‘The Attacks of 26/11’ is a tribute to the incident: Ram Gopal Varma

Ram Gopal Varma is a director who has never shied away from taking risks. This man has carved a niche for himself when it comes to portraying strong subjects on celluloid. As he gears up for his next film, ‘The Attacks of 26/11’, based on an incident from the recent past that has scarred the collective mentalscape of Indians, Ram Gopal Varma doesn’t know how not to take a risk. Ananya Bhattacharya of Zeenews.com, in a tete-a-tete with the ace director, speaks about the film, casting an Ajmal Kasab-lookalike and more. Snippets from the conversation:

‘The Attacks of 26/11’ is a film that is based on an incident that has left a deep scar in the psyche of us Indians. How did you find the inspiration to make a film on this?

The incident was widely publicised – be it in the form of books or documentaries and all. I somewhere felt that only a feature film could actually do justice to the incident. There was the emotional perspective to be taken care of – beginning with Ajmal Kasab’s exasperation, his exact feelings. I feel it is very irresponsible to just brand someone ‘mad’ – people who took the entire city of Mumbai hostage for three days and unleashed a state of helplessness. I wanted to delve into the kind of a mindset that lets one carry off something of that intensity. On the other hand, I’ve tried to capture the emotions of the men and women who were at the receiving end of the shock – the people who were gunned down in a matter of a few seconds. The entire police force of Mumbai was caught unawares. I feel the incident had incredible drama painted all over it. This is something that would never fade away from memory. The audience deserves to know what actually took place during those three days.

Casting a newcomer Sanjeev Jaiswal for the role of Ajmal Kasab – how did you zero in on him?

From the very beginning I was clear about the fact that I wanted somebody who looked like Ajmal Kasab. Kasab’s, after all, is the most popular face associated with the attacks. This was a task that I’d thought was almost impossible. During the auditions, I was shocked to find that there were some 40 people who resembled Kasab! Sanjeev was the fifth guy who came in for the auditions and I found him to be perfect for the role.

What sort of challenges have you had to face while filming ‘The Attacks of 26/11’?

The biggest challenge for me was the fact that this was a film that had to be based on a real incident. And given the fact that this was such a widely known incident, I had to invest extra time and care so that the facts could be retained.

Do you feel there is a need to document major events from the recent past in the form of films?

Absolutely. Documentation in the form of a feature film is a very different way to preserve the facts. There is a necessity to highlight the emotional quotient which is possible only with a feature film.

A veteran actor like Nana Patekar on the one hand and a newcomer like Sanjeev Jaiswal on the other – why this diverse range of actors in the film?

I was very keen on looks. Nana has certain strength of character – which is visible in his face itself. I felt he could portray the exact feelings that Rakesh Maria – the Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) – would have gone through during that time.

Do you see the film as a tribute to the families that have been affected – directly or indirectly – by the attacks?

It is a tribute to the incident itself; for people on whom the incident has made such a huge impact. The film belongs to many people.

How far do you think people will be able to relate to the film?

I feel that depends on people and their understanding of the situation. If people had been affected by the incident back then, how far they were affected by it – all of that would decide on how they’ll take the film.