''We braved scorpions,standstorms'' - Deewar

Amitabh BachchanSnakes, scorpions, sandstorms - the crew of "Deewar: Let's Bring Our Heroes Home" braved it all during shooting, says director Milan Luthria.

While it was tough making the escape thriller with India-Pakistan relations as its backdrop, he told in an interview that it was also something he...
...simply had to do.

"When I came across material about prisoners of war (PoWs) still languishing across the border, I knew I had to make the film," Luthria told IANS in an interview. Excerpts:

Q: What made you decide upon a project like "Deewar"?

A: Most films happen because the filmmaker finds a story that he wants to tell. "Deewar" is no exception. When I came across material about 54 prisoners of war (PoW) from the 1971 war still languishing across the border, I knew I had to make the film.

We (the writer Shridhar Raghavan and himself) worked on a thriller format based on classic escape thrillers like "The Great Escape". So, even before you ask, let me tell you we were most certainly inspired by other escape movies. It has more to do with the way they shot certain scenes and lighting. Also, as with "Kachche Dhaage", which was the first road film in India, I realised that breaking into hitherto untapped territory - the big escape thriller - would be a very interesting journey to attempt.

Q: Do you think that a subject like PoWs would appeal to the masses as most of the people in India are not aware of PoWs?

A: The appeal is a very basic one - bringing heroes back home. That is something that appeals to the common man, the comic book reader, as well as the non-resident Indian. Also, the film is not presented with a heavy overdose of patriotism or anti-Pakistan jingoism.

That, I believe, is what sets the film apart and increases its appeal to audiences that appreciate a slickly made action thriller, with a deep-rooted story.

Q: The film is based on the relationship between India and Pakistan. Don't you think that this subject has been done to death in Bollywood?

A: There's really nothing that hasn't been done to death in Bollywood! It's the director's approach that counts. And like I said, no one can deny that it is a theme that hasn't been seen in all these decades. That speaks volumes. And, like I said earlier, the approach is not jingoistic.

Q: Must have been a tough movie to shoot?

A: The climax was the most testing. We shot it at the very end when everyone was running out of patience with one another and it was a very difficult setting.

We shot in Jaisalmer in April, in temperature crossing 47 degrees, and in the middle of the desert with no shade for miles. The soles of our shoes were melting and there were these unbearable sandstorms that would last the whole day with sand in our eyes all the time - not to mention scorpions and snakes around our feet!

Q: The buzz is around that Kay Kay has the best pie in this film. Is it true? What's his role and how is he as an actor?

A: The roles are very well divided. There are a few actors besides Kay Kay who have done a commendable job in a film filled with high quality performances.

Of particular mention are Aditya Shrivastava, Arif Zakaria, Raghubir Yadav, Virendra Saxena, Kamlesh Sawant and Ashraf Ul Haq. Raghubir and Arif are already established but watch out for the others!

Q: Please share with us some incidents that happened behind the scenes.

A: Well, with Sanjay Dutt around, you can always expect a lot of fun and pranks! Like the time he had to enter a mud pit and he made sure everyone got faces full of mud! By the way, even Amitabh Bachchan is a great leg puller, but that we'll leave to the mystery of the man!

Q: Will "Deewar" of 2004 supersede the success story of the "Dewaar" made in 1970s?

A: It would be great if it did, but the 1970s film has a special place in Indian cinema history. That is something that a lot of people, including myself, respect. And I am sure that no film, including this one or any in the near or distant future, can ever change that.