Friday, July 28, 2006
A documentary film-maker turned commercial film-maker's films are always something to look forward to. And when you have Yashraj backing your movie, it is nothing short of a fine setup. You might have seen the promising promos of Kabul Express.
First and foremost give us a background about yourself?
Well, I'm a documentary film-maker. Some of my documentaries include Taliban - Years and Beyond, Titanic Sinks in Kabul, Forgotten Army which was based on the Azad Hind Fauj and shot in Burma and 2 Assassins and an Accident based on Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. Some of my films have won national and international awards. Kabul Express is my first commercial film.
Tell us about the documentary you made about Taliban?
The documentary is being aired on Discovery channel right now after being aired on a lot of international channels before. It basically speaks about 5 years of the Taliban rule. What happens after they begin their regime and what changes.
Weren't you apprehensive about shooting in Afghanistan?
There were dangers involved. But Afghanistan is a place with so many exciting stories that makes it worth the risk. But you should be very careful and know where to draw the line. Over-stepping it can be very dangerous. We received a few death threats from the Taliban and then we got security from the Afghan government.
Tell us about the threats?
The Taliban is still active at the borders and are now just a bunch of terrorists.
How were the physical attributes over there?
It has tough terrains and is mountainous. We shot at -15 degree Celsius and it was cold and had icy winds. After 25 years of war, the infrastructure is almost completely destroyed.
What is the genre of the movie?
It is very difficult to put it in a genre. By face, I would call it a road thriller. At a deeper level, there are emotions involved and also talks about artificial and political boundaries created by humans.
What made you start a film such as Kabul Express?
It is a fascinating place. Whoever goes there cannot come back untouched. Despite poverty and war, the people are full of life and very hospitable. This really intrigued me. It only seemed logical that I start my first film here as I understand the place well. Often we see producers go to U.S., Malaysia, etc. and shoot out there which has no bearing with the film whatsoever. For me Kabul is not just a location but is a character in my film.
Is it based on real life?
People say that the characters of John Abraham and Arshad Warsi are based on me and my friend Rajan Kapoor. Their characters may be a little inspired from our lives but we basically wanted to focus on John's and Arshad's off-screen image.
What can you tell us about the film?
It is an anti-war film set against the backdrop of war. Basically it speaks about the bonding of natural enemies created by society. We come down to the point that all human beings are equal.
With such an unconventional theme, what made Yashraj take over the film?
Aditya Chopra loved the film. It is not a film which has 6 songs and 5 dances. Cinema over the years has grown. It is important that it should be entertaining but at the same time can be realistic, informative and thought provoking. Aditya felt that this film would not just cater to the Indian but the international audience as well.
Yashraj in the last 3 years is moving away from their trademark films. Do you agree with that?
Every film-maker has his own style. Initially, only Yash Chopra used to make films for his banner. Now there are about 5-6 film-makers here and each of us have a different style. A Hum Tum is different from a Veer-Zaara which is different from a Kabul Express.
Were John and Arshad your first choices?
Oh Yes! I wanted only them as they resembled the characters in the film. Both of them were excited on reading the script and agreed to do it. All this happened before Yashraj came into the picture. They both play the role of journalists in the film.
Apparently John became ill over there. Did it affect the shoot?
He did but the whole incident was blown out of proportion by the media. He came down with fever only towards the end of the film. He however shot for 5 days but the conditions were such that he had to get hospitalized. It was a grueling 40 day shoot and I guess that was the best for him. Only a bit of patchwork was remaining.
Tell us about the other principle cast?
When I started the film, I insisted that every actor should be of the nationality that their characters are of. Hanif Humghum is an Afghani who is a driver and guide. Linda Arsenio is a journalist from New York and Salman Shahid is a Pakistani who again plays the role of a journalist.
Is there music in the film?
Yes there is definitely music in the film. But no sing songs and lip-syncing. The music comes during the portrayal of events. Here and there they hum a song naturally but no one sings as if there is an orchestra behind them.
Did you ever take your wife for any of the shoots?
Yes, Mini (Mathur) was there for the shoot but not entirely. She has a schedule for Indian Idol and found it hard to adjust her dates.
Is it true that you completed the film in Bhuj?
The media blew this thing out of proportion as well. We completed only the patchwork of the film like shooting tires, fingernails, etc. All this happened because of John's illness. But a person who has seen Afghanistan can say that it cannot be replicated. Almost the whole film was shot there and Bhuj was just for pieces remaining which we realized we could have done in Mumbai as well.
Are there any more real life characters in the film?
Most of the characters in the film are inspired from the people I know and whom I have met.
Are you aware of the Afghan film industry? What is your opinion on it?
I have worked very closely with the Afghan film industry. In fact I have about 20 Afghan actors in the film. All my extras are Afghani. My friend Siddiq Barmak, the golden globe winning Afghan Director of the film Osama helped me out when we got threats and he made us get security from the Afghan government.
Finally, the trailer of the film ends with Arshad mentioning Osama Bin Laden. Is his character involved in the film?
You will have to watch the film to find that out.