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Film on public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam faces trouble with Censor Board

Making a film on one of the country’s most famous public prosecutors wasn’t easy, but its Pune-based director says
getting past the Censor Board might be tougher

When we meet director Suvahhdan Angre at an Andheri cafe, the Pune resident complains about the weather. In the city to complete production work on his forthcoming movie on famed public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam, he says, sinking into a seat along with assistant director Aaditya Alankar, "Your Mumbai is too hot."

Angre may have been referring to the merciless March mercury, but even his film — Aadesh, which runs with the catchline, The power of law — has been facing the Censor Board heat. "We are looking at a June-July release," says Angre, because, even though the movie is complete, "I am facing some trouble with the Censor Board which wants a few scenes cut."

Suvahhdan Angre with assistant director Aaditya Alankar. Pic/Ajinkya Sawant
Suvahhdan Angre with assistant director Aaditya Alankar. Pic/Ajinkya Sawant

Nikam (63) is a public prosecutor from Jalgaon. His father, Deoraoji Nikam was a judge and a lawyer by profession and mother was a housewife. Nikam completed his Bachelors in Science and received his law degree from the K.C.E Society’s S.S. Maniyar Law College of Jalgaon. In the last two decades he has become a public figure due to his involvement in some of the most high-profile cases in Maharashtra. Prominent among these were the 1993 bomb blasts case and the 2008 26/11 terror attacks case. Controversial Nikam, who in 2015 admitted to having cooked up terrorist Ajmal Kasab’s demand for biryani which got the public riled up, has more than a three-decade long career. He has 628 life imprisonments and 37 death penalties to his credit. This year, he was awarded the Padma Shri.

Angre (right), who plays Nikam in Aadesh, in a still from the film
Angre (right), who plays Nikam in Aadesh, in a still from the film

When Angre started working on the film 18 months ago, "it was supposed to be based on Nikam. But, when I met Nikam, he was not pleased. ‘Why [a film] on me?’ he asked, ‘I am not Mahatma Gandhi’. He told me to make a film on public prosecutors. So, Aadesh is a movie about public prosecutors, but seen through the prism of Nikam’s career."

The film has been based on Nikam’s cases like the Khairlanji massacre, the 1993 blasts, and the 26/11 terror attacks.
Angre plays Nikam in the 130-minute film, and in many ways, he does look like a younger Nikam, even without the make up. He laughs when we point this out, "I have made myself look like Nikam," he says adding, "I have studied Nikam’s gait through footage on the Internet and the way he talks. I read somewhere that he has a strict morning gym routine, and I have a fitness routine too."

Ujjwal Nikam
Ujjwal Nikam

Angre and Aaditya say that they had to study Nikam, to give the character credibility. One ‘Nikam-ism’ Angre learnt was, "Nikam begins his court proceedings with Sanskrit shlokhas and then weaves these references into his court arguments."
Aaditya adds, "Nikam is not a one-dimensional person. It is not just his work that matters. In fact, he has a gift of making people feel important. He is a very good listener and interested in the other person." Angre also studied other prosecutors, their body language in particular, and while there are differences, there were commonalities across the spectrum. "Most prosecutors are convincing when with clients, and aggressive in the courtroom. They are extremely observant. For instance, even while speaking to you, they are acutely aware of other people who may be in the room, their quirks and characteristics." Angre smiles as he says, "You know, lawyers are actors too in their own way."

Angre and Aaditya both say that Nikam, who they have met only twice publicly, is, "extremely direct. He also has a great sense of humour. You learn that as you spend some time with him outside of work." They have tried to weave in these little known aspects, gleaned more through footage, YouTube videos and articles on him, into the film.

Angre says, "I anticipated skirmishes with the Censor Board when I began making the movie, but, I have not watered down the scenes because then, I would be a coward of a filmmaker."

These scenes refer to the Khairlanji massacres. There are some gang rape scenes too which are awaiting censor clearance.
When Angre is asked if he sensed that this man who lives in the shadow of death, is scared for his life, he was emphatic, "He is fearless. Yet, he does go into every case knowing that this may be his last. When this movie releases, I will feel like a mother who has given birth to her first baby after nine months. Only here, I have been carrying this baby for much longer."

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