His first two films, ‘Dombivali Fast’ (2005) in Marathi and ‘Mumbai Meri Jaan’ (2008) in Hindi, captured the distorting social landscape of Mumbai. The films won him acclaim and also a National Award for his directorial debut, which he then remade in Tamil as ‘Evano Oruvan’. Just when the industry had started to slot him into the “socially relevant filmmakers” bracket, Nishikant Kamat upped the scale and attempted a “quasi-real action film”. ‘Force’, a box-office success, also resurrected actor John Abraham’s film career.
His constant need to make films across a variety of genres and languages is evident in Kamat’s filmography. To this list, the director is now ready to add yet another feat, a potboiler in Marathi, titled ‘Lai Bhaari’. “I wanted to tread through uncharted territory and challenge myself with each film,” he says.
The film’s promo shows Riteish Deshmukh — who is also the producer of ‘Lai Bhaari’ — in the lead role as a local toughie, but one who uses gravity-defying stunts to fight for the common man. Kamat says it wasn’t easy for him to make the jump in genres given his natural instinct for realistic cinema. “Force was more realistic because the action revolved around martial arts, with no cables used to execute the action sequences. To make ‘Lai Bhaari’, I had to imagine the ‘hero’ as a typical underdog,” he says.
In addition, Kamat also went back to the films of the ’70s and ’80s — the movies he grew up on — and tried to analyse why that kind of cinema has continued to work in India. He realised that while the socio-economic circumstances that led to the emergence of the Angry Young Man have changed, the common man’s anger against injustice has lived on. This, then, became the backdrop of the story and Deshmukh’s character, Mauli.
Angst, however, seems to be a common aspect in characters through all of Kamat’s films so far. What he changes with each film is the way his characters channelise it, altering the genre and style of the films. While the audience awaits the release of Lai Bhaari on July 11, Kamat has and moved on to other projects. The director has finished shooting his film with Irrfan, also the actor’s first film as a producer, and is currently in Hyderabad to work on ‘Rocky Handsome’ with John Abraham.
While the former, yet untitled, revolves around the relationship between a father, played by Irrfan, and his nine-year-old son, the latter is a noir-styled action-thriller. ‘Rocky Handsome’ also explores the bond that the lead character develops with a seven-year-old. With his hands full, Kamat hopes to take a break after he finishes shooting with Abraham in the next two months. “I have been constantly working since I made my debut a decade ago,” says the 44-year-old, who started his career as an assistant director and then turned to editing before making films.
An occasional actor, his performance in the 2012 indie film ‘404 Error Not Found’ was appreciated by critics. His recent acting assignment, Vasan Bala’s ‘Peddlers’, is also awaiting release. For Kamat, applying himself to different aspects of filmmaking and across languages is a means of familiarizing himself with cinema. “Cinema is an art form and cuts across the language barriers. My aim is the exploration this art. Making films is only one of the means to achieve that,” he says.