Kedarnath is a genuine effort to create harmony: Abhishek Kapoor
The filmmaker speaks about his upcoming love story set against the backdrop of the 2013 North Indian flash floods
Director Abhishek Kapoor wants his upcoming film, Kedarnath, to "create harmony between communities” and “provide requisite healing to the victims” of the Kedarnath floods. Starring Sushant Singh Rajput and debutante Sara Ali Khan, the film tells the story of a Muslim porter who falls in love with a Hindu pilgrim. It recreates the destruction and havoc wrought by the 2013 North Indian flash floods, which killed more than 5,000 people, affected 4,500 villages and is regarded as one of the worst natural disasters to hit India in recent decades.
The trailer of Kedarnath, released on November 12, got embroiled in controversy when an Uttarakhand BJP media representative accused the makers of promoting ‘Love Jihad’ by telling an interfaith love story. Asked if the political uproar against Kedarnath was disheartening, Abhishek says, “Not really, because no one has seen the film yet. I have not presented my point of view before anyone. I think people should respond after watching the film. I have made this film with utmost honesty and love, and I am sure everyone will connect with it.”
Abhishek recalls visiting the famous Vaishno Devi temple in Katra, Jammu and Kashmir after finishing his last film (Rock On II) and being inspired by the story of poor, but faithful, pilgrims who arrive in multitudes to pay respects to the almighty, which led him to visualise a film on their lives.
“I met so many poor pilgrims from small villages who had a lot of faith in their heart. But when they got to the destination, they were so weak and feeble that they needed to be carried up by porters. And many of these porters were Muslims, who climb 14 to 18 kms everyday carrying pilgrims on their back. That in itself was the most beautiful thing to define us as a country,” says the filmmaker.
The inspiration to set the film in Kedarnath — Abhishek admits — came after the floods happened. “In 2013, Kedarnath was hit by floods of gigantic proportions. In our country, the intellectuals and the media tend to forget about these calamities as long as it doesn't happen in cities. If such a devastation had happened on Altamount Road or Nepean Sea Road in Mumbai or in Lutyen’s Delhi, the reactions would have been vastly different. But these floods in Uttarkhand affected the poorest and most humble of people. So this was another story I felt that must be told. Thus, I combined both my ideas and made it into this Kedarnath.”
Abhishek directed Sushant Singh Rajput in his Bollywood debut film, Kai Po Che! The duo decided to reunite for Kedarnath and explore their creative equation in a new direction. “Sushant has only grown more professional since we last worked together. I don't know how much more dedicated he can be. I sometimes fear his commitment to his craft and his professionalism will kill his innocence. He should retain that at all cost. He is fantastic actor and a reliable lead.”
As for Sara, Abhishek clarifies he wasn't interested in providing a launch vehicle for a famed star kid and approached her only because of her freshness and talent. “I needed someone fresh for the role of Mukku. It's a very big and important part. I met Sara through a common friend, designer Sandeep Khosla, and was charmed by her freshness. She’s very bright and has the enthusiasm to prove herself, and the humility to learn the craft. I was sometimes tough with her on set because I was working on a restricted budget and limited time, but she was always up to the task and kept delivering in every scene.”
Quizzed about the technical challenges of mounting an epic disaster film, Abhishek says, “We wanted to keep the texture real, so we shot on real locations along the Kedarnath pilgrimage route and other places in Uttarakhand. We shot some portions in the temple compounds and recreated the rest on set. For the flood sequences, we constructed a set on a massive tank in Film City, Mumbai, which was submerged in water. We used VFX but it's all blended with the live-action. It was immensely challenging.”
Produced by RSVP Movies and Guy In The Sky Pictures, Kedarnath is scheduled for release on December 7.