It was way back in 2008 when the seeds of Once Upon A Time In Mumbai were sown first. With Ekta Kapoor as the producer, the film was announced with director Milan Luthria at the driving seat. Though Suniel Shetty was supposed to co-produce the film with Ekta Kapoor first with murmurs of Sanjay Dutt being roped in for the role of the central protagonist, that didn't quite happen. Ultimately Ajay Devgn was finalised for the role of a dreaded Mumbai based don (rumoured to be based on Haji Mastan) from the 70s with Emraan Hashmi, Kangna Ranaut and Prachi Desai were roped in as the other principal protagonists.
With such developments taking place in quick succession and the film's shooting also beginning in July 2009, it was expected that Once Upon A Time In Mumbai would be wrapped up in a jiffy and released before the end of year. However, that was not the case to be as the film was taking its own sweet time to reach the finishing mark. With any delay comes speculation, more so since Ekta Kapoor was sitting on the hat trick of box office disasters (EMI, C Kkompany, Mission Istanbul - all released in 2008). Naturally, obituaries were already being written for this Milan Luthria directed film.
It was all around the industry circles that the film was jinxed and would not quite reach the finishing mark. Even though the makers had announced an increase in budget of the film with reports of Ekta being happy with the rushes of what had been shot so far, observers passed this off as a last minute face saving tactic. It was also rumoured that Emraan Hashmi, who has traditionally never been happy in multi star-cast affairs (Good Boy Bad Boy, Chocolate) had started loosing interest in the film while Ajay Devgn, being the senior-most of the lot, was demanding a change in script.
It wasn't a happy situation for Milan either since he was desperate to get back into the groove after having waited for two years since the release of Hat Trick (2007). His Bihaad with Sanjay Dutt and Vidya Balan hadn't quite got on the floors and the filmmaker's frustration was palpable. With recession and a general slowdown in the making of the films turning out to be a final nail in the coffin, it pretty much seemed like a declaration that Once Upon A Time In Mumbai was stalled.
Joginder Tuteja gets into a conversation with Milan who not just confirms that the film is very much on but also hits back at all the accusations around schedules going haywire.
Is Once Upon A Time In Mumbai stalled?
I don't know why there have been so much of speculations around the completion of Once Upon A Time In Mumbai (OUATIM) . We are almost 60% through with the film. In fact as we talk, I am already finalising logistics for another schedule which begins soon. It would go on till early January.
If things are pretty much on track, why have there been so many speculations?
Milan Lithria I guess speculations like these happen because today, most films are made at stretch. The start to finish trend has become so very common that any film that takes longer than 40-50 days to complete is questioned. My own Deewar - Let's Bring Our Heroes Home and Kachche Dhaage were pretty spread out.
Still, wasn't OUATIM planned for an earlier release?
There haven't been any major changes in the plan and the film was always meant to be completed over a period of 6 months. Yes, we could have possibly finished shooting a little earlier but then Ajay was shooting abroad for some time. Post that he had the release of All The Best lined up. Since he was also the producer, he was a little aggressive in promotion. We were fine with this slight wait but no, there wasn't any slowdown internally.
One also hears that there were also quite a few logistics hassles due to the period setting of the film.
More than hassles, I would say these were expected challenges. Unlike the scenario where a film crew either assembles on studio sets at Mumbai or jets away for a start to finish overseas shoot, OUATIM had its own challenges to meet. Due to its period setting, my team had to make sure that at the least, the film looked authentic. This is not one of those films where you can go to London, shoot for two months and come back.
So when do we see the film eventually releasing?
We started shooting in the month of July and we should be wrapping up the film in January. In fact most of Emraan's portions are already shot. Things are shaping up well for the film and even though some industry friends out there are a little worried about the film, we aren't. Once Upon A Time In Mumbai was always planned for a summer release and we are pretty much on target for that.