Interview With ‘Monsoon Shootout’ Director Amit Kumar

A still from Monsoon Shootout

A still from Monsoon Shootout

Toronto: The 2014 Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival,  presented by National Bank, kicks off November 6 and runs up to the 16th. Founded in 1997, Reel Asian is Canada’s largest pan-Asian film festival dedicated to showcasing contemporary Asian films and work from the Asian diaspora, and is the only film festival in Toronto providing a dedicated forum for pan-Asian cinema. From November 6 to 14 (Toronto) and November 15 to 16 (Richmond Hill), the festival is slated to present more than 50 films and videos from over 12 regions, including China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Canada and the USA. The two-week festival is expected to attract over 14,000 attendees this year.

Among the many offerings is the film Monