Prolific filmmaker Nikhil Advani is going through the best phase of his career. His Batla House looks as politically intense as Anubhav Sinha’s recently released Article 15 and tackles an issue that could spell as much trouble for the director.
Laughs Nikhil mirthlessly, “I don’t mind being compared with Anubhav at all. Look at the kind of political truth he’s bringing to his work. He seems to have re-invented himself as a filmmaker. But the political being was always within me. In fact I wanted to start my career at Karan Johar’s Dharma productions with a film on political terrorism. But Yashji(Karan Johar’s father Yash Johar) felt Dharma had established an image for romantic cinema after and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham.So I directed Kal Ho Na Ho instead of the political film for Dharma.”
Nikhil feels with D Day, a powerful and moderately successful drama about an international crimelord being extradited to India,began a new phase in his career. “I feel D Day brought out the political aspect of my personality. Now when I have directed Batla House it feels like a natural progression. It is a relevant subject. But one that grew organically from my creative impulses, not something I did because it made headlines.”
On 19 September 2008, a group of police personnel stormed into the eponymous Batla House and shot suspected terrorists.
“The debate continues to this day. Were the wrong men killed? I feel policemen in our country are constantly put on the dock. According to me,a police officer who takes an on-the-spot decision to pull that trigger , is no different from a soldier at the border who kills the enemy. Both are doing their jobs according to the best of their abilities.But while a soldier is lauded by the nation ,a cop is looked on with suspicion. Every time he pulls the trigger. The word ‘eccounter’ itself is a sensationalization of a sensitive issue,” says Advani who worked with John Abraham in the beginning of his career in Salaam-e-Ishq.
Says Advani enthusiastically, “It’s a different John this time. Throughout Batla House he surrendered himself to his cops’ part, did his research,learnt Arabic, lost weight and played the character with restrain.”
Advani says he has been totally truthful to the real incident. “I’ve given three points of view to the killings of the young people on 19 September 2008. Each point of view gives a persuasive perspective on what could have happened. The court’s verdict is the final word on the controversial incident and we’ve given that viewpoint as the truth.”
Controversy has already surrounded Batla House.
Says Nikhil, “I’m getting inquiries on whether I’ve been fair to the viewpoint that the killing of the young people was a matter of wrongful judgment .The questions are building up as the release date approaches. After D Daywas released my life was under threat. I was given 24-hour police protection for three years.Now my sister says I will again require prolonged protection after the release of Batla House.”
What about the clash with Saaho being averted ?
Says Nikhil, “I guess we’re lucky. Saaho is much bigger than both our Batla House and the other August 15 release Mission Mangal. Now it’s just two of us.And both are looking very promising. The Independence Day weekend is long.Audiences can see two good films. In any case Akshay Kumar(who co-produces Mission Mangal)and I are joined at the hip.I wish his film all the best.”