It took Behzad Khambata, who has assisted on films like Boss and OMG – Oh My God!, 14 years to bag his first directorial venture. His movie, Blank, which features Sunny Deol and newcomer Karan Kapadia in lead roles, revolves around a suicide bomber, who loses his memory and has a bomb attached to his heart. The anti-terrorist squad has to prevent the bomb from exploding. The director spoke to Bombay Times about working with Sunny Deol in his maiden project, and the pressure of making commercial films. Excerpts:
Why did you choose a topic like terrorism for your debut as a director?
Two years ago, when we thought of this subject, a film on Uri attacks had not been made. In the last few months, there have been many movies based on patriotism and dealing with the topic of terrorism. It does get unnerving because my film also has terrorism as its backdrop. I liked the subject and the uncertainty that surrounded a guy, who has a bomb in his heart. My film is commercial, but if you are waiting for someone to break into a song, that won’t happen. It has a runtime of 100 minutes, and it goes from one scene to another and keeps you on the edge of your seat. I learnt a lot while shooting with a senior actor like Sunny Deol because some people on my team, Karan Kapadia, my assistant director and writer, were all first-timers.
Considering the fact that this is your first film, was it intimidating to direct a senior actor like Sunny?
I had many inhibitions before I started working with him, but once the shoot began everything went smoothly. He insisted that I should correct him or let him know if something goes wrong so that we don’t repent while editing the film. The role of an antiterrorist squad chief suits him. I am thankful that he agreed to do it.
You have shot the film in Mumbai. What kind of an experience did you have?
I remember we had to shoot two scenes in Mira Road. It was a crowded area and was perfect for the shot. On one particular day, after I finished filming with Karan, it was time to shoot with Ishita (Dutta). At around 1.30 pm, when we went on the location, surprisingly, the streets were completely empty. Perhaps it was Eid that day, so people had closed their shops and gone home to celebrate. I was worried as I needed a crowd for my shot. There weren’t any junior artists either. So, we had to cheat and shoot with four-five people behind Ishita. You learn to handle such situations if you have worked as an assistant director. We also shot the movie in Vasai, Dongri and on the sets.
Your first film often paves the way for you in the industry. Are you feeling the pressure?
We have stayed true to the script and given it our best shot. Now, the audiences will give its verdict. It is very tough to make a film and even tougher to release it. With this movie, I have learnt many things about filmmaking, which will be useful when I direct my next project. This is not a bigbonanza movie; it revolves around a great script and performances. I am happy that two years ago, when Karan heard the script, he agreed to do it as it is a rather unconventional choice.
Do you think that today it has become easier for new directors to get a break?
Yes, I think there is a huge influx of actors and directors in the industry, and everyone has work now. I had a difficult time finding projects as an AD, but when I call people now, they seem to get work relatively easily. This motivates me. I respect makers, who make a film with all the commercial trappings because the pressure to release such a movie is very high. They have more to lose as their money and reputation are at a higher risk. When a big producer fails, it becomes public news. If my movie does not work, I will be washed away because people are sceptical about working with someone whose film has not worked, even if it had good reviews. Luckily, I had Anthony D’souza (director) who guided me. I learnt a lot from him. At the end of the day, this was a great team to work with.