Monday, April 18, 2011

Police Story

Dum Maaro Dum is Rohan Sippy's third film in 10 years after Kuch Na Kaho and Bluffmaster. Just one of those signs of a man in no hurry to prove himself.

At the end of a long day on the road promoting the film in Jaipur, he settles down for a telephonic interview. “It's not been a conscious thing to take my own time. I was also caught up producing Taxi 9211 and Chandni Chowk to China between that and looking for the right story. Shridhar Raghavan wrote the story two years back and from then on, we have been working on the production.”

Does the pressure of being the son of Ramesh Sippy, the man who made Sholay, have anything to do with it?

The real pressure

“The pressure is because there are so many good filmmakers today. The real pressure is just to try and do your best among your contemporaries, within the films releasing that year and stand out for your work within that period. And dad is very much part of the work we're doing. He's the producer and is involved from scripting to editing. We try to be as collaborative as possible.”

The slick promos for DMD have generated a lot of buzz with its stylised cuts and music. Rohan insists that all of that style came out organically. “The first thing I read is the 40-50 page novella that Shridhar came up with overnight. That was the starting point for my excitement. Then followed the combination of things — the backdrop of drugs, the characters we had, the setting of Goa. It was really nice to be able to react to all the material we put together. I would love to say I even know what style it is but I don't. I have to give a lot of credit to all the collaborators I have worked with, starting with Shridhar.”

The film that stars Abhishek Bachchan, Rana Daggubati, Prateik Babbar and Bipasha Basu took two years to make since the day Rohan read the novella. He started shoot a year back and wrapped it up by July last year. “The shooting days were only about 70. We went at a reasonably fast clip.”

One of the big decisions he had to take was to rewrite the title song derived from Dev Anand's Hare Rama Hare Krishna. “The context is as different as India in 1971 and India in 2011. It's obviously a different landscape and even within whatever this drug sub-culture is, that was the time of free love and hippies and turning on, tuning in and dropping out. Now, it is the rave culture, there's aggression and a completely different sub-culture at work. From the genre onwards, there's no similarity to that film. That really dictated the tone we wanted to take with the song. It was at a certain point in the script, just before the climax and it set up something what ACP Kamath (Abhishek) was going up against.”

Is it an anti-drug film?

“No, it's a suspense thriller, driven by a cop who is at the heart of investigating a drug mafia and trying to get to who is behind it. That really is the overriding arch of the film. It's not a film about tripping.”

Rohan initially wanted his buddy Abhishek to play the role that went to Rana. “But when he read the script, he tripped on the Kamath character, the cop. That also settled pretty well into my head. It's a well-balanced script that offers all the characters equal importance.”

As the film jumps from Prateik's story to Abhishek's to Rana's before becoming a linear narrative, Rohan wanted someone who starts as a mere presence in the film but, before we realise, has a much bigger role to play. Rana fit the bill perfectly, he says.

“We tend to put too much at the doorstep of actors. Abhishek gives everything in terms of effort, discipline and craft to any director and the rest is up to the director to choose the right material and exploit the talent. Abhishek puts himself in the director's hands and that's what he's guilty of. But that's the nature of the beast (the industry), we fail more than we succeed,” he says

Shouldn't a filmmaker make it a point to leave his fingerprints on his work? “No, No… I am chronically averse to that notion. Leaving that stamp is the least relevant thing to me. It's about telling the story as well as you can. For me, it's about bringing a story to life. If I was writing, there's lot more authorship I can claim. But given that it's Shridhar's script, you really try to play a part in making it work as a film. Taking that journey from one to the other is really what I see my role as. Luckily, I found enough people… Like this film would have been different if Midival Punditz wasn't there. At each stage, obviously there's a huge decision. There is so much in the hands of so many guys. I think I got lucky this time with the number of boxes I managed to check.”

Rohan does not see the need to write his own material. “I am not a writer. When you have a friend like Shridhar who is obviously much better at it than I am, it's good to put down that pen,” he laughs.


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