Rensil D’Silva doesn’t speak his heart out. He stamps an impression on each word and each sentence when he speaks. Why? Because he is one of the best writers we have in our Indian Film Industry. Ask him on his turning a director he says, “Directing is an easy job. What’s difficult is writing a good film.” In person he is tough. As soon as the first question is asked, though, he relaxes, like someone coming up for air. He starts talking in a broad, slightly high-pitched Indian accent and grows more and more. What’s got him going is the acting of his current cinematic muses – Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor and Vivek Oberoi. It’s a statement that goes – Kurbaan will give out the performance of the year from Kareena’. A line for Saif too goes this way – I don’t think you’ll find a tougher role than Kurbaan in Saif’s filmography, and then the underdog Vivek – He is the most dramatic of the three. It doesn’t require boldness to say things about actors like them. Rather, it takes confidence in you as a writer and director which Rensil so badly possesses. By now he is conducting the conversation as he might, well, direct a movie. And then there are his eyes which have their own power, framed by two shockingly black eyebrows set behind his not-so-thick rimmed glasses. UK’s Harrow Observer columnist and Bollywood Hungama‘s London correspondent meets the hurricane of energy – a man called Rensil D’Silva.
A writer is the best believer in the story. What did you believe in when you made Kurbaan?
Well, ideologically, my point of view is out there in the film. I believe that I can tell the story of Kurbaan really well because it engages head and heart which is always a tough thing when you are a writer or a story teller or a director. Usually you have something so intellectual that the critics can like it and you get a bit myopic about things. Then you have something like leave-your-brains-at-home kind of films. I didn’t want to make such cinema. I wanted to make something sensible and heart wrenching at the same time. The world view of the film has really intrigued me quite a lot, like how the West views Islam and all.
The world view of the film has really intrigued me quite a lot, like how the West views Islam and all
I’m sure the research didn’t come that easy then?
Yes. You’re right. But we did a good bit of reading too. I picked up a book called ‘A suicide bomber’
from London. I’ve got a book where an Algerian journalist infiltrated the Al Qaeda for a two year period. Then I also got my hands on some MI5 reports because the film was initially based in London on the number of sleeper cells which makes garage bombs or worse. There are some four thousand such cells in the UK alone. The magnitude of the problem kind of hits you when you get such information.
There are some four thousand sleeper cells in the UK alone
Is part of the film based on real life characters or events?
There aren’t any real life or people events shown in the film. It’s almost an amalgamation of the problem. Quite frankly, the last thirty minutes have played out in some form, may be in London, where I first set this film. It has nothing to do with real people and events but has to do with the broader aspect of a terrorist attack.
Why go for the under-rated Vivek Oberoi?
I’ve always been a fan of Vivek Oberoi after watching Company and Saathiya. I think he is a great actor and hopefully you’ll see that on the screen. If I had to define the three roles then Vivek’s is the most dramatic of the three. It’s got lots of twists and turns and all the monologues. It’s got a very powerful scene which happens in the class room. Vivek has an accent too in the film which is very New York specific. There is a lot for Vivek to do and he has been up to the task.
What is challenging? Writing or directing?
Definitely as a writer. I think the hardest thing is to put the blue print in place. If you are clear in your vision, you can go out and direct. I’ve been directing ad-films for ten years now. So technically, there isn’t any problem. I really believe that even if a director is not a technical person, there are some great technicians who can chip in for him. If you don’t know pacing, if you don’t know the story and how long to hold on your characters then you’re dead. That comes from writing a story. The image that you see while writing is the same image that should be transformed on the screen.
How important is the screenplay then?
A series of ideas by which you tell a story is the screenplay of the film. I actually believe that it’s great to have a germ in the story. But if you don’t know how to deliver it you’re screwed. Over the past couple of years, screenplay has started to play more importance, whether it’s Rang De Basanti where you shift back in time or it’s a non linear structure. Today one shouldn’t take audiences for granted. They are damn smart and they are the head of the filmmakers today. They are watching everything on the television which is being done around the world. They are superior in terms of the number of films they’ve seen than the director of any film. Screenplay should involve the audiences. You just can’t say that you’ve got a great story and hopefully some acting will happen. It doesn’t work that way.
Today one shouldn’t take audiences for granted. They are damn smart and they are the head of the filmmakers today
After writing Kurbaan, what did you do? Did you take it to the production house or the actors?
Its many things. When I did not have the power to direct a film and while I was just a writer, I took it to actors. I still do. We live in an industry where if you want a certain amount of money, you got to get actors on board. In the case of someone like Karan, who has the power to green light a project, you just need his consent. If he likes it, the film will get made. But if you’re out there as a story writer or a screenplay writer, you should get a star on board first.
The word Kurbaan means a lot to Islam. Is that why you came up with the title?
May be you’re right. But the title came out from the romantic story of the film, where a man has to choose between love and a cause. I think the one powerful message we have in the film is that love conquers all. And if the cause means taking a life or an actor giving a life, it becomes even more interesting. There is a line in the film that says ‘A terrorist can understand the value of a human life and maybe there is hope for us all’. So I guess, the title could’ve come to our mind from all that. Kurbaan deals with a lot of intense themes.
Saif Ali Khan – How raw can he get as an actor?
He is fabulously raw. It’s his toughest role yet. I don’t think you’ll find a tougher role in Saif Ali Khan’s filmography. It’s crazy because the moment you start showing things he is going against the role. There are lot of silences and pauses in the film. This is the role that people will see Saif as a man’s man.
No one’s talking about Dia Mirza.
She has a very important role in the film. She plays a producer in a news channel and is a romantic interest for Vivek Oberoi. She is absolutely lovely in the film. She is so real and today’s woman. A lot of people who’ve seen the trial have loved her, not that she is doing any great histrionics but the fact that she embodies her role so well.
And what about Kareena? Improving by day and age?
â€¦And films too (laughs). Kareena is a fabulous metamorphosis as an actress. I loved her in Jab We Met and this has taken her one step further. Kurbaan will give out the performance of the year from Kareena. I am not being biased. She is playing a de-glamorised look and she has given it her all. The last ten minutes of Kurbaan you have to see Kareena to believe it.
Kurbaan is the film which only has one poster, one creative to it. Why?
The poster has become the most important tool to get the public in because they sense it. The success quotient of any film is its poster and its promo. It’s not about how many times you bombard them. It’s a waste of money then. Karan and I wanted a one iconic look to sell Kurbaan. The strategy of the marketing team was to sell the film as a love story and a thriller. What you see on the poster is how you will see them in the film and it’s the most powerful scene of Kurbaan. It’s a scene which is very edgy and shows their love. It has a huge thriller element to it.
It’s a disgrace when people make issues out of nothing, isn’t it?
(Laughs) Very good. Exactly. We are one billion people here. Obviously couples aren’t shaking their hands and going to bed turning to their respective sides of the bed every night. I mean, they are making babies man! And lots of them. If you are hungry, you’ll eat. If you’re in a relationship, you’ll make love. So what’s the big deal? I personally think there should be a protest because protest is a form of democracy. If you don’t you are autocrats. But my humble submission to these people is that they see things in the context of the film. There is a difference between pornography and an aesthetic nude art.