Sunny Deol calls, says “Do a film with me”: Inside Sriram Raghavan’s creative process and approach to box office success

Sriram Raghavan, the enigmatic director who has carved a niche for himself in the Indian film industry with his signature neo-noir thrillers, recently revealed that Sunny Deol, the action star known for his powerful screen presence, had once called him to express his desire to collaborate on a film. This anecdote, shared in an interview with the Indian Express, offers a glimpse into Raghavan’s unique creative process and his unconventional approach to casting and box office success.

Not Writing for the Stars, But for the Story

Unlike many filmmakers who tailor roles specifically for actors they admire, Raghavan prefers a more organic approach. He emphasizes that every time he has tried to write with a particular actor in mind, “I have not been able to come up with a good enough script.” This stems from his belief that the characters and the story itself should take precedence over casting considerations.


“I now start writing and mid-way think of who we can cast,” he explains. This allows the characters to evolve naturally, free from the constraints of pre-conceived notions about how a specific actor might portray them. It also opens the door to unexpected discoveries and serendipitous casting choices.

Raghavan’s track record speaks for itself. Films like “Ek Hasina Thi,” “Johnny Gaddaar,” “Badlapur,” and “Andhadhun” have all garnered critical acclaim for their intricate plots, morally ambiguous characters, and suspenseful execution. While these films boast talented casts, the focus is always on the narrative itself, drawing viewers into the director’s meticulously crafted worlds.

The Sunny Deol Connection: A Missed Opportunity or Future Collaboration?

Interestingly, Raghavan acknowledges Deol’s call years ago after watching his docu-drama “Raman Raghav, A City, A Killer.” Deol, then at the peak of his career, expressed his enthusiasm for working with the director. However, Raghavan admits that he couldn’t find the right project for the actor and kept rejecting his own ideas.

Sunny Deol  and Sriram Raghavan

This incident highlights Raghavan’s unwavering commitment to his artistic vision. He is not swayed by star power or box office pressures, choosing instead to wait for the perfect story and the ideal casting fit. While a Raghavan-Deol collaboration never materialized, the possibility remains tantalizing. Perhaps one day, the stars will align, and we will witness a unique cinematic pairing brought to life.

Box Office Numbers: A Secondary Concern

Raghavan’s perspective on box office success is equally refreshing. His latest film, “Merry Christmas,” starring Katrina Kaif and Vijay Sethupathi, received critical acclaim but did not perform as well as some might have expected at the box office. However, Raghavan remains unfazed by the numbers game.

“For them (actors), the number validates their star value. I don’t have that pressure,” he declares. He understands that certain actors rely on box office performance to maintain their commercial viability, but for him, artistic satisfaction reigns supreme.

Raghavan draws inspiration from a quote by Quentin Tarantino: “In the grand scheme of things, opening weekend is the least important time in the film’s life. A film takes more than a year to make. So, three days in a weekend are not the most important days for me or Quentin (laughs). Though for many it is.”

This sentiment reflects Raghavan’s long-term perspective. He understands that a film’s legacy extends far beyond its opening weekend numbers. He prioritizes creating narratives that resonate with audiences on a deeper level, even if they take time to find their appreciation.

Beyond Box Office: Building a Cult Following

Raghavan’s films may not always rake in millions at the box office, but they have cultivated a dedicated fan following. His admirers appreciate his distinct cinematic style, his penchant for morally grey characters, and his ability to weave complex narratives that keep viewers guessing until the very end.

The director’s films often spark conversations, inspire interpretations, and linger in the minds of viewers long after the credits roll. This enduring quality is a testament to Raghavan’s artistic vision and his commitment to storytelling that transcends commercial considerations.

A Beacon of Independent Cinema

In an industry increasingly dominated by formulaic Bollywood fare, Sriram Raghavan stands as a beacon of independent cinema. He carves his own path, unafraid to experiment with genre, narrative structure, and character portrayal.

Raghavan’s films are not for the faint of heart. They often delve into the dark underbelly of human nature, exploring themes of betrayal, revenge, and moral ambiguity. His characters are rarely black and white, often wrestling with their own demons and making questionable choices. This complexity adds depth and nuance to his narratives, making them all the more compelling.

Take, for instance, “Andhadhun,” a black comedy crime thriller that tells the story of a blind pianist who unwittingly gets caught up in a murder plot. The film’s protagonist, Akash (Ayushmann Khurrana), is a morally ambiguous character who uses his blindness to his advantage while simultaneously navigating the challenges of his disability.

Raghavan’s films are also visually stunning. He masterfully employs light and shadow to create suspenseful atmospheres, and his use of music is often integral to the storytelling. The score in “Andhadhun,” for example, is a mix of classical piano pieces and quirky Bollywood tunes, reflecting Akash’s dual identity and the film’s genre-bending nature.

Raghavan’s commitment to artistic integrity has earned him the respect of critics and audiences alike. He is considered one of the most important filmmakers working in India today, and his influence is evident in the work of a new generation of directors.

The Raghavan Universe: Interconnected Stories and Recurring Motifs

While each of Raghavan’s films stands on its own merits, there are also thematic and stylistic threads that connect them, creating a sense of a shared universe. Recurring motifs such as mistaken identity, unreliable narrators, and morally ambiguous characters weave through his narratives, adding a layer of intrigue and complexity.

For example, the theme of doppelgangers appears in both “Johnny Gaddaar” and “Badlapur.” In “Johnny Gaddaar,” a conman takes on the identity of a dead gangster, while in “Badlapur,” a man seeks revenge for the death of his wife and child by adopting a new persona. This exploration of identity and the masks we wear is a hallmark of Raghavan’s work.

Looking Ahead: What’s Next for Sriram Raghavan?

With his latest film, “Merry Christmas,” still fresh in our minds, cinephiles eagerly await Raghavan’s next project. While details remain under wraps, one thing is certain: it will be a film that pushes boundaries, challenges expectations, and leaves audiences enthralled.

Sriram Raghavan is a master storyteller who is not afraid to take risks. He is a true auteur, and his films are a testament to the power of cinema to entertain, provoke, and inspire. In the years to come, we can expect even more groundbreaking work from this visionary director, cementing his place as one of the most important voices in Indian cinema.

Beyond Bollywood: Raghavan’s Global Appeal

It’s important to note that Raghavan’s films are not confined to the Bollywood box office. His work has garnered international acclaim, finding audiences at film festivals and on streaming platforms around the world. This is due in part to the universality of his themes, which resonate with audiences regardless of their cultural background.

For example, “Andhadhun” was a critical and commercial success in China, proving that Raghavan’s storytelling transcends geographical boundaries. His films offer a unique perspective on the human condition, exploring the complexities of morality, identity, and the choices we make in the face of adversity.

In conclusion, Sriram Raghavan is a master filmmaker who is pushing the boundaries of Indian cinema. His films are not just entertainment; they are thought-provoking works of art that challenge us to see the world in new ways. As he continues to create, we can only expect even more captivating and ground-breaking stories from this singular talent.

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