Anurag Kashyap had more conviction in the film than I had – Hansal Mehta
Filmmaker Hansal Mehta has revealed that finding theatres for Rajkummar Rao-starrer Omerta was pretty difficult. The film, which released in 2018, recently landed online and movie buffs have been showering praises on Hansal as well as Rajkummar. The actor essayed the role of dreaded terrorist Omar Saeed Shaikh, who has been linked to IC-814 hijacking and the murder of journalist Daniel Pearl.
While speaking to Hindustan Times Hansal revealed that the most heartwarming response to his film came from filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, way before the movie reached theatres. “I showed the film to Anurag Kashyap in 2017 March or April. From that day, he had more conviction in what the film was, even more than me. He said it is my best film and Anurag’s beliefs has been constant. To add to that, the things Anubhav Sinha tweeted about the film. Sudhir Mishra is a senior and someone I look up to. The way he described the film, it was beautiful because somebody has understood my film so well. There are so many people writing to us everyday,” he said.
However, he doesn’t want to focus on the long struggle to get the film till here. “I do not want to take names because this is a happy time and I just want to enjoy this (new wave of appreciation for Omerta). I must say it was a difficult journey, producing the film and bringing it this far. Ultimately, it is satisfactory and I do not have any ill feelings for anyone. I believe everything you do, there will be justice if you have really given your best,”
But is he angry the appreciation came too late and people woke up to the film only after it landed on an OTT platform? “For me, people finally watching Omerta is great. Not enough people saw the film and I was very depressed due to this. But my philosophy in life is that things may take time but they are done eventually. It is very heartening that the film has found an audience. My films have that kind of shelf life, I am used to that journey – the journey of a film does not end. The kind of response we are getting is overwhelming, we did not even publicise. People having conversation and people loving the film. It is very heartening. I think some films have some shelf life beyond that weekend. I think my films in particular, Aligarh, Shahid. etc,” Hansal said.
Asked why he decided to explore a criminal mind like that of Omar Shaikh’s, Hansal said, “For me, It was an important story of our times, and also looking at this darkness in a humanised form – that this is real. It is with clinical precision that he carried out his work; that exploration of what was his though process. It was a character and world I wanted to explore. I wanted to explore without any justification or judgement. The film turns conventions on its head. The narrative was not linear, it did not follow any rules of narrative or story telling.”
“I wanted a villain who is not making faces or has crazy long hair. I did not want the physicality of the villain. He was like The Joker – looks like the normal man. The only difference is this is not Gotham city but the real world and it is not some imaginary character but a real man whose impact the world has seen. It is scary that the Pakistani government acquitted him recently,” he added.
While he said producers are better placed to comment on whether his next with Rajkummar – Chhalang – will release in theatres or online, Hansal added that cinemas are certainly not going anywhere. “The magic of watching cinema in big screens cannot go away but OTT offers a platform to a different kind of films. Like Omerta, it has found an audience here. I think it is an addition to platforms available. But that’s it. It is like showcasing your art – whether in galleries or on the street. OTT is like street art, it is taking our art to everyone.”
Refusing to entertain questions related to the ongoing debates of outsider versus insider in the film industry, Hansal said he simply feels privileged to have the opportunity to make movies . “Outsider, insider, nepotism is all very reductionist term. This is a very broad topic and people can easily get hurt with anything that one says. I certainly feel privileged that I am making movies, How can I complain of being an outsider when I made 16 movies in 20 years? It is such a hard time right now, whatever we say, will be miscontrued. There is a lot of grief and shock and people are responding in different ways,” he signed off.