Writer-director Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Milan Talkies, which he refers to as his Mughal-E-Azam, has finally seen the light of day (released on Friday). Though conceptualised around 2011, the filmmaker, who has helmed critically acclaimed films like Paan Singh Tomar and the Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster series, had to cross several roadblocks to finally make the film, his first love story. Excerpts from an exclusive chat with the filmmaker below.

Yes, that’s right but it did not bother me too much because it was not that I was sitting at home and waiting for Milan Talkies to happen. I was doing my other films but this project was very close to my heart. Like I have said that this is my Mughal-E-Azam because it took so long to make (laughs). I started writing the film around the time I was making Paan Singh Tomar. I wanted to make a pure love story. UTV was the producer in the beginning but later on, we had a fallout. There was a gap, and then Ekta Kapoor came in and she pushed really hard to make it happen. Earlier, Shahid Kapoor was supposed to do and then Imran Khan. Priyanka (Chopra), Sonakshi (Sinha) and many others were approached but nothing happened. Producers needed a star. All this was causing delay and I requested Ekta to let me make it with whoever because otherwise it will never get made. In between, I did three to four other films but I was fascinated with this script. Ali (Fazal) met me few years back and he showed interest in doing it. We started shooting last March and this March, we are releasing. Each film has its own destiny.

Yes, had it been Imran, I would have moulded him to suit the script. He is the only actor who was probably not correct for the film physically. I would be forced to work with him. But having Ali instead of Shahid didn’t bring any drastic change in the script. Ali is most suitable for the role because he has got the facility with the language as he is from Lucknow. He also understands the character quite well. There is a mix of arrogance and vulnerability in his character. There is a song in the film called ‘Bakaiti’. That perfectly fits Ali. There is a lot of similarity with his character in Mirzapur but he is not as dangerous here as in the web series.

We have grown up watching films in single screen. It had its own charm and this film is a tribute to that. Love story is also something new to me. I started writing the film in 2010-’11. The film is set between 2010 and 2013, where we had prints in theatres. I wanted to show that whole romantic era of single screens. After 2013, filmmaking underwent a complete change as we went digital and suddenly that romance of cinema went away. Till 2013, that whole movie viewing experience of going to single screen theatres was so romantic. The film is all about that. It’s about love, love for cinema and love for your beloved.