March 23, 2010 (Calcutta Tube): Celebrating the release of his film Lahore, SANJAY PURAN SINGH CHAUHAN tells JYOTHI VENKATESH that though his film is a character driven subject and not hero- centric, circumstances are created in the film which make the hero larger than life.
Excerpts from the conversation:
How did you conceive your first film Lahore with the backdrop of kickboxing?
Not many are aware of the fact that I have been a kickboxer once upon time, though I have left it behind in my life because I am now keen on making a name as a filmmaker. I chose to make the subject of Lahore with the backdrop of kickboxing, because I know a lot about the sports and also the fact remains that sports functions like a bridge between different countries. In real life, my brother is a Judo expert. I needed a violent sport to justify my subject. I could have taken wrestling as the back drop but honestly I do not have knowledge of the sports and hence I opted to make kick boxing as the back drop.I was toying with the idea of making my debut as a filmmaker with the burning issue of India and Pakistan with a different viewpoint and approach, without being jingoistic and without in any way setting out to address any issue as such.
What triggered the idea of making a film like this?
Even recently Sohail Abbas stated that when India and Pakistan play in a cricket match, the atmosphere in the field is more like a war than sports. At one time, Russia and USA and England and Australia were considered arch rivals in the field of sports like India and Pakistan and it is sad that India and Pakistan have stopped playing cricket. I made the film because cinema and sports engage the viewers more than anything else. I decided to combine both sports and cinema because sports films have always worked all over the world. However,I made it a point to talk about relationship and human emotion more than just sports.
How did you decide to make your debut as a director though you had not assisted any director before?
I feel that it is vision which is the most important thing for a director, not just the experience. As a director, you should have focus. I am not comparing myself with a genius like Mani Ratnam who I revere but the fact is that Mani Ratnam whose cinematic skill is exemplary did not assist any one but made his debut as a film maker after passing out from management school. I am a keen cinema buff and watched world cinema and my favorites are Stanley Kubrick, Werner Herzog, Yimou Zhang etc.
How tough was it to make Lahore?
The canvas on which I conceived and made my film, with multiple camera set ups and lavish mounting and shooting at minus 20 degrees with real crowds, was quite tough. Though I was demoralized when the Pak authorities neither allowed us nor refused to give permission to shoot in Pakistan though we had applied for permission well in advance thanks to the red tape, we hit upon a brainwave and asked a foreign crew to shoot in various places in Pakistan like Minar E Pakistan, Zor Town, Gadaffi Stadium, Anarkali Bazar, Badshahi Mosque and Liberty Chowk.
What is the USP of Lahore?
The USP of the film is that it is a character driven subject but though it is not hero centric, circumstances are created in the film which make the hero larger than life. Casting played a very vital role. If I cast seasoned actors like Ashish Vidyarthi, Farooque Shaikh, Saurabh Shukla, Sabyasachi Chakraborty, Nafisa Ali etc on one side, on the other side I have also cast rank new comers like Aanaahad and Shradha Das, because if I had cast established actors in the roles essayed by Aanaahad and Shradha, the pious image which she projected as a Muslim girl could not have come across. I did not cut corners at all. I made it a point to get Nafisa Ali from Delhi, Sabyasachi Chakraborty froim Kolkata, , Jeeva from Hyderabad and C. Karate Subramaniam from Chennai though I could have cast local actors, bcause the script demanded that I cast authentic actors.As far as Aanaahad is concerned, tell me which established actor would have agreed to sacrifice a year and a half of his life to a film like Lahore, work on his physique, go to China to learn martial arts like Wu-Shu and also work on the sets like an assistant like Aanaahad did?
Is there any project in which you are working now after Lahore?
I am working on a science fiction film, which will be co-written by a writer from Hollywood. All that I can divulge as of now is that there will be International technicians who will be working on the project, though there is no requirement of Hollywood stars as of now because the script is yet to shape up.
– Jyothi Venkatesh/ Sampurn Wire