“John Had To Learn Arabic For Batla House,” Nikhil Advani Describes The Journey

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.”

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 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.”

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