Why RGV lost his cool when asked about his film on 26/11

Ram Gopal Varma’s (RGV) film The Attacks of 26/11 hit theatres across the country yesterday (March 1).

Sanjeev Jaiswal plays the terrorist Ajmal Qasab in The Attacks of 26/11
Sanjeev Jaiswal plays the terrorist Ajmal Qasab in The Attacks of 26/11

The film is based on the Mumbai terror attacks. The biggest political fall out of the attack was Chief Minister of Maharashtra Vilasrao Deshmukh giving up his chair, following public outrage after he and his son Riteish accompanied filmmaker RGV to the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Colaba, post the attacks.

Abu Azmi and Ramdas Athavale pay homage on the first anniversary of 26/11 Mumbai terror attack
Abu Azmi and Ramdas Athavale pay homage on the first anniversary of 26/11 Mumbai terror attack. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi

As the controversy over the RGV visit escalated with livid Mumbaikars shouting insensitive, the filmmaker had then said that he had no intention of making a movie on the attacks.

The Taj Mahal Hotel, which was under siege for three days. Pic/Shadab Khan

RGV lost his cool in a telephonic interview from Delhi when asked about what made him change his mind and make a film on the tragedy after all. He refused to answer the question, saying abruptly that he had answered this question before. He was also livid about being asked about the commercial aspects of making a film on a tragedy.

Ram Gopal Varma
Ram Gopal Varma. Pic/Suresh KK

The interview:

Increasing numbers of terrorist attacks have opened up what one could say is a new genre in celluloid itself – films with their focus on modern day terrorism. We have Oscar award winner Argo for instance, we have a film on Bin Laden’s killing. Your film falls in that genre… what do you hope to tell the people here?
It’s not about telling people anything. I am a creative person. People know what happened but not how it happened. This is about catching the emotional aspects of the attack and recreating it for audiences on celluloid.

Post the attacks, you went to the site along with Vilasrao Deshmukh. Your visit, quite rightly, was met with outrage. The CM lost his chair because of it. At that time, you had said you were not planning to make a movie on this. Today, you have done just that. What changed your mind?
I have answered this 4000 times, I am not saying it again.

How true is your film to the 26/11 incident? Have you taken creative licence in some places? Is it purely fact?
It is absolutely true. We have referred to officially documented sources. There is no imagination involved here. We’ve taken creative licence only when it comes to condensation. We can’t do justice to all the events that happened throughout the attacks in a two-hour film. So we’ve chosen some, left out others.

Yet, it is a commercial venture about a tragedy.
I work for one year, put in money and make a film, obviously I hope people will be interested. What do you mean by commercial factors?
Tell me!

You make a movie on a tragedy, people buy tickets to watch it.
I am not a part of production. I am just a director. For any financial and commercial aspects, ask the producer.

Will the proceeds of the film go to the families of the victims and the survivors?
I am not involved in the production.

There are still doubts about the veracity of information – were there only 10 attackers? How could just 10 attackers hold so many people hostage and kill them? Do you feel there is much more to this which will in all probability never be known?
People want conspiracy theories more than the truth. I prefer to believe in documented truth.

Where was the film shot?
We shot on actual locations of the attacks – Leopold Café, Girgaum Chowpatty… we didn’t have any problems securing permission from the authorities. For the Taj, we created a set.

Terror tour
On November 30, 2008, the day after the three-day siege came to an end, then Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, visited the Taj Hotel. Accompanying him were Chief Secretary Johny Joseph, then Mumbai Police Commissioner Hasan Gafoor, Riteish Deshmukh and Ram Gopal Varma.

The public outcry could not be dulled even after both Vilasrao and Riteish issued statements that the CM had not invited Varma to the tour and Varma insisting that he did not go to the hotel with any intention of making a film.

The day before he launched the first look of The Attacks of 26/11, Ram Gopal Varma issued a public statement titled Terror Tour in which he said about his visit to the Taj Hotel, “it is highly understandable that during those emotional and traumatic moments it is very natural that various concerned would feel a strong sense of indignation on such seemingly callous and selfish behaviour...but like I said and maintained ever since that time, I never ever intended to make a film on those attacks when I went to the Taj.

Now after all these years, after the whole truth has been uncovered by the investigators and by the virtue of an extensive knowledge I have gathered from various sources about the actual truths behind those attacks from both authorized and eye witness accounts, I developed a desire to film the actual story of those attacks.”

Kuber trouble
Hiralal Masani, the owner of the Kuber boat, which was hijacked during the terror attack, has approached the courts to stop the release of The Attacks of 26/11 as Ram Gopal Varma has allegedly mentioned the boat’s name and its registration number in the film without Masani’s permission. Masani contended that mentioning the boat’s details amounted to defamation. Agencies

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