All my films are rooted in reality: Raj Kumar Gupta
The Raid and No One Killed Jessica director talks about his new film, India's Most Wanted, starring Arjun Kapoor as a spy out to capture 'India's Osama
Adding to the recent resurgence of spy movies in Bollywood is Raj Kumar Gupta’s India’s Most Wanted. The film stars Arjun Kapoor as an Intelligence officer, who leads an unarmed manhunt for the country’s most-wanted terrorist. Raj, who made his directorial debut with the critically-acclaimed Aamir and recently delivered his first major box-office hit with Raid, insists his filmmaking approach hasn't changed. “Please don't blame me for the commercial success of Raid,” he says. “All my films, be it No One Killed Jessica or Ghanchakkar or India’s Most Wanted, have the same tonality. They are all rooted in reality.”
Excerpts from a conversation:
Your new film casts an unglamorous look at the intelligence community. It’s not how we are used to seeing spies in cinema.
The James Bond world does not exist in reality. Spies are normal people, who feel fear and face real circumstances. They have to deal with situations on the go and come up with solutions. It's a basic and human world that they inhabit. What's extraordinary is their courage and commitment.
What was the research process for India’s Most Wanted?
It took me three years to write this film and one to make it. The research started with articles and reports of what had happened. Many reports about the same incident were contradictory, so I had to verify everything. I hit a dead-end at one point. However, because of my investment in the story, new leads kept coming up and I spoke to several people who gave me the material I needed.
You haven't specified the name of the terrorist in the film, although people have guessed it's about Yasin Bhatkal’s arrest.
One has to be sensitive when dealing with a subject like this. We are not shying away from the fact that it’s inspired by real events, where lives were lost. There's a culprit who was responsible for the bombing in multiple cities across India. I would like audiences to find out the rest of the story in theatres.
How did Arjun and the rest of the cast come on board?
I had liked Arjun’s debut performance in Ishaqzaade (2012) and had called to compliment him. We kept in touch over the years. After Raid, I wanted to start India’s Most Wanted immediately. Arjun read the script and said yes on the same day. He was as passionate about the script as me.
As for the other actors, they all came via a leading casting agency in Mumbai. I have always believed in casting new actors, or actors from theatre backgrounds, who are immensely talented but haven't been recognised on screen. The same process applied to this film.
The trailer humorously hints at budget constraints and bureaucratic apathy in national agencies. How pivotal is that layer to the story?
It's an important element, of course. With all due respect to our agencies, there are times when such situations arise, where our operatives must pool in their own money to complete a mission. We all know that not enough is provided to our agencies, and there might be reasons for that, but this is one point we really wanted to highlight.
This is the maiden production of your banner, Raapchik Films.
We had earlier produced a short film called Aaba. It won a lot of awards and established the credentials of Amar Kaushik (who later directed the blockbuster Stree). I co-own the company with my wife and partner, Myra Karn. She oversees the business part, while I focus on writing and directing.
You've shot in Patna and Nepal. How difficult is it to shoot in real locations with a Bollywood star?
It depends on the passion of the actor. We could not carry a vanity van everywhere. Arjun would sit quietly in an SUV and come out when needed. It was a tough shoot throughout. There was a lot of rain; much of the film was shot on highways. We shot at the bus station in Patna, so managing the crowd was difficult. Shooting in real locations is not about the take you want, it's about what you get on the day and making sure that's what you wanted.
There was some online furore over the antagonist quoting a line from The Bhagavad Gita.
Our intention was not to offend anyone or create a controversy. That scene is not a work of fiction; during my research, I came across an incident where a terrorist, who was being interrogated, had quoted words from the Gita. There is also a befitting reply in the film that the protagonist gives him. As filmmakers, we respect people of all religions and faiths.