July 7, 2010

‘Films live beyond first weekend’

Rahul Parzania Dholakia on why he chose to go Kashmir after Gujarat, big after small

After making a film with Naseeruddin Shah and Sarika, why did you choose to do a movie with Sanjay Dutt and Bipasha Basu?

The main reason being the film on Kashmir is much bigger than the film on Gujarat. The scale is bigger. To achieve that you need to have a big budget, more than what we had for Parzania. Also, I didn’t want to again face the problems I had with distribution during Parzania. You want people to see the film. Plus Parzania was a personal story. I didn’t want to compromise on the film on any level and so I produced it myself. It was a very emotional drama. Lamhaa is more engrossing and more thrilling. It’s low on emotions and high on drama. I didn’t want to repeat another Parzania. All these factors led to me deciding to cast mainstream actors. Maybe you pay a price for it but you also get a lot of advantages from that.

What prompted you to make a film on Kashmir?

Actually it was a group of students who said that Kashmir is a beautiful prison. I wanted to see it for myself. I went to the Valley and experienced things myself. I also did around 150 interviews there... from army officers to separatist leaders to common people. I got hooked on to it. The problem is that there are so many incidents and so many stories, you don’t know which one to tell. That’s where the time actually goes.

From Roja to Mission Kashmir to ...Yahaan, Kashmir has been depicted on the Bollywood screen every few years. Have you shown a different Valley in Lamhaa?

Very different from those films. Though there is an angle of militancy, though there is an angle of action and drama, I think the way we have told the story of Kashmir is very different. There are many human stories we have shown that no one has seen before in India. Even a simple line like “Aap Hindusthan kab ja rahe ho?” says a lot about how Kashmir is separated from India in people’s minds there.

How difficult was it to shoot there?

Initially it was extremely difficult because we went in and shot when the state was under emergency and there was no government in place. Gradually the drive of the whole unit and the passion for making this film overcame a lot of things. In restrospect I think, damn, we shouldn’t have done something so risky. I wanted to shoot in places where no one has shot before. I shot in downtown Srinagar, I shot in Sopore, I shot in Jama Masjid. I remember while shooting in Sopore four guys from Lashkar had come down just to see what we were doing. Any time there could have been a grenade launch. So to shoot in such places, to get the expression of actors, to get the right lighting... it was incredibly challenging! There was no chance of a retake or a reshoot.

Did you have to cast Sanjay Dutt because his friend Bunty Walia was producing Lamhaa?

No, Sanjay Dutt liked the story. The character is about 45-50 in age. He’s an officer who is coming back to the Valley after 18 years. I needed that maturity in the person. Also, Sanjay Dutt’s personality is such that he has been associated with Kashmir for 30-40 years, ever since his childhood. He has seen the journey of Kashmir, he has seen both the pain and conflict. It was more of a choice of a personality taking on the character rather than just taking a guy who looks good for the role.

The same with Bipasha. Her character has to portray internal and external conflicts... very physical and very agile and at the same time she is someone who has been humiliated and beaten up. As a personality Bipasha is such. Physically she is active and fit. For me it’s not about the stereotypical looks of a person. Bipasha is not a Kashmir ki kali. Her personality drove me to cast her.

Despite such a mainstream cast, do you think the audience will come to watch a subject like Lamhaa in the first weekend?

Quite honestly, when you have made a film for three years and been in life and death situations where you could have been shot so many times, you really don’t care about the box-office fate of the film. The journey itself has been fulfilling. You want the success of the film because you want a greater number of people to watch the film. But you are not afraid of failure. People will eventually watch a good film. Cinema’s life is longer than Friday, Saturday, Sunday. The first weekend is for things like actors getting more films and producers making more movies.