From slick action films starring Sunny Deol, filmmaker Guddu Dhanoa (Ziddi, Salaakhen) has entered a new orbit with Hawa, a songless supernatural thriller which opens Friday.
"Tabu is my Sunny Deol in Hawa," says Dhanoa, who has made a dozen successful Bollywood potboilers. He adds, "All my films so far have been purely commercial. Not that Hawa isn't commercial. Audiences will love what they see."
He hopes his experiment will pay off. "Actually, I was supposed to make a horror film [Sheesha] with Sunny Deol three years ago. I had even invited makeup artists from abroad for the project. But due to dates and other commitments, and because we couldn't get statues from Madame Tussaud's [London's waxwork museum], I shelved it. If I had made Sheesha then, I would have been the first mainstream filmmaker to attempt a supernatural thriller with a top actor."
Dhanoa says he is happy about the success of Ram Gopal Varma's Bhoot. "That can only be good for my film. I was enthused about making a horror film after Sutanu Gupta narrated Hawa to me. When I narrated the subject to Tabu, she agreed to do the film immediately. We completed the film in a month."
The filmmaker claims he sold Hawa to distributors within four days of completing the film. "It was as though I was selling a Sunny Deol starrer. There were eight to 10 buyers for Hawa from every territory."
He says the idea to shoot Hawa in Manali came to him while shooting Jaal: The Trap, also featuring Tabu. "My car broke down over a narrow bridge; I couldn't get out. I thought of making a horror film situated there. People advised me not to shoot in Manali. But I was adamant."
He adds, "People say Hawa is inspired by [Hollywood's] The Others and The Entity. It isn't."
Tabu's presence in the film, he admits, ensures a staunch female viewership. "But she has never played such a character before. She is always open to challenges. Audiences will love her."
Dhanoa's other long-delayed project, Jaal: The Trap, featuring Deol, will release July 18. "It was delayed because of financial reasons. But the film has not become stale. There are numerous interesting twists and turns in the plot. Jaal has gone overbudget but I am not worried about the costs."
The director's face lights up when he speaks about the Deols. "He [Dharmendra] is my first cousin. Dharamji is my bua's [paternal aunt] son. I finish doing one film with the Deols and another comes my way."
At the moment, Dhanoa has two films with the Deols -- Gandhi with Sunny, and Kismet, with Sunny's brother Bobby. Both films feature Priyanka Chopra in the female lead. "She is a wonderful artiste," says Dhanoa. "Unlike others who have to concentrate on their dialogues at the cost of their facial expressions, her Hindi is fluent."
For now, Dhanoa is distressed that another supernatural thriller Saaya is being released along with Hawa. "Saaya was supposed to release July 18. I don't know why they advanced their film's release. Business will definitely be affected."