Filmmaker Ram Gopal Verma is noted for his life-inspired, hard-hitting scripts. His early laurels for 'Satya', 'Shool', 'Shiva' and 'Sarkar Raj' established him in the industry as a director who means business. He has woven extreme slow motions, loud background scores, cutting dialogues, calculated silences, strong close ups into his narration time and again.
There was much curiosity around his upcoming film 'The Attacks of 26/11' when he uploaded a seven minute promo on YouTube on November 23, 2012. The film is scheduled to be released on March 1, 2013. Here are excerpts from an interview with the director.
Q: The first look of the film 'Attacks of 26/11' was released on January 17, 2013 and the film has been passed 'uncut' by the censor board with an 'A' certificate. That is how you intended it?
A: A film cannot bring a change, it can draw the attention among the people and let them debate about it.
Q: 'The Attacks of 26/11' was selected in the 'Panorama Category' at the Berlin Film Festival in 2013. Does it stand as a testimony to the film's worldwide appeal?
A: See, to start with, it was the producer's idea, we even wanted to send the film for several other festivals but, because of timing problem we could not. I don't believe in festivals or awards.
Q: How did you come up with idea to make a film on the subject?
A: My interest was always in hard hitting subjects since my first film 'Shiva' (1989). The incident of 26/11/2008 was probably the most devastating incident that has happened in post-independence of India. It is the memory of every Indian and probably something like that never happened in the world before. So, I was curious about the incident and the back scenes and what exactly happened that led to this incident.
Q: What compelled you to write the script along with Rommel Rodrigues on the attacks?
A: I had been studying about the subject and when the information about the incident was revealed, investigations took place and the charge-sheet was filed. I got an idea of a certain perspective to tell this story and that's how things happened.
Q: You have a long association with the South cinema, your first film 'Siva' in Telugu featured megastar Nagarjuna and in the Telugu version of the Attacks of 26/11 you have also lend your voice for a song titled 'Nethutti Ruchi Mariginda'.
A: I am not a professional singer. I had sung a song couple of years back in a Telugu film that got quite popular so, I kept telling the music director of the film on how I wanted the singer to feel while singing and he suggested me to sing it myself so, I rendered a few lines in the song.
Q: The film features newcomer Sanjeev Jaiswal who hails from Jamshedpur and was selected after auditioning hundreds of applicants. What made you cast him for a role like Kasab's in the film?
A: He has an uncanny nature, sheer resemblance and he is a good actor, there was nothing more I could ask for his role in the film.
Q: What is Nana Patekar's character in the film?
A: Nana Patekar plays a fictional character of Rakesh Maria. He happens to be the joint commissioner of police at that that time. The story is from his perspective and reveals happenings of that incident and how he handles the situation and takes responsibility in front of the investigation committee - that is how his role has been structured.
Q: You cast the owner of 'Leopold Cafe' to play himself in the film.
A: The film has a complex subject matter and I kept discovering nuances of the incident to add to the story. It all formed a part of the process.
Q: How much of the real incident have you featured?
A: The film concentrates on the time period between 9 PM to 1 AM when Kasab was captured. Eighty per cent of the film centers around at this time.
Q: You created the replica of the Taj Hotel with art director Uday Singh.
A: The Hotel Taj was reluctant to allow us to shoot and it was evident because the kind of carnage we were planning to create, it was not possible, so we decided to create a replica and it turned out to be unbelievable.
Q: The film revolves around a real incident. Did you apprehend that there might be controversies?
A: Frankly, when I started with the film I wanted the assurance of the Mumbai police as they were most closely related to the incident. They co-operated with us very well as they also wanted to see the film once the idea was explained to them. When we got their permission there was nothing to look back.
Q: What thought does the film provoke?
A: The basic idea of the film hinges on the mindset of a young man who killed so many people with conviction, what values have been instilled in him and how he has developed that kind of a perspective.
Q: The lyrics have been penned by Irshad Kamil and Sukhwinder has sung the title song of the film 'Maula Maula'. How have you weaved the music through the subject?
A: The songs represent the mood of the film, they are played in the background score.
Q: What was your reaction to Ajmal Kasab's hanging?
A: I have never thought of the film on religious terms. For me it was inhuman people killing human beings. Kasab's hanging has brought satisfaction to the victims' families and others as it was an audacious act.
Q: Are you open to criticism?
A: Everyone has their own interpretations to how much they have followed the incident. Criticism is not a choice I have; it will come if it has to anyway.