Updated: July 25, 2015 8:20:36 pm
When writer-director Karan Anshuman began working on his film as a satirical take on global terrorism, Bangistan was just a working title — a metaphor for the state of affairs in the world. As work on the script progressed, this became the name of a country, a fictional nation of extremes where the mountainous north is dominated by bearded, robe-wearing Muslim terrorists and the south is ruled by the trishul-wielding Hindu fundamentalists.
In Anshuman’s debut film, Riteish Deshmukh and Pulkit Samrat play Hafeez Bin Ali and Praveen Chaturvedi, respectively. These citizens of Bangistan are aspiring terrorists from the respective communities who are brainwashed into becoming suicide bombers. To succeed in their mission — that of bombing a world peace conference in Poland — Hafeez and Praveen disguise themselves. Bin Ali assumes the identity of a Hindu and Chaturvedi that of a Muslim. The film follows their journey of self-discovery and their eventual change of heart. The film also features Jacqueline Fernandez and Kumud Mishra.
“When we (along with writers Sumit Purohit and Puneet Krishna) were jamming over what to write, we asked ourselves what is it that concerns us all? All three of us, who come from very different backgrounds, agreed that world peace was a universal concern. The film was born out of the idea that religion and faith are the root of all evils on this planet,” says Anshuman.
The idea, cracked four years ago, may have lost some of its novelty — Indian movies in recent times such as OMG:
Oh My God and PK address similar issues. But global terrorism remains as relevant as before. Both Deshmukh and Samrat confess that they immediately connected to the script. It gave them scope to act in a film that serves up more than just entertainment, as it addresses something that concerns them. “It’s something we talk about but don’t explore. The film does that without being preachy,” says Samrat, whose character is that of an actor working in small-budget Ramleela acts.
“The point of terrorism is to strike fear in people’s hearts. The moment you start laughing at terrorists, it takes the sting out of their acts,” says Anshuman. The film, he says, is in the same vein as internationally acclaimed satires on terrorism such as the Sacha Baron Cohen-starrer The Dictator (2012) and Four Lions (2010).
Deshmukh says that Bangistan is different from the kind of slapstick comedy he has done in films such as Housefull and Grand Masti. “Unlike physical comedy, the world of satire is already so extreme that the less you do the better it is. For a large part of the film, my character keeps a straight face,” he says.
As with any satire, the world of Bangistan is explicitly bizarre. For instance, airships float around Varanasi skyline as sadhus play badminton by the ghat. This also gave movie critic-turned-filmmaker Anshuman the chance to fill it up with homages: Star Wars is shown to be a religion where Darth Vader and a couple of Storm-troopers make an appearance, while a character is named Polanski after famous Polish filmmaker Roman Polanski. “I’ve lost count on the number of times we have tipped our hat to our favourite films and filmmakers,” he says.
But, says Anshuman, despite references to other movies, the film’s content is original. “We decided that we won’t even have a scene that is inspired from anywhere else,” he says. Why did he collaborate on the script with Purohit and Krishna? Anshuman says that writing a script alone can be a dull and solitary exercise, compared to the fun and intense process of working with others that happens over glasses of whiskey and cups of tea. “We had a blast,” says the pun-loving filmmaker.
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