In 2017, there was a writer who was at the end of his tether. He had written hit films like Jhankaar Beats (2003), Masti (2004), Heyy Babby (2007), Housefull (2010), Desi Boyz (2011), Grand Masti (2013), Shootout At Wadala (2013), Ek Villain (2014) and many others.
In 2016, writer Milap Zaveri became a director for the first time when he wrote and directed Mastizaade. But though the sex comedy starred Sunny Leone, the big box-office draw, the film tanked badly and took the writer down with it. For the next three years, even writing assignments dwindled and the writer was almost written off. In those low times, he wrote the vigilante action film, Satyameva Jayate.
One day, the despondent writer was driving down Bandra when he spotted actor John Abraham in his sports car with his wife. They had worked together before, Milap had written the dialogues of Shootout At Wadala. But Milap’s morale was so low that all he wanted was to see if John recognised him. To his joy, when John saw him, he cheerfully said, ‘Hi’ and introduced him to his wife Priya. That gesture of recognition was enough to lift the writer’s flagging spirits for that day.
A few days later, Milap took his revenge and action masala film to Emmay Entertainment, a production company run by Monisha and her brother Nikkhil Advani. Monisha loved the script but told Milap frankly that with his market was so down, no star would work with him. She suggested that maybe he could make Satyameva Jayate in the South with a decent actor from there and make a backdoor re-entry into Hindi cinema.
It plummeted his spirits even further. Later, Milap unburdened himself to close childhood friend Rohit Dhawan who is David Dhawan’s son and Varun Dhawan’s brother. Rohit told him, ‘No, I won’t let you give up so easily and go to the South,” and he suggested, ‘Why don’t you message John? You have an entry point since you met him just the other day.”
The demoralised writer wondered aloud why John would entertain him.
But Rohit had directed John in Desi Boyz and knew the actor well, assured Milap that he was not a hero who would hold his past failure against him. He said, “John is a different kind of actor. He will go only by what project you have for him.”
Very hesitatingly, Milap mustered the courage and messaged John who called him over and put him on to Meenakshi, the creative head of his production company. Initially, Meenakshi told him that John was too busy to listen to a narration and that Milap would have to first pitch the script to her. But when the writer pleaded with Meenakshi to get him one hour of John’s time, something in his desperate voice connected with her and she called him to meet John the next morning.
That meeting and John’s uncanny script sense changed Milap’s life completely.
Satyameva Jayate, produced by T Series and Emmay Entertainment, and released on Independence Day in 2018, was another box office hit for John who already had Parmanu behind him that year.
What nobody knows is that the day John waved out to Milap on Carter Road was not a chance encounter. Low in self-esteem, Milap had seen John come out of his office in his sports car. At that time, there was no project in his mind to pitch to John, the writer only needed something to boost his morale. “All I wanted was to see if John would acknowledge my presence. I wanted to feel wanted, so that I could sleep peacefully at least for one more night assured that I had earned some respect in this industry. It was a cry for help, a cry asking him to just smile at me and make me feel I have some value.”
So, Milap had chased John’s sports car down Carter Road. When John had to slow down at a speedbreaker, he caught up with him and casually glanced at the actor as if he’d just bumped into him.
“If I had not chased him that day and mentioned it to Rohit, Rohit would have never asked me to pitch it to John, maybe I would’ve made a South film or still been in the wilderness. My one moment of desperation changed my life completely. What you do in one split second can change your life.”
After the box-office success of Satyameva Jayate, followed by the success of Marjawaan, the writer-director is now back in the saddle. John Abraham and Milap went back to work in November 2020 and have almost completed the shooting of Satyamev Jayate 2 in Lucknow with T-Series and Emmay as his producers again.
It’s a happy ending all because of that one moment when a desperate writer down in the dumps chased a hero’s car just to get a wave of recognition from the hero.