For Mohit Suri’s Birthday, a Case Study in a Working Director

Mohit Suri! Not a brilliant once in a lifetime genius, not a guaranteed blockbuster director, just a solid hard working person of the type that makes up the backbone of the industry.

I like Mohit Suri. I’m not even sure why. Maybe because of a super endearing interview I read with him about how he was just so happy to be getting married. Maybe because his movies have a kind of unassuming grace to them. Maybe because he is part of the Bhatt family and I have a soft spot for all of them. Anyway, I like him.

Image result for mohit suri wedding pics
Look how cute he is at the wedding!

Mohit and his family don’t have the kind of dramatic background you would see in his films, they are just kind of nice and normal. His mother was related to Mahesh and Mukesh Bhatt, she was a stewardess, his father was an executive in a multinational company. Mohit grew up and decided he wanted to work in film. And because he was part of a 3 generation film family, he knew better than to waste his time with some kind of overseas film course. Instead, he went straight to work, taking an office assistant job at the T-Series headquarters. Which, eventually, paid off in a chance to work as an assistant director for Vikram Bhatt. Another nice competent hardworking director who coincidentally had the same last name as Mohit’s uncle. No really, Vikram Bhatt is no relation to Mohit, just thought he was a bright kid in the T-Series offices and gave him a chance.

A film Mohit helped Vikram with.

Little detour here, Vikram Bhatt is worth talking about too. A 3rd generation film family, his grandfather was one of the first producer-directors in Hindi film, his father was a cinematographer, he went to work at 14 as an assistant director. Spent years assisting, working closely with Mukul Anand, and then Shekhar Kapur, and then Mahesh Bhatt. This is how training works, apprenticeship at a young age, and a close mentorship relationship, before finally spreading your wings. Vikram had his first movie at 23, and at 33 started paying it forward by mentoring Mohit Suri. And after Mohit worked with him a couple of years (in addition to Mohit’s time in the offices at T-Series), Mohit got his first movie at age 24, Zeher.

Mohit was officially a director, but it was still a bit of an apprenticeship. His uncle Mukesh was producing, and his uncle Mahesh wrote the script. And it wasn’t exactly a big showy launch. It was a cheap ripoff of an American film, starring Mohit’s cousin Emraan, Shilpa Shetty’s little sister, and a young model turned actress who had just featured in the last cheap ripoff the Bhatt’s had made, Udita Goswami.

Pooja Bhatt’s remake of Witness, with Udita playing a Buddhist nun

While onscreen they played out a steamy story of a cheating husband, his wife, and his mistress, off-screen Emraan was planning his wedding to his college sweetheart, and young director Mohit was falling in love with young actress Udita. They started dating off and on during filming.

Image result for mohit suri udita goswami

Next film was Kalyug, the first film Mohit came up with himself, and starred a different cast, Kunal Khemu trying to kill his child star image, Smiley Suri (Mohit’s sister), and Emraan only in a cameo. It did better than expected, and people began to sit up and take notice of this young director. It was this film that showed Mohit had the stuff to keep working, wasn’t going to be just a dilettante who made one film and gave up.

Woh Lamhe came next, once again Mohit was kind of the front director for his uncle Mahesh. Mahesh wrote the script, a fictionalized version of his romance with mentally ill Parveen Babi. Mohit put in the time and brought his uncle’s vision to life, doing the boring day to day work that Mahesh was too busy and old for, being a good hardworking nephew.

Mohit’s next film was the one that really got him noticed, after 4 films in 2 years. It was another remake, this time of a Korean film, with a deeper message about human trafficking and interreligious love. He directed Emraan again, to one of Emraan’s best performances. Awarapan got decent reviews, especially for Emraan’s performance, but it wasn’t the kind of hit that makes you famous. More the kind of hit that makes newspapers remember how to spell your name right.

The biggest impact of Awarapan was that Mohit got the right to do more work on his films. He averaged out 6 months per film for his first 4, there was no way he was doing the prep work or the writing or the casting for them, he was just a hired gun brought in for someone else’s vision. But after Awarapan, he took a solid year or more between films, time to plan and cast and find music and help write the script and everything else a director usually gets to do. Unfortunately, the first movie of this new era was a flop. Maybe just because it had a terrible name, “Crook”. It was supposed to be about racist hate crimes in Australia, but the title doesn’t show that at all. It ended up flopping.

Mohit started to bounce back with Murder 2, but it was a step back. He was back in the Bhatt fold, making the movie his uncle told him to make instead of his own vision. He did his best with it, and it made a tidy profit. And then, 9 years into his career as director, Mohit FINALLY got the movie that made people notice him, that proved he had something special to offer, Aashiqui 2.

Aashiqui 2 started as just a reimagining of Mohit’s Uncle Mahesh’s Aashiqui. But Mohit added to it, his own sweeping silly romantic vision. And it was a hit, a big big hit. That same year, Mohit finally married his girlfriend of 9 years, Udita. She retired from making her sexy sexy movies and started having cute cute babies instead.

Image result for mohit suri udita goswami

Mohit is still chugging along. It took him 9 years, but he finally found his unique artistic voice, the man to go to for the over the top romantic touch. He turned another Korean remake (I Saw the Devil) into a swoony romance with Ek Villain, then got a shot at a Chetan Bhagat script, Half-Girlfriend. He’s hired by Balaji Telefilms and T-Series now, not just the family studio. This is a good life, and a good career. It’s worth celebrating.

We need directors to make these big stupid romances

Mohit is a patient hardworking skilled and intelligent guy. He has been working at film since he was at least 20, working long hours at boring jobs and learning all he could. He didn’t look for fame or appreciation, he was happy making coffee at T-Series, running errands for Vikram Bhatt, making movies under the supervision of his uncle, and learning all he could. If you go back to those early films, they aren’t great, but they aren’t terrible either. He knew how to use a camera, he knew how to tell a story, he just didn’t have his own story to tell yet. He had flops and failures, he had almost no critical or commercial encouragement, but he kept his head down and kept working, and kept learning and getting better all the time. It’s not the kind of career we usually hear about, not the geniuses like Farhan or Aditya or Karan who had record breaking hits right from the start. But it’s the non-geniuses who just keep plugging away without acclaim or notice who are the ones that keep the industry chugging. If Mohit had played the sensitive artist, insisted on the big high profile launch, or been too good to make photocopies at T-Series, or gone off in a sulking fit after one of his flops, or done any of those things that “artists” are supposed to do, we wouldn’t have his nice collection of pleasant films.

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6 thoughts on “For Mohit Suri’s Birthday, a Case Study in a Working Director

    • I was debating between writing it was stupid, and just writing “Hi Angie!” in the caption. But then I thought maybe you wouldn’t read it so it wouldn’t be worth it.

      On Thu, Apr 11, 2019 at 10:37 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • I didn’t talk about his next film, another romance with ARK and Disha Patani. I am excited at the level I always would be for a Mohit Suri film. So not much, but still more than if it had Shraddha Kapoor.

          On Thu, Apr 11, 2019 at 10:53 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • I’m sure it will be terrible, but not because of Mohit, but because of actors. Why he casts people without talent? He is good, and can do better.

            I was reading about Zeher, and I thought today a movie like this would never be a hit. It’s sad. I like this kind of movies Mohit does – not the best out there, but solid, and nice.

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          • Notebook was very much a Mohit Suri kind of film. One of the reviews asked why we had the extraneous fight scene with the hero and a motorcycle, and I thought “have you never seen a movie before? That’s what makes it fun!”

            On Thu, Apr 11, 2019 at 11:19 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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