ON A LATE NIGHT IN MARCH, a filmmaker and his entourage cut through the scattered lingerers outside ‘Audi 3’ on the top floor of a Juhu multiplex and disappeared inside just as the film Paan Singh Tomar was wrapping up. The clapping made Tigmanshu Dhulia, the movie’s director, smile as he stood in the aisle. Only a few people had heard that he would visit at the end of the screening, so the filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, who had spent a while chomping on a wrap by the food stalls outside, got hold of a mic and asked the audience to stick around because Dhulia was here with his crew to talk about anything they wanted to know. Someone brought a stool. Dhulia sat down and looked at the nearly full auditorium, started to say something and stopped. He began once again but the words came out thin and strange, like he had so much more to say than his voice could humanly convey at once, and so the film’s writer, Sanjay Chauhan, sitting next to him, took the microphone and kept talking until Dhulia found himself again.
After a while, Kashyap stepped in to announce the good and the bad news. They had to leave because the next screening of Paan Singh Tomar, a full house, had been delayed by this discussion. ‘Tishu’, however, would be downstairs on the steps outside if they wanted to keep talking. So off went the fans, a few reporters—all-in-all around 70. But the steps were too crowded. Kashyap found himself squeezed between the mall’s outer barrier and a horde of people who came too close and asked too many questions, so he found Dhulia and loudly recommended that they all go the other way, power-waving his hand at the mall. Happily, a nearby wedge off the building made for a nifty little raised seat, which Dhulia and Chauhan were theatrically offered. Kashyap then sat down on the pavement and told the crowd to do as well, and for a moment Dhulia’s countenance told of his embarrassment at this large and sudden devotion.
Five years ago, on a sweltering and dusty Mumbai afternoon, Dhulia was sitting at his desk dressed in a vest for an interview I was conducting about his work. He hadn’t made a movie in nearly four years, and not because he hadn’t tried. His first couple of films dealt with terrifying worlds outside the law, but they were not commercial and looked it. Funding, as is usually the case, had been hard to come by, and there had been some misfortune related to a potential financier who had, if I remember correctly, fallen, or jumped off, a building. And nothing happened for a while until he directed three films that came out in two years—a Kashyapian spurt—the biggest of which is Tomar.