hair-raising experience for all of us. When Sonu first walked in, followed by Tusshar and John, the public went berserk.

It is not easy to shoot on location, where the audience knows you’re re-creating a scene from the distant past. You have to be very cautious yet extract the best. And worse, there are no retakes!

We shot another scene at Gilbert Hill in Andheri. There’s a place called Dongal behind the hill and we were shooting a scene where the cops enter an area for the first time as they had done back in 1978. No one had ever shot there before. It was April and the heat was scorching. And there we were, Anil Kapoor, Ronit Roy and Mahesh Manjrekar amidst a crowd of around 15,000 people. We had more than 100 security guards controlling the crowd.

This was a chase sequence between police and goons. We were so engrossed that we kept going deeper and deeper into dingy bylanes and we finally got lost. We were a crew of barely 10 people – me, a steadycam operator, my action directors, two assistants, Anil and two other guys. Suddenly we were confronted by 10 to 12 gunda-types. Turned out, we had no ‘permission’ to shoot there and these guys were threatening us. Thank goodness, the matter was sorted amicably. The irony didn’t escape me – we create reel-life goons but we were actually confronting real-life goons.

While re-creating another scene, we were confronted by the son of a gangster who had been involved in an incident in that area long ago. He strode onto the sets and created ruckus. He asked us how we dare make a film about his father. We calmed him down and told him his father was a historic figure and that the film is based on a book called Dongri To Dubai. We also explained that we had taken legal permission to make the film. Thankfully, we were able to pacify him.

Since the film is about Manya Surve, we returned to the place where he grew up and became a gangster. We shot a murder sequence in a chawl there. It may sound easy but shooting it wasn’t. It is tough to re-create a notorious murder in a building which had witnessed the real thing years ago. We also had to change the look of the chawl to make it look straight out of the ’80s. We had to get rid of all the air-conditioners. We spoke to each one of the residents, removed their ACs and refitted them once we were done shooting. It was quite a task!

Another challenge was finding a BEST bus that dated back to 1978. The BEST doesn’t own buses that are more than 20 years old and we had to scout for one. We finally found the model we needed – an old school bus in Belapur. The bus had to be modified and

re-painted to look like a BEST bus. It was well worth the effort because, when John finally stood bare-chested on the foot board, the mob went crazy! Controlling the mob was a task though!

Since you’re not allowed to shoot in Yerwada Jail in Pune, we took some pictures there and referred to others from their archives dating back from 1969 to 1978 – the nine years when Manya Surve was jailed there. Using these images, we re-created the jail and Surve’s cell in a children’s remand home in Matunga.

I had heard that you need the local mafia’s permission to shoot in sensitive places but experienced this for the first time while shooting for this film. At Dhobi Ghaat, we were stopped by a group of people who claimed we needed their ‘permission’ to even enter the area. When it’s a small-budget film, it’s not difficult but when they realise the film features big names, it’s a Herculean task to convince them. We were half-way through shooting the film and we changed three location managers, already!

We had so many interesting experiences, some scary, others equally challenging, while making Shootout At Wadala. Why, I might even write a book based on these experiences, one day.

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