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“We plan to make a prequel to Lootere” – Jai Mehta

Jai Mehta started working on ‘Lootere’ when he was not even 30. The Disney+ Hotstar series is Jai’s first independent work as a director. Jai assisted father Hansal Mehta on multiple films before co-directing ‘Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story’ with him. ‘Lootere’ is a thriller featuring a Ukranian ship which gets hijacked by a group of Somalian pirates. Every Thursday, a new episode of ‘Lootere’ drops on the streaming platform.

In this interview, Jai talks about his experience of directing a show which has been mounted on a huge scale, the challenges he faced during the process, learnings from father Hansal Mehta and more.

Your father Hansal Mehta said in an interview that you have a great sense of scale and style. How was the process of creating the world of ‘Lootere’?

I grew up watching all the big blockbuster Hollywood movies like ‘True Lies’, Judgement Day’ and ‘Terminator 2’. While making ‘Lootere’, all I was trying to do was relive the same exhilaration that I felt when I first watched those films. I was hoping that someday another kid would watch this, he would feel the kind of emotions I felt when I watched those films. I have always been fascinated by larger-than-life films.

If something feels scary to me as a filmmaker, I feel we are doing something right. Mounting a show like ‘Lootere’ was, no doubt, a big task. It was more of a production battle than a vision battle. The vision existed on paper. Suparn (Verma) and Vishal (Kapoor) wrote an incredible script. Finding the right locations was one of the biggest challenges that we faced initially.

You shot the series in Cape Town, South Africa.

Yes! Cape Town is such a gorgeous city. To recreate a country like Somalia in Cape Town is very difficult. We had to look for different locations and create the feeling of it being Somalia. Our biggest achievement was finding the right ship. After that, we became a little more confident about putting everything together.

Did you watch any films to draw visual references?

I don’t do a lot of referencing from movies. Our industry has perpetuated a certain way of working and that does not prove to be helpful at all times. The look-book that we make sometimes is designed for the studios. We create them so that people in those high-up offices understand what we are trying to bring to the table.

We didn’t draw a lot of references from films. We would refer to a lot of pictures clicked by a bunch of renowned photographers. A series that I got very inspired from was ‘Zero Zero Zero’. When I watched it, I felt I hadn’t seen anything like that ever. The way they made the series blew my mind.

You have worked with Hansal Mehta for so many years. What is that one quality or trait of him which has inspired you the most?

There is so much about him that inspires me. Everything I know is because of him. His biggest quality is his humility. Nothing ever gets to his head. He is a very grounded and simple human being. Some of his other qualities which have inspired me greatly are persistence and perseverance.

Everybody knows about the films he has made since ‘Shahid’ but very few are aware of the work he did before that and the kind of struggle he went through while making those films. ‘Jayate’, his first film, remains unreleased. ‘Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar’ and ‘Chhal’ were made through a lot of difficulties. ‘Yeh Kya Ho Raha Hai’ was a very different film for its time. Three films made by him never released. After making ‘Woodstock Villa’, he took a sabbatical from films. For him, nothing is a setback. He believes everything is an opportunity to grow. He keeps saying that you must learn from your mistakes and grow. He is so easy to work with on a set. 

The first season of ‘Lootere’ comprises of eight episodes. Five have been dropped so far. What are the kind of plans you have with the show?

We have a lot of plans for ‘Lootere’. We plan to make a prequel to the show. We are going to be bound to this ship for a very long time.

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