As a musician, his roster reads some 12 films. He was hailed as a major talent, but never became a major star.
As a director, his roster reads two films. The first, Makdee, won second prize at the Children's Film Festival in Chicago. His second, Maqbool, has, over the last six months, travelled on the international circuit to Toronto, Florence, Berlin, Marrakech, Bangkok, Japan and Durban.
Perhaps it is William Shakespeare. Perhaps it is the impressive cast. Perhaps it is just self-assured talent. Whatever it is, Vishal Bharadwaj's Maqbool, based on Macbeth, has won acclaim.
On the eve of the film's release, Bharadwaj spoke to Correspondent Vijay Singh about directing Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Pankaj Kapur, Tabu and Irrfan -- all in one film:
Your film is based on Macbeth.
Yes. It is inspired by Macbeth. It is a loose adaptation of the play.
In Macbeth, the drama is based in the Kingdom of Duncan. I adapted the script of Maqbool to set it against the Mumbai underworld. I have tried to portray all the emotions of the play in my film.
Just like Macbeth goes on a spree and kills his loved ones, the main character in Maqbool [played by Irrfan] does the same thing. He commits a wrong but does not want to accept his wrongdoings. Ultimately, he gets more and more cruel and starts killing all his loved ones.
Why have you not used any commercially successful stars in your film?
All the actors in my film are big stars in their own right, be it Irrfan, Tabu, Pankaj Kapur, Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri. If the role suits the actor, it does not matter to me whether he is a commercial star or not.
Did you approach any big star to act in the film?
I spoke to many people before casting Irrfan. I spoke to Anil Kapoor, Akshay Kumar, Akshaye Khanna, but it did not work out.
After completing Maqbool, I realised the acting chemistry between Irrfan, Pankaj, Tabu, Naseer and Om is out of this world. No one could have performed better than them.
How did this film happen?
This film is co-produced Bobby Bedi and me. He saw Makdee and liked that very much. We spoke to each other about Maqbool. I had already written the script. He liked it and gave me the liberty to select the cast. We shot the film in Mumbai and Bhopal.
Your cast is dominated by actors who are known to have strong opinions. Did you have any creative clashes?
It is only natural that you take others' opinion about your script. You should be open to suggestions. We did it, too. We had script sessions with all the artistes and it was very healthy.
How much does box-office success mean to you?
It is very important. Once the film becomes a hit at the box-office, you get the money to produce and direct your next film.
Tell us about your forthcoming films.
Right now, I am working on two scripts. One will be produced by Shekhar Kapur called Mantra [starring Preity Zinta]. The other is Timbaktu [reportedly starring Aishwarya Rai and Vivek Oberoi. This film is based on Australian writer I A R Wylie's Pas De Quatre], which I will produce and direct.