A still from the film
It was widely known in the industry circles that Mumbai Saga was nearly sold to Amazon Prime Video for a lucrative deal. But now, the John Abraham and Emraan Hashmi-led gangster drama is primed for a theatrical release. Ask director Sanjay Gupta what led to a change of heart, and he attributes the decision to his leading men. "John wanted a theatrical run since December. Emraan backed him. They gave us the faith to take the risk of a big-screen release," he says.
Gupta, known for his massy entertainers, admits that Mumbai Saga has been designed for a community-viewing experience. "[When supervising] the sound design, I would imagine how it will sound in screen number 2 of Juhu PVR. My characters are mouthing one-liners that can*t be enjoyed on a smaller screen. If we were losing money, an OTT release would be preferred. But with theatres, we*re safe - we*re not making money, but we won*t lose either. Someone [in the industry] has to take the leap, so we are doing it. This film is a litmus test. In this competitive industry where people enjoy others* failures, producers, for the first time, are hoping Mumbai Saga works so that other films have better scope." Even as he cherishes the big-screen experience, he asserts that audience safety comes first. "Wear masks, and watch the film only if you feel comfortable. I don*t want a packed hall."
The tonality of crime dramas has changed in the OTT era with Mirzapur and Sacred Games deep-diving into the genre with long-format storytelling. Does he worry that viewers may not connect with his signature theatrics, having been accustomed to a different style of narrative? "The storytelling for big screens is different; here, you want quick payoff. The visual dynamics and music grab you. I have had innumerable offers to foray into OTT. I have refrained because I haven*t cracked that formula yet. Storytelling should never be at the mercy of harsh language or gory depiction. I remember the explicit scenes of Shootout at Lokhandwala had put off a section of my audience."