Home » Interviews » “John Abraham is a director’s actor” – Milap Milan Zaveri

Milap Milan Zaveri is a staunch believer in masala films and that’s one brand of cinema he wishes to excel in as a filmmaker. After delivering two back-to-back hits in the form of ‘Satyameva Jayate’ and ‘Marjaavaan’, one now waits to see whether he manages to deliver a hattrick of successful films with ‘Satyameva Jayate 2’.

In this interview, the writer-director talks about shooting the film in challenging circumstances, directing John Abraham, collaborating with brother Maahir Zaveri, what makes some filmmakers shy away from making masala films and more.  

Like a few other films shot during the Covid-19 situation, you faced some hurdles too. The shoot got delayed at one point of time and the release date also got postponed.

The biggest challenge was to follow the Covid protocols and ensure that everyone is safe. When you see the film, you will realize it’s an ambitious film made on a huge scale with big action scenes, elaborately shot dance numbers and a big cast. Despite all the challenges we faced, we tried our best to make the best possible film. I got a tremendous amount of support from my producers T-Series and Emmay Entertainment. Even the Uttar Pradesh government was very supportive in terms of giving permits for shoots. We had initially planned to release the film during Eid but the second wave of Covid-19 hit all of us and we decided to postpone the release. Holding on to the film for a while and not succumbing to the pressure of releasing it on an OTT platform was also a challenge. I am grateful to my producers for having a lot of confidence in the film and ensuring that it gets a proper release in the theatres.  

You have stated that ‘Satyameva Jayate 2’ is a tribute to Manmohan Desai’s brand of cinema. Today, a lot of people talk about how the days of masala films are over. How do you react to that?

The audience always wants to see such films. The super-success of Sooryavanshi serves as a testimony to this fact. This year itself, so many commercial films down south like Vijay’s ‘Master’ released in the theatres and did great business. People in the industry sometimes refrain from making such films because of the critics and the English media. They worry about not getting critical acclaim or good reviews. Even in the last few years, commercial films have done very good business. Even on OTT, shows like ‘Mirzapur’, ‘Inside Edge’ and ‘Scam’ that were mass-appealing and had a lot of dialogue-baazi performed the best.

Before ‘Satyameva Jayate’, John Abraham had done a handful of action films like ‘Dhoom’ or the ‘Force’ franchise that were targeted at the multiplex audience. He had never done an out-and-out masala action film before. What did you have to do to make him comfortable in this space?

John is a complete director’s actor. He does exactly what the director wants. He showed a lot of faith in me when we started working on ‘Satyameva Jayate’ even though I had two flops behind me as a director. Yes, there were times when he would ask me whether we should tone down a particular scene or whether a particular sequence is too over-the-top to be accepted by the audience. I would assure him by telling him that the audience wants to see him in that avatar. I witnessed the audience clapping and whistling for him when he ripped off that tyre in ‘Satyameva Jayate’. In ‘Satyameva Jayate 2’, you will see him ripping off a lot more things (laughs). He has always been the darling of the masses and the audience wants to see him in such roles. He often says that ‘Milap is my cheat day’ (laughs). He does intense films like ‘Batla House’ and ‘Parmanu’ and then does a massy commercial entertainer with me.

Since this is the second film in the ‘Satyameva Jayate’ franchise, what did you do to ensure that the film turns out to be bigger and better than the first part?

I made sure that the scale and the action became bigger than the earlier film. There are three Johns. That itself ups the scale of the film. We worked very hard on the action. The action sequences in ‘Satyameva Jayate’ were appreciated by the audience but here, they are far more intense and powerful.  

With this film, Divya Khosla Kumar makes a comeback to acting after several years. How was the experience of directing her?

It was wonderful directing her. She has looked very beautiful and performed very well in the film. She has a very powerful role and is a part of some of the most dramatic scenes in the film. The female audiences are going to cheer for her character in a big way when they see the film.  

Your brother Maahir Zaveri edits your films. What has been your working equation with him?

I am very proud of Maahir for all that he has achieved. His biggest strength is his versatility. He has edited my massy, commercial films and has also worked on a ‘Batla House’ and a ‘Mumbai Diaries’. That shows his range as an editor. I don’t consider think of him as my brother while we are working together. We keep that equation separate. If I don’t do that, I might end up overpowering him because of our personal equation. I trust his judgement as an editor and give him complete freedom when he works on my films.  

What are you making next?

I haven’t really decided what my next film would be. If ‘Satyameva Jayate 2’ does well, I will definitely make ‘Satyameva Jayate 3’.