‘A Gentleman’ is ‘99’ on steroids, say directors Raj and DK

The Sidharth Malhotra-Jacqueline Fernandez starrer is a crime comedy with better marketing, say the directors.

Fellow Andhra boys, college friends and software engineers Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK gave up their lucrative jobs in the United States of America and set themselves a six-month time limit to give their filmmaking careers a chance. That was in 2008. Nine years later, they are still here, and ready to present their most Bollywood movie yet: the August 24 release, A Gentleman, starring Sidharth Malhotra and Jacqueline Fernandez.

The partners, who made their first film Flavors “out of their bedrooms”, came to Mumbai in 2003 and have so far made four features – crime comedy 99 (2009), crime drama Shor in the City (2010), zombie comedy Go Goa Gone (2013) and the romcom Happy Ending (2014). Along the way, they dropped their surnames and adopted the more hip-sounding “Raj & DK” title.

“After 99, we said okay, now we can stay here,” Raj said, but it wasn’t easy persuading their families. DK’s mother was particularly anxious about their decision. “My mom kept asking me if I was going to go back to a real job. Once the film was done, she was like, oh great, you’ve finished. Now go back to your job and focus on that. Basically she thought filmmaking was a hobby.”

Raj helped DK out: “Auntie and I had a quick chat, because I don’t think she was getting through to him. She said I hope this not a career and just a hobby that you are making bigger.”

A Gentleman (2017).

After their early independent-spirited and irreverent films, the writer-director team moved into the mainstream with Happy Ending and have cemented the transition with A Gentleman. What the films have in common are genre elements.

A Gentleman is also a genre film of our sensibility based on our script and story, but with just a little more money in it, a little more than Shor for sure,” Raj said. “In fact we made this film on a romcom budget and shot in parallel to save time and resources. The independent spirit is still intact and that uniqueness, or whatever it is we bring, has been brought to the mainstream set up. Our approach remains the same, it’s just the packaging that is making you think that maybe they sold their souls.”

The filmmakers are fans of the action comedy genre, and cite Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Lethal Weapon, Nice Guys, Baby Driver and the later Mission Impossible films as among their favourites. “Once you take away all the marketing trappings, the gloss and the songs, the film is still the film,” DK said.

Raj added, “A Gentleman is 99 on steroids. It’s a crime comedy with the same intertwining plots. This is 99 with marketing.”

An extended kiss had to be snipped at the behest of the censors, but Raj and DK do not see that as a problem. “This kiss is too minor a thing – A Gentleman is a fun, cool, action film for all audiences. It isn’t embarrassing in anyway,” DK said. “All we have had to do is reduce the duration of the kiss. The experience with the censors was not unpleasant at all. I have my own personal point of view on censorship, but we have never had any problem with any of our films. Even Go Goa Gone was released as is, with an A certificate.”

Raj (left) and DK.
Raj (left) and DK.

In a previous interview, Raj and DK had said that they use a code to communicate on the sets. Is the code still in use?

“What code? Telugu?” DK responded. “Yes, we do and it still works because fortunately for us, most of the people we work with don’t know Telugu. Sometimes we will be discussing something and a light boy will look up, smile and say you are from Hyderabad?”

The duo agrees that it is immensely helpful for them to have roots outside of Mumbai (DK’s mother lives in Bangalore and Raj’s family is based in Andhra Pradesh). “That keeps us rooted, and close to what we were and who we are,” Raj said. “So we know that world and work in this world.”

The collaborators are keen to increase their output. With a web series for Amazon Prime Video and another feature film in the works, they are considering tweaking their working methods in order to be more productive. “We are pretty open and flexible with all our communication and we love to do everything together,” Raj said. “At the same time, if we want to make a film a year, rather than one in three years, we would have to make some adjustments. We have had a chat about I produce one that he directs and vice versa.”

Chandraleka, A Gentleman (2017).
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Ten awesome TV shows to get over your post-GoT blues

With those withdrawal symptoms kicking in, all you need is a good rebound show.

Hangovers tend to have a debilitating effect on various human faculties, but a timely cure can ease that hollow feeling generally felt in the pit of the stomach. The Game of Thrones Season 7 finale has left us with that similar empty feeling, worsened by an official statement on the 16-month-long wait to witness The Great War. That indeed is a long time away from our friends Dany, Jon, Queen C and even sweet, sweet Podrick. While nothing can quite replace the frosty thrill of Game of Thrones, here’s a list of awesome shows, several having won multiple Emmy awards, that are sure to vanquish those nasty withdrawal symptoms:

1. Billions

There is no better setting for high stakes white collar crime than the Big Apple. And featuring a suited-up Paul Giamatti going head-to-head with the rich and ruthless Damien Lewis in New York, what’s not to like? Only two seasons young, this ShowTime original series promises a wolf-of-wall-street style showcase of power, corruption and untold riches. Billions is a great high-octane drama option if you want to keep the momentum going post GoT.

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2. Westworld

What do you get when the makers of the Dark Knight Trilogy and the studio behind Game of Thrones collaborate to remake a Michael Crichton classic? Westworld brings together two worlds: an imagined future and the old American West, with cowboys, gun slingers - the works. This sci-fi series manages to hold on to a dark secret by wrapping it with the excitement and adventure of the wild west. Once the plot is unwrapped, the secret reveals itself as a genius interpretation of human nature and what it means to be human. Regardless of what headspace you’re in, this Emmy-nominated series will absorb you in its expansive and futuristic world. If you don’t find all of the above compelling enough, you may want to watch Westworld simply because George RR Martin himself recommends it! Westworld will return for season 2 in the spring of 2018.

