By Subhash K Jha
MUMBAI: Ram Gopal Varma speaks to Subhash K Jha on his latest film The Attacks of 26/11.
Q: For the first time in your career of 12 years you were preparing a film for the film festivals and, believe it or not, the popular awards!
A: Yes, I was preparing the 26/11 film for the festivals. We were going to take it to Berlin in February but then film wasn’t ready. Now there’s the Cannes film festival in May, and then various other festivals across the world….I think I only attended one awards function in my entire career. And that was for the Filmfare awards during Satya. Never after that. But now I feel the need to take The Attacks Of 26/11, were it will be noticed, heard, seen and appreciated.
Q: In the film you’ve used a lot of inter-cutting sequences to create a sense of immediacy.
A: That’s why I released the first seven minutes of the film for public viewing rather than the standard trailer. More than just a montage of visuals which tell you what the movie is about in the usual way and especially because the story of 26/11 is anyway known to everyone, we thought it was better to show the public how and why it has been made.
Q: In The Attack Of 26/11 you have abandoned the rogue technique, shooting with a skeletal crew with hand-held cameras, that you had adapted in your last few films.
A: I feel no amount of camera jugglery or technique can compensate for content. It’s only when the content doesn’t work that technique stands out both in a good and bad way. 26/11 still has my usual camerawork but the seriousness of the subject matter does not make it apparent. The rest of the film will be in the same tone as the first seven minutes because the events of 26/11 were happening with a sense of urgency for all concerned, whether it was the terrorists or the victims or the cops. Even the background score here is in my usual style. But like I said,since its synchronised with the content it doesn’t jar. And I haven’t used the rogue method. It’s the content and characters which failed in my last film Department, not the rogue method.
Q: You end with the hanging of Kasab, right?
A: It gives my film’s narrative a nice sense of closure. But there is no closure to the actual happenings. Kasab was only a pawn. Who were the people behind him? Who really held Mumbai city to ransom on 26/11?
Q: Now that 26/11 is ready and cleared by the censor board, do you apprehend a backlash from the moral police who tend to jump on any political film without seeing it?
A: I don’t think so, simply because there cannot be a dispute in one’s view of that barbaric act committed in killing so many innocent men women and children – be it the so-called moral police or publicity-hungry trouble-mongers
Q: Recently Kamal Haasan’s film Vishwaroop – a film on international terrorism – was targeted by radical groups. Do you think films on terrorism are susceptible to a terror attack by political and moral groups?
A: I don’t think they target terrorism related films in particular but it’s a general intolerance …the irony of a free society is that on one hand one has a freedom to do what one wants to do and then one also has the freedom to object to someone else’s freedom.
Q: Are you taking pre-emptive action to ensure your film doesn’t encounter pre-release stumbling blocks?
A: My job is that of a director and I already have done that to the limits of my capability…and we will deal with the situations if and when they come along.
Q: Those who have seen the film, for example Mr Bachchan, say it is a very humane and emotional take on the 26/11 attacks. As you grow older, do you find the human aspect of a story more interesting than the technical and/or political angle?
A: I don’t think it’s anything to do with age but it has to do with which particular aspect of those attacks struck me. Pretty much everyone knows what happened but very few know how it happened. It’s one thing to hear or read about it, but it’s another thing to actually see it. My film primarily concentrates on the events on the night of 26/11.
Q: A bit about the actor who plays Kasab. Do you think his life might become difficult after the film releases?
A: I don’t think so, as at the end of the day everyone knows that its an enactment no matter how real it seems. And Sanjeev Jaiswal the actor who played Kasab is a real wonderful actor.
Q: What do you feel about Katheryn Bigelow’s film on Osama bin Laden? As an American, do you think, she had more freedom to attack terrorism than you do as an Indian filmmaker?
A: It goes without saying that America as a country will always give more freedom to any filmmaker.
Q: Interestingly, your 26/11 would be pitched against John’s I Me Aur Main. Your thoughts on this.
A: I honestly believe that every film has its own audience and I do not subscribe to the theory of films eating into each other’s markets. People who are interested in seeing what happened that night will see The Attacks of 26/11 and people who will want to see John will see John.