Vikas Bahl interview on Ganapath: ‘Kriti Sanon has as much action as Tiger’ | Bollywood

Tiger Shroff. Kriti Sanon. Action. These three elements may take you back to the actors’ first film, Sabbir Khan’s Heropanti, which released in 2014. Around the same time, Vikas Bahl made his solo directorial debut with Kangana Ranaut’s coming-of-age film Queen, which made waves at the box office. Nine years later, Vikas is entering a new world, where he’s directing an action film with Tiger and Kriti, titled Ganapath. However, he insists he hasn’t lost his penchant for drama or characters here either.

Tiger Shroff and Kriti Sanon in Vikas Bahl's Ganapath
Tiger Shroff and Kriti Sanon in Vikas Bahl’s Ganapath

(Also Read: Tiger Shroff, Kriti Sanon ‘really practised hard’ for Ganapath despite low oxygen levels in Ladakh: Director Vikas Bahl)

At the start of the trailer, we see the text ‘From the director of Queen and Super 30.” But how the trailer unfolds, it paints a very different world from the more rooted, reality-based worlds you’ve explored so far. Why did you want to explore this genre of dystopian drama?

See, even Queen and Super 30 as films have no connection. They’re completely different genres. But I think for me, with every film, it’s about the journey of the character. So even with Ganapath, while it’s set in the future, it’s based on a reality which I believe is what happens. It’s based on the reality when any calamity happens in the world. Whether it’s natural or man-made, it leads to the eventuality that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The only reason the film is set in the future is because it’s a hypothetical situation, which I think can happen in the near future. And within that world is the journey of the character. So it is a character journey within the eventuality of a calamity. In that sense, while it’s futuristic, it’s still familiar for me. But the genre of future and action is very different. I want to keep breaking genres.

How do you strike this balance between familiarity and novelty, between the emotion and the worldbuilding?

The most important for that is to first have your story, and then set the world. Most often, what happens is we get very distracted by the world we’re trying to create. And then we believe that the new world will make the whole story. But a viewer can’t hold attention for 2.5 hours. So your story and character arc has to work first, whatever world you set it in. That novelty goes away in 5-10 minutes. We’ve seen it with Hollywood films, where we’re taken in by the world and the VFX, but in some, we get bored in 10-15 minutes because nothing is happening.

How challenging or refreshing was it for you to explore action as your language in this film, as the means to an end?

I totally love action. But I think action is nothing if it doesn’t have drama. Action is in fact the end result of an emotion. When we do action without knowing the reason behind the same, then it feels hollow. Drama and action go hand in hand. That should always be the case.

What was it about the design of this world that would make it feel and look new?

It was important for the two worlds to be very different, while belonging to the same period. While there’s a complete distraught world, there’s another which is an exhibition of what the world can be. And the two worlds, the rich and the poor, co-exist. The tough part is that everything is hypothetical. My idea of the future can be different from someone else’s. Will the cars be there? Will they fly? Anything you think about the future, in today’s time, by the time you write the script, most things have already happened. You write a flying car, then you realise there’s already a flying car in Dubai. There’s no limit to the thinking. Which is why you have to focus on the story, and not on the world you’re creating.

Tiger and Kriti did their first film together. Did this comfort help the film in any way?

Their bonding can’t go away, right? They started their career together and look at where they are today. It’s fab. It was wonderful to see them come together. I was amazed by the sincerity the two have towards their craft. They were so excited to come back together after so many years. There’s a very beautiful sense of responsibility when two people enter the industry as kids and nine years later, they come back together to give something more. Because there’s more at stake too. People are expecting something magical.

Was it fun to follow the conventional hero-heroine template after Shaandaar (2015)? Otherwise your films are either ensembles or led by one character’s journey.

In fact, in this one, Kriti has as much action as Tiger does. She’s a very, very strong character. She walks into the frame in slow motion and smoke and all of that. She’s as much a hero to me as Tiger is in the film.

Amitabh Bachchan played an emotionally vulnerable patriarch in your last directorial, Goodbye. What energy does he bring to Ganapath?

So when I was shooting Goodbye, I was putting together Ganapath. I’d finished my screenplay, but I was putting the world together. Because I was shooting with him, I shared with sir that I’m making this film with this world. He’s so curious, he’s like a child when it comes to movies. He said I’m really excited you’re making this, it’s very ambitious and I hope it comes together. Him being him, the most generous person on this planet, said if there’s anything he can do, I should let him know. Immediately, I pounced on the opportunity and said I want you to tell the story, I want you to be the voice of this film. So I think he did it purely out of love and affection.

Vikas Bahl on the sets of Ganapath in Ladakh
Vikas Bahl on the sets of Ganapath in Ladakh

Finally, another film Dhak Dhak, a road movie, was released last week, which was also shot in Ladakh. What do you think that landscape brought to your world? And how challenging was it to shoot there?

Ladakh is the most fascinating piece of land on this planet. It’s unimaginable how a landscape of that kind can exist at that height. Anyone who’s seen Ladakh says it’s out of this world. And I was trying to create a world which feels like it doesn’t exist. Within Ladakh also, we found some really unique terrains. Every 2 km, the terrain in Ladakh changes. We shot at this terrain called Lamayuru, where every 10 minutes, the temperature changes from -2 degree to 35 degrees.

So we leave the hotel at 6 am in thermals to get to the location which is 10 minutes away. When we reach, the weather is already 32 degrees. You’re sweating like a pig now so you go to the washroom to change only to come back and see that the temperature is back to 2 degrees. That’s like living life in fast forward. It was unbelievable.

People usually have to acclimatise for days, and even months, to be able to do a jog there. And Tiger has gone there and within 24 hours, he did all the action you see. It’s humanly not possible. Anybody and everybody would tell you there to not run. Even if you walk fast, you may faint because there’s no oxygen. Tiger did all the action sequences with retakes within 24 hours. So he’s really the prodigy of some action god out there.

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