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3. Big Little Lies

It’s a distinct possibility that your first impressions of this show, whether you form those from the trailer or opening sequence, will make you think this is just another sun-kissed and glossy Californian drama. Until, the dark theme of BLL descends like an eerie mist, that is. With the serious acting chops of Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman as leads, this murder mystery is one of a kind. Adapted from author Liane Moriarty’s book, this female-led show has received accolades for shattering the one-dimensional portrayal of women on TV. Despite the stellar star cast, this Emmy-nominated show wasn’t easy to make. You should watch Big Little Lies if only for Reese Witherspoon’s long struggle to get it off the ground.

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4. The Night of

The Night Of is one of the few crime dramas featuring South Asians without resorting to tired stereotypes. It’s the kind of show that will keep you in its grip with its mysterious plotline, have you rooting for its characters and leave you devastated and furious. While the narrative revolves around a murder and the mystery that surrounds it, its undertones raises questions on racial, class and courtroom politics. If you’re a fan of True Detective or Law & Order and are looking for something serious and thoughtful, look no further than this series of critical acclaim.

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5. American Horror Story

As the name suggests, AHS is a horror anthology for those who can stomach some gore and more. In its 6 seasons, the show has covered a wide range of horror settings like a murder house, freak shows, asylums etc. and the latest season is set to explore cults. Fans of Sarah Paulson and Jessica Lange are in for a treat, as are Lady Gaga’s fans. If you pride yourself on not being weak of the heart, give American Horror Story a try.

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6. Empire

At its heart, Empire is a simple show about a family business. It just so happens that this family business is a bit different from the sort you are probably accustomed to, because this business entails running a record label, managing artistes and when push comes to shove, dealing with rivals in a permanent sort of manner. Empire treads some unique ground as a fairly violent show that also happens to be a musical. Lead actors Taraji P Henson and Terrence Howard certainly make it worth your while to visit this universe, but it’s the constantly evolving interpersonal relations and bevy of cameo appearances that’ll make you stay. If you’re a fan of hip hop, you’ll enjoy a peek into the world that makes it happen. Hey, even if you aren’t one, you might just grow fond of rap and hip hop.

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7. Modern Family

When everything else fails, it’s comforting to know that the family will always be there to lift your spirits and keep you chuckling. And by the family we mean the Dunphys, Pritchetts and Tuckers, obviously. Modern Family portrays the hues of familial bonds with an honesty that most family shows would gloss over. Eight seasons in, the show’s characters like Gloria and Phil Dunphy have taken on legendary proportions in their fans’ minds as they navigate their relationships with relentless bumbling humour. If you’re tired of irritating one-liners or shows that try too hard, a Modern Family marathon is in order. This multiple-Emmy-winning sitcom is worth revisiting, especially since the brand new season 9 premiers on 28th September 2017.

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8. The Deuce

Headlined by James Franco and Maggi Gyllenhaal, The Deuce is not just about the dazzle of the 1970s, with the hippest New York crowd dancing to disco in gloriously flamboyant outfits. What it IS about is the city’s nooks and crannies that contain its underbelly thriving on a drug epidemic. The series portrays the harsh reality of New York city in the 70s following the legalisation of the porn industry intertwined with the turbulence caused by mob violence. You’ll be hooked if you are a fan of The Wire and American Hustle, but keep in mind it’s grimmer and grittier. The Deuce offers a turbulent ride which will leave you wanting more.

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9. Dexter

In case you’re feeling vengeful, you can always get the spite out of your system vicariously by watching Dexter, our favourite serial killer. This vigilante killer doesn’t hide behind a mask or a costume, but sneaks around like a criminal, targeting the bad guys that have slipped through the justice system. From its premier in 2006 to its series finale in 2013, the Emmy-nominated Michael C Hall, as Dexter, has kept fans in awe of the scientific precision in which he conducts his kills. For those who haven’t seen the show, the opening credits give an accurate glimpse of how captivating the next 45 minutes will be. If it’s been a while since you watched in awe as the opening credits rolled, maybe you should revisit the world’s most loved psychopath for nostalgia’s sake.

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10. Rome

If you’re still craving an epic drama with extensive settings and a grandiose plot and sub-plots, Rome, co-produced by HBO and BBC, is where your search stops. Rome is a historical drama that takes you through an overwhelming journey of Ancient Rome’s transition from a republic to an empire. And when it comes to tastes, this series provides the similar full-bodied flavour that you’ve grown to love about Game of Thrones. There’s a lot to take away for those who grew up quoting Julius Caesar, and for those looking for a realistic depiction of the legendary gladiators. If you’re a history buff, give this Emmy-winning show a try.

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For your next obsession, Hotstar Premium has you covered with its wide collection of the most watched shows in the world. Apart from the ones we’ve recommended, Indian viewers can now easily watch other universally loved shows such as Silicon Valley and Prison Break, and movies including all titles from the Marvel and Disney universe. So take control of your life again post the Game of Thrones gloom and sign up for the Hotstar Premium membership here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hotstar and not by the Scroll editorial team.