Raj Kumar Gupta’s latest film, “India’s Most Wanted,” is a return to thriller territory after his 2008 debut “Aamir” became a sleeper hit. It also continues in the true-crime vein of his 2010 film “No One Killed Jessica,” about the notorious murder of model-bartender Jessica Lal in Delhi in 1999. He spoke to Reuters about how he retains the authenticity of true stories while making fictional films, and why he is drawn to real-life stories.
Q: What true events inspired your film? The word is that it is based on the capture of Indian Mujahideen founder Yasin Bhatkal. Is that true?
A: I would just say that it is based on true events, but you have to come see the film to see what. It fascinated me when I heard about it. There are some things in life that get a hold of you. It took me two years to get the research material and find out exactly what happened. Beyond that, I cannot say much about the actual event it is based on.
Q: How important is it to keep some mystery and suspense before the release?
A: It is not easy to decide what you want to give away or what you want to hold back. But when you are promoting and marketing a film, it is not just about your input. There is a team involved. Which is also right, because sometimes, as a film-maker you can lose perspective in terms of what can work for it. What I have learned in the five films that I made is that people want to see a truncated version of the film in your trailer. That is my effort, and I tell the marketing team that we should not lie to the audience about what our film is.
Q: Are Indian audiences increasingly drawn to true-crime stories?
A: I have always been drawn to these stories. I cannot do something where there is no sense of reality, to set a film in a world that may never exist. I have no problem with people who can do it because they might understand that world. I don’t. For me, the basic understanding of the people that inhabit the film, and how they live, speak etc., is very important.
Q: How do you retain authenticity and realism in a fictional film?
A: The one thing I try and do is to write the film. The second thing is to be sensitive to the subject. There are people involved in the real-life event, and one has to respect their sentiments. When you are adding fictional elements to that, it has to co-exist with the real story. You can do something to make it more dramatic, or bring in elements that are not there, but it is important to me that you marry them seamlessly.
Q: Can you talk about shooting this film?
A: I have shot this film all over, starting from Patna to Nepal to Jaipur and Mumbai. These were all locations dictated by the actual story.
Q: Given how much national sentiment recent films centering around our armed or police forces have generated, do you have to be careful in your depiction of them and how they are shown in your film? Do you give them too much credit, or do you downplay their role?
A: I am just trying to give them due credit. Because that is something they have never asked for. Forget the forces, but even in any other area of life, whether at home, or office, it would be nice to be credited for a job well done. A cricketer scores a century and the whole country is singing praises. Why not praise someone who has saved lives and put their lives on line to do it? They are playing a match every day and they cannot lose. It becomes all the more important to give them due credit.
Editing by Robert MacMillan