'Corruption has existed since man came into being'
... says director Raj Kumar Gupta, who dedicates his latest release, Raid, to Indian Revenue Service officers of the past
After a hiatus of five years, director Raj Kumar Gupta has returned with Raid which has opened to generally positive reviews. "I'm aware of the gap, but it wasn't intentional. I've resolved not to take such a lengthy gap hereafter," says the director who has once again taken inspiration from real incidents for the Ajay Devgn-starrer.
What inspired you to make a film on Indian Revenue Service officers?
I knew it was a story that needed to be told. There are so many unsung heroes working for the government, and that realisation inspired me. The time frame was very different when the incidents in the film happened, and so were perceptions of threat. Generally, I just thought it was a good story to tell.
Any reasons for setting the story in the 80s?
It is based on an incident that happened in the 80s. My hero's characterisation also lent itself naturally to that backdrop. Though the technology and the way things worked were different back then, the emotions have always been the same. Corruption has existed since mankind came into being. It hasn't changed much, and neither have those who stand up and fight against it. I felt that the script spoke a universal language that transcended time.
A lot of research seems to have gone into the making of this film.
Once my writer Ritesh Shah and I started writing this script, we met a lot of other IRS officers, their wives, their colleagues who worked in the 80s to get an idea of how their world was. When you make a film, it's not just about one individual. It's also about those around them, and how they get affected by this individual.
Nowadays, when a raid happens, it hits the headlines and gets shared on social media. In those times, when officers went for raids, even their families wouldn't know it. It was quite brave of them to do what they did. They were normal people who did heroic deeds. There are stories of people have losing their lives due to help coming in too late. The climax is also inspired by a real-life experience.
Any issues casting an actor like Ajay Devgn, who's known for his action persona, in an emotionally heavy film such as this?
Ajay has a great body of work and is an intelligent actor. He understood the space of the film; so there was never any pressure to tweak the script to suit his persona. We were all on the same page as far as his character in the film was concerned.
Your film, No One Killed Jessica, was based on a true story too. How do you decide whether a real-life story can get translated into a film?
There are some incidents which are so unbelievable that reality seems stranger than fiction, and then there are those that inspire me. Jessica's story was a tragedy and a very difficult story to tell. But it had to be told. Similarly, Raid also has that hard-to-believe factor. How can someone have so much money in their house without their knowledge? When we dig deep, the layers start peeling off. Such are the dynamics that decide if I want to make a film from a real incident.
Did you have any concerns that an old story may not be so relevant in today's times?
I didn't think so. Being set in a different time doesn't stop a story from making an impact. At the end of the day, we're all human beings driven by emotions. The emotions are the same irrespective of the time. Murder is still murder and so is love. Moreover, people know these stories already as they've been out in the open for years. Be it No One Killed Jessica or Raid, whether the film lives up to the expectation in the minds of the audience is what we have to answer.
I've watched a couple of South Indian films. In fact my Aamir was remade in Tamil (as Aal). You guys make some amazing films, and are doing great work that sometimes makes me ask, 'What are we doing in Bollywood?' In particular, I'm a big fan of Mani Ratnam sir's works.