In an exclusive interview with Bollywood Hungama, writer-director Milap Zaveri poured his heart out as he explained in detail what he thinks went wrong with his much-talked-about film, Satyameva Jayate 2 (2021).
EXCLUSIVE: Milap Zaveri BREAKS silence on Satyameva Jayate 2’s failure: “John Abraham lifted the bike with two hands. But Jr NTR sir, in RRR, lifted the bike with one hand! The conviction was the same but the story was better in RRR”
What is the biggest lesson that you have learnt from the failure of Satyameva Jayate 2?
Satyameva Jayate’s (2018) first part was a life-changing moment for me. I’ll always be grateful to both John Abraham and Manoj Bajpayee sir for agreeing to do the film, and also to T-Series, Nikkhil Advani, Monisha Advani and Madhu Bhojwani. They all showed faith in me though I was a flop director. Every work you do leads to something. I did a short film, Raakh, starring Vir Das and Shaad Randhawa. It got a lot of acclaim. That helped me in getting Satyameva Jayate. John saw Raakh and he liked it and when he read the script, he gave his nod. Satyameva Jayate was a box-office bonanza. It was an ‘A’ certificate film, clashed with Akshay Kumar’s Gold (2018) and yet, opened at Rs. 20 crores.
After that, I did Marjaavaan (2019) which was made against all odds. Sidharth Malhotra had not had success for five years. Moreover, it was a retro, 80s masala film. When I was making it, some people asked me why I was playing front foot and doing such a massy film. My idea was that Sidharth has done all kinds of films, except this kind of a movie. So I’d rather present him in an avatar that he has never tried before. I relied on my strength of understanding mass cinema. I used to joke with Sid that we are making a Hukumat (1987) or Elaan-E-Jung (1989). Someone told me that ‘You can’t present Sid like John. Sid is not as big a star as John’. I argued, ‘How can I feel that about my own hero? In my mind, he’s as big as John. He’s Amitabh Bachchan for me! I have full faith in him and that he can be the next Angry Young Man’. I had to go all out.
Meanwhile, Marjaavaan changed release dates thrice. Ormax gave it a low tracking number. Sid’s Jabariya Jodi (2019) came three months before and didn’t work. Many were sure that our film would flop as well. But I was always confident of the film as I knew Sid, Riteish Deshmukh, Tara Sutaria and Rakul Preet Singh all had done well. Riteish, in fact, was my ace. I knew he was extraordinary.
So, when Marjaavaan did well despite all odds, it gave me a lot of confidence. But that confidence and conviction can also make you overconfident. I look back and see that Marjaavaan’s success made me overconfident. Nobody believed in it. Some of my producers were not convinced that it would work. But it did. Hence, my overconfidence translated into the script of Satyameva Jayate 2.
I felt, ‘John ne part 1 mein tyre faada tha. Iss baar main usse engine ukhaad waaunga’. I started scaling everything up. Nikkhil Advani, in fact, had rightly pointed out, ‘There’s no antagonist in the film’. In part 1, though Manoj sir was not the villain, he was the opposition to John’s character. Riteish was the villain in Marjaavaan. He told me Satyameva Jayate 2 suffers from a lack of a villain. Now, during Marjaavaan, Nikkhil and I had not seen eye-to-eye on certain things. He said certain aspects would not work but it did work. So, I told him that even last time, he was proven wrong. Hence, my argument was that this time too, my opinion is right. That was a big mistake I made in Satyameva Jayate 2.
I give credit to John. He pulled off all three roles with dedication. Moreover, the pandemic changed a lot of dynamics. We were supposed to release the film on Gandhi Jayanti in 2020. Then we pushed it to Eid 2021. Due to the pandemic, it further got delayed and was released on November 25, 2021. And I have always maintained to all my producers that the film should have come on a national holiday. Satyameva Jayate’s part 1 arrived in cinemas on August 15. The holiday push boosted the collections. Moreover, there was the rule of 50% occupancy and hence, it was even more important for Satyameva Jayate 2 to arrive in cinemas on a holiday. I feel if we had come in 2022 with 100% occupancy or on a national holiday, the film would have opened much bigger. Satyameva Jayate 2 would still have failed because maybe it was not good enough. But the lifetime business would not have been as less as it eventually was.
I learnt from my mistakes. I realized that we need to have a villain who’s as strong as the hero. I got carried away with my commercial instincts in the film. I went too over the top with the action. It was trolled a lot. The same kind of action was seen in RRR (2022) and KGF as well. John lifted the bike with two hands. But Jr NTR sir, in RRR, lifted the bike with one hand! The conviction was the same but the story was better in those films. There were great dialogues, action, music etc. in Satyameva Jayate 2 but I feel I failed at the story level. For my upcoming film, I am working harder on the story and the character of the antagonist as well.
When Satyameva Jayate 2 failed, many told me that the mass cinema is over. But this year, only commercial cinema has worked, be it RRR, KGF, Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, Brahmastra etc. I regret the opportunity that I lost with Satyameva Jayate 2. But I am thankful to Bhushan ji and Emmay Entertainment. Bhushan ji still stands by me. I am making my next with T-Series as well.
Who is your biggest critic?
My younger brother, Meet. He has elite taste in cinema. He doesn’t like the typical commercial fare. He calls spade a spade and often tells me what is wrong with my movies. The rest of my family loves my films. They are blinded by love. Shaad Randhawa and Azaz Khatau are two of my best friends. They often tell me the truth.
As I told you last time, I am writing the next films of Mohit Suri, Sanjay Gupta and Kookie Gulati. I am also scripting two films for Remo Dsouza. There are a few more films in the pipeline as well.
When is your directorial venture going on floors?
It’ll go hopefully next year on floors. My lead hero is locked. I am just figuring out the modalities. I’ll officially announce it soon.
John Abraham once said, “I enjoy working with Milap because he is a good human being and they are rare to come by in our industry”. Do you feel the fact that one needs to be a good person at heart to survive here, especially during the lows?
Yes. I believe that you have to be a good person in this industry. Everyone sees success and failure. I have lasted 20 years in this industry. It was not easy and I am still writing and directing. This year has been an eye-opener. After Satyameva Jayate 2 failed, a lot of people vanished from my life. Sanjay Gupta again came to my rescue by offering me The Miranda Brothers. Again, it opened the floodgates for me. After he gave me the film, suddenly a lot more offers came my way. There are a few people who have been for me in this bad year, like Riteish Deshmukh and Genelia. Riteish is one of my best friends. Shaad Randhawa is by my side every single day. Till I make films, I’ll give him a great role. He deserves it. Monisha Advani, Manoj Bajpayee etc stood like a rock. Then my family Gouri and son Mehaan are the reason I breathe and smile! My in-laws and others have also been my strength. Thanks to these people, I’ll last another 20 years!
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