‘Mukhbiir’ a spy film blended with emotions: Mani Shankar (Interview)August 28th, 2008 - 9:47 am ICT by IANS
Mumbai, Aug 28 (IANS) Director Mani Shankar, known for his techno-savvy films like “16 December”, is ready with his fourth Hindi movie “Mukhbiir” which releases Friday. Unlike his earlier films, he says he has been able to blend plot, characters, research and emotions really well.Shankar admits his earlier ventures were guilty of too much research and too little emotions.
“I admit to this. There was an overt focus on plot. One lives and learns. In ‘Mukhbiir’, I’ve been able to create a fine blend of plot and characters and research and emotions,” Shankar told IANS.
“Mukhbiir”, which stars Sammir Dattani in the lead role, is a biographical story of a boy’s journey. It is essentially an espionage thriller and Sammir plays an informer.
“All that Sammir’s character wants is to have an identity, have a girlfriend and a normal life. But he can’t do these things,” said Shankar, who has films like “Rudraksh” and “Tango Charlie” also to his credit.
Q: From the outside it seems “Mukhbiir” enters a world we’ve never seen before.
A: The world of Indian espionage is a very grey zone. No one knows much about it. When I did my other film “16 December” about the Indian intelligence services, I had taken the active support of the intelligence departments. Again for “Mukhbiir” I went into rigorous research. When you make a film about verifiable branches of the government service you’d better get your facts right. In “Mukhbiir” we’ve actually used information about the Indian espionage service from the fields.
Q: You started your Hindi film career with a bang…
A: You could say that. Business Today ranked “16 December” in their Top 10 grosser list of 2002. It grossed Rs.142 million when it was made at a budget of Rs.20 million. In fact, my two subsequent films “Rudraksh” and “Tango Charlie” also economised way beyond what people saw on screen. It’s a filmmaker’s biggest concern to deliver the biggest bang for the buck. So the producer can laugh all the way to the ‘bang’.
Q: You’re the guru of techno-savvy cinema. How did that happen?
A: I’m a qualified engineer. In fact, a filmmaker should be knowledgeable about every department of filmmaking. For many of my music videos, I was the cinematographer. Now I know in one glance if a frame needs correction. Such across-the-board knowledge speeds up the process of filmmaking.
Q: How did “Mukhbiir” originate?
A: The story started in my mind in 1996 when I was in Kashmir shooting for an anti-militancy music video for the Intelligence Bureau. I encountered a young Intelligence recruit who had been captured by militants and tortured non-stop. He had cigarette burn marks all over his back and shoulder. This boy was left on the streets by our government because it had no more use for him. This boy wandered on the streets of Kashmir waiting to be shot. That’s where my story for “Mukhbiir” originated.
I wanted to make a film about a boy standing in the last line in the game of politics, who never gets the credit but finally gets the bullet.
Q: Your earlier films were guilty of too much research too little emotions?
A: I admit to this. There was an overt focus on plot. One lives and learns. I like my other films too, though audiences couldn’t follow “Rudraksh”. But in “Mukhbiir”, I’ve been able to create a fine blend of plot and characters, and research and emotions. “Mukhbiir” is a biographical story of a boy’s journey. All that Sammir’s character wants is to have an identity, have a girlfriend and a normal life. But he can’t do these things.
Q: I believe cultural and religious identities are crucial to the hero’s character in “Mukhbiir”.
A: Yes, Sammir’s character holds the mother goddess close to his heart and yet he has to convert himself totally to Islam. The character even undergoes a circumcision. He finally believes in the oneness of god and dies a Muslim. When he converts, he converts with his whole heart.
Q: Do you foresee a controversy?
A: Sammir’s character does what has to be done… just like I made the film that had to be made. I’m totally excited by the journey into the unknown. Tomorrow I don’t want to make what someone, including me, made yesterday. I like to go to unexplored territory, like Ulysses.