It is no mere coincidence that the subject and style of his films are different. Director Tigmanshu Dhulia, who shot to fame with his critically acclaimed film Haasil, says it is important for him not to stick to one genre of film-making but to keep alive the curiosity level of moviegoers.

The talented director, whose Haasil was a love story set amid student politics in North India, is now pinning hopes on his upcoming film on Paan Singh Tomar, a sportsperson who became a victim of social reality.

“The idea of making a film on Paan Singh Tomar came to my mind while I was researching for Bandit Queen. There was an article on him in a newspaper way back in 1983. I was so fascinated by this article that I made up my mind that the day I become a director I will make a film on Paan Singh. My dream was realised when UTV liked the idea and funded my year-long research. We then made a script and met his family members and other sport personalities of his time,” says Tigmanshu, who was also the casting director for Bandit Queen.

Versatile actor Irrfan Khan was the first and only choice for Tigmanshu since he needed an actor who could give time to get into the skin of the character. “Since it is a sports film, I thought he could learn the ropes of the craft of steeple chase of which Paan Singh was the national champion. It is sad that we don’t have actors who have the discipline of getting into a character because either they are not skilled or they don’t feel the need to go through the grind. Only Irrfan is one such actor apart from Naseer Bhai (Naseeruddin Shah) and Pankaj Kapoor.”

Shooting the film in Dholpur was an enjoyable experience for Tigmanshu because he had earlier filmed Shekhar Kapoor’s Bandit Queen in that sleepy town. “Hard to believe, but we actually had surrendered dacoits working for us as consultants and artistes. There was always a threat since it is an area still infested with dacoits though their values have changed for the worse.”

Tigmanshu’s next film Shaagird starring Nana Patekar and Rimi Sen is a cop drama set in Delhi. He is also planning to make a romantic comedy called Milan Talkies, again with UTV.

Apart from Guru Dutt and Bimal Roy, he appreciates the works of Raj Khosla, Vijay Anand and Manoj Kumar: “I will describe them as versatile film personalities who made commercial yet thought-provoking and socially conscious movies.”

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