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Abhishek Is Riding High Again With His New Film Kedarnath

Subhash K . Jha

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Kedarnath director Abhishek Kapoor is no stranger  to ups and  down in his career. If Kai Po Che and Rock On established  him as a director of substance , Fitoor brought him down with a thud. He speaks to Subhash K Jha  about the ban in Uttarakhand and the  film being accused of promoting  Love Jihad .

What  do you  have  to say  about Kedarnath being  banned in Uttrakhand?

It is very upsetting. How can they do this? When the Government has  cleared  it, the whole country is watching it, how can they stop my film ? Uttarakhand is an integral part  of  the country.What happens  to  my freedom  of expression?

Just days  before the release  of your film, someone filed a PIL against it. Should there  be more stringent laws against nuisance litigation?

More than more laws, the ones that exist should be enforced  more effecrtively. I am  very happy with the laws  of the country. And I am  most willing to work within  the parameters  of  the  law. But those  parameters should be made workable.

 Is there a sense  of satisfaction  at  the end  making  Kedarnath?

Oh absolutely, because I had nothing  more to give to this film. I completely  believed  in it and  I gave  all of myself to the film. The  feeling of satisfaction  after you are consumed by a truthful  creative process is  almost like  a pilgrimage in  itself. I feel cleansed after making Kedarnath.

What  do you  have to say  about those who accuse  the film of promoting ‘Love Jihad’, whatever that means?

What can  I say about assumptions that were based on  a 2-minute trailer? People  are reacting out of their own insecurities .Dangerous assumptions  such as these are made when certain sensitive ideologies are played around  with or have been violated before. People who make assumptions  without seeing  the  film must be stopped. The censor board has cleared our film with just two  cuts. Isn’t the  CBFC(central board  of film  certification)  the final authority  on  the content  in cinema that  goes into the public domain?

Would you say the sensitivity  about inter-religious relationships is  misguided?

I would say we need to  take  a more mature view  of the  matter. Kedarnath  is a clean honest attempt to look  at the devastation  that the people there in Uttarkhand  suffered after the 2013 floods. They are  yet to recover  from the shock. My  film is  small gesture of healing  for a people who lost  everything and  still had the resilience to bounce  back.  So many lives and families were  destroyed.As  a responsible filmmaker I wouldn’t dream of making an exploitative film about their misery.

 How  did  the  idea of doing Kedarnath come  to you?

After making Fitoor I  was  wondering what to make next. I began travelling to explore ideas.When I went  to Vaishno Devi I became  familiar with the world of ‘pithus’ these  young  men who carried pilgrims on their backs to the the  top of  the  mountain.

You are being condemned  for showing a Muslim Pithu?

 But that is very  much the reality . They are at Vaishno Devi,Amarnath, Kedarnath.. they do their job with  utmost sincerity.  And what  could be more gratifying for  a pilgrim than  to be taken  to the purest  place by  a Muslim. That’s how we are as Hindus. We  have an all-encompassing cultural tradition. Our ideology is such that it assimilates  all. If you are a Shiv Bhaktyou would  know how  He swallowed  poison to  save the   world. Har har mahadev means there is God in all of us. Why can’t we accept the  sheer acceptability and inclusiveness  of our religion? This who we are. When  I spoke to Salim Saab(writer Salim Khan)  he observed that 40 years ago there was no Hindu-Muslim  issue.  It is  the politics of the nation that has brought this  divide  into our culture.

But surely when you have a Muslim  man and Hindu girl falling in  love at a Hindu pilgrimage  spot you know some elements will be provoked?

I have full faith in the  system. For all its faults the Indian system of  governance  works  for us, and I have  full respect for  it. Even  the Censor  board…I may disagree with censorship being implemented on works  of art. But  then India is a country with several contrasting sensitivities.  These have to be dealt with in a special way. We have to trust the censor  board.

The  2013 deluge in Uttrakhand is woven organically  into the  plot?

This is  how  it must have happened in  the real  life. Everyone has issues,  personal political cultural and communal.And then  something like this(the  deluge) happens and  all the issues come  down to zero. Mankind becomes one.

Sara Ali Khan has made a  big splash in  the  film?

Kedarnath has a very strong  part  for the female protagonist. And  then Sara is  fresh. And she has so much to give to  the camera.  She needed   a certain guidance and Sushant  helped her a lot with her  performance. People like her ,they like the  film.  Whatever  has gone into the  film has gone with much thought. We’ve  gone through a long struggle to ensure  the film reaches the theatre, come what may.

How difficult  was  it recreate the 2013 deluge of Uttarakhand?

We planned every shot in detail.  There are  so many people in our team and they all worked so hard to make the  film look authentic. As far as  the recreation of  the floods goes, we didn’t have the  budget of a Hollywood film. We can’t. Though the  special effects in the floods sequence are  essential they do not anchor the film. We made Kedarnath to tell a story, not to use  the  floods as technical gimmick. I feel there  is an oldschool feeling to  the  film. It’s  a theme never done before. But  the  people and  culture it addresses haven’t changed   over generations. Cinema has to mirror society.I don’t make films  to take  them  only to international  film festivals. I make them so they can connect with the  people whom they portray.

The deluge in the climax reminded me  of Raj Kapoor’s Satyam Shivum Sunderam?

Ever  since  my film came out a  lot of people have been finding this similarity. I saw   Satyam Shivum Sunderam long ago. I have no idea  if  I was influenced  by it.

You won me over with that amazing reference  to Lag ja gale se.

That  is Lata Mangeshkar.Even an opportunity  to pay her a tribute is  very big thing for me.

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