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EXCLUSIVE! Nidhi Dutta: Paltan is for India to see their real heroes, the soldiers!

Nidhi with her father JP Dutta

JP Dutta’s daughter tells us why she’s donning the producer’s hat and the new video on Paltan she’s releasing this week

JP Dutta has just announced his ambitious next, Paltan, a war drama which will be shot in Ladakh from this September this year. The team comprises of a massive star cast of Arjun Rampal, Abhishek Bachchan, Suneil Shetty, Jackie Shroff, Pulkit Samrat, Sonu Sood, Jimmy Sher Gill, Siddhant Kapoor, Gurmeet Chaudhary and Luv Sinha. His elder daughter Nidhi who has made her debut in Jee Bhar Ke Jee Le, is right now so immersed in pre-prod work for Paltan. She is as committed and passionate like her father about her work. Nidhi tells us why she has turned producer with this film (Dutta’s younger daughter Siddhi will be an assistant director) and why she is releasing a one-minute video done on the film in Ladakh this week.

Why are you releasing a video on Paltan this week?
In Hollywood movies they show the making of the film. We need to put out to the audiences how real war movies are authentically made in India and the work that goes into the making of such – physically, mentally, the weather conditions etc. Papa takes such effort of going into Sikkim and Ladakh in -18 degree C, torturing all of us in the bargain (laughs) and does it. His only brief to his DOP, AD’s and me is – ‘you do realize guys that this where the soldiers are every day?’

Yes your father shot in some very tough conditions for LOC.
During LOC, the crew and dad were shooting constantly. They shot in 62 days sleeping for just four-and-a-half hours in a day in those freezing conditions, with my dad’s BP sky-rocketing. Before going to Ladakh for recce for Paltan we were a day in Delhi to meet the Chief of Army. I found out that the temperature in Ladakh was -9 degree and I don’t know if I have packed well. He told me, ‘You know na beta, iss waqt tum baithke jo hot chocolate pee rahe ho in the five-star luxury hotel, I hope you realize that right now at 1.45 am in the night in that freezing temperature there’s a boy standing in Siachen so you can enjoy that here.’ He takes this so seriously and makes you feel so small.

Please continue…
I was so honored to visit the firing range with him. [stextbox id=’black’]The effort that has gone into the film even before the film has gone on floor has to be shown to the audiences because we are making it for them so that the stories of the soldiers reach them. It’s for India to see their real heroes! We have absolute support from the army and the soldiers who are so happy to help. It’s their film as much as ours.[/stextbox] I have a Liaison Officer from the Army who is deployed on the sets to explain to the actors how to shoot, if the badges and ranks are correct etc. Of course we have to dramatize the film to the audiences to a certain extent but the characters and names are true and everything is true to life. [stextbox id=’black’]I don’t have a costume designer for Paltan as the costumes are coming from the Army shop in Delhi. Everything is authentic to that level and all that has to be shown now with this video. It will show dad and the efforts of the crew much, two-three months before we go on set.[/stextbox]

How was your experience when you and your father went to Sikkim and Ladakh recce for Paltan’s locations?
When I went to all these places and saw the reaction of the army and respect for my father, I was awed. There is always a certain respect that the army will show a dignitary or someone from the film industry comes to them. Then there’s a certain respect they give one of their own. That is the respect my father got when we went there. The way the jawans would run to him on the firing ranges to get that picture. People would run up to him and say, ‘Sir main toh Army mein aaya hi hoon Border dekh ke.’ There is a character based in Ladakh whom we met recently. He is Akshay Khanna in LOC. He joined the Army because of Border and told dad that during LOC. There are so many people that papa has just inspired for them to go and part of the Army to guard the nation because of the movies he’s made. I don’t think even papa realizes what his cinema and messages mean to people. Papa is not on social media. He says ‘mera kaam bolega.’

Why the transition from an actress to now a producer with Paltan?
I got into production because it’s all I wanted to do. Since I was a child, I wanted to produce papa’s films. We are a very close-knit family. There was my dadaji OP Dutta and his wife, their two sons – Deepak and JP. When dad started making movies, dadaji would write the dialogues and mom (Bindiya) would help in the costume department but there was no pillar for dad to rest on.

Why not direct like your father?
I don’t want to direct as I don’t think everyone can make movies. There are very few that are blessed to direct. Like my dad says, ‘Saraswati ka haath hai toh ho raha hain’ so I think Sarwaswati has to bless you for you to create like this. Dad always says this one dialogue – ‘Woh dikhata hai toh mein dekhta hoon.’ I want to help dad as he carries out his vision. I already have the creator, I need to help him create, execute and bring that visual to life. That is the only reason I got into it because I needed him to have support system.

Your Paltan poster says ‘Nation First.’
It was completely dad’s idea or thought even while making a Border, LOC or even Refugee. For dad it has always been Nation First. It’s about the nation, the people who guard it and their stories that have to be told. There are so many stories whose stories that we haven’t been able to tell even though we have made four movies. There are so many men who leave their homes for me and you to be home safe and sound.[stextbox id=’black’] Somebody has to tell the story of those people guarding the one billion people in India. I know it’s going to sound premature but I have to say this – even though all of India thinks Border was the best war film, I think it’s time to give India it’s greatest war movie in Paltan.[/stextbox]

Why do you say that?
There was a certain patriotism that had come during Border that I see and feel today coming into people again, when I hear the news. Like ‘calm the hell down guys, yeh hamari dharti hai.’ I am part of the Paltan – are you? Is a question to the entire nation. This is a band of Indians who will stand with and by each other and fight for the country – the idea of the Paltan of India.

There has been talk of peace between India and Pakistan.
There have been so many discussions about whether we should be this open-mindedness and of course we should globally think like that. I would be happy to hug a person from the neighboring country. My father has proved that when he released a song called ‘Mere Dushman Mere Bhai Mere Humsaaye’ in Border which won the National Award. The song talks about harvesting guns instead of what. [stextbox id=’black’]Today I can sit here and say ‘I feel that we should be open-minded and secular but that soldier who is freezing to death right now at our borders? He doesn’t know whether he wants to say that. He doesn’t have the Moncler jacket that my mother is planning to buy for me to wear in Ladakh. [/stextbox]He’s standing in those boots the army has given him and standing there for me and if I sit here in this AC office and say ‘I want to be friends with all my neighbors and I want to open-minded’ etc, I am disrespecting him standing there. That is what dad also stands for. They have not met their new-born babies, not able to come home to take care of their ailing parents – are not financially secure but managing for us and if we are going to be like ‘but bro we like the other guy’ what’s the point?

Abhishek is very close to your dad.
[stextbox id=’black’]Abhishek always tells me that he’s papa’s first-born child and not me.[/stextbox] He’s always fighting with me about that. AB is like the brother Siddhi and I never had. I know that, Abhishek is not just like family, but he will always be a part of papa’s every film, no matter what.

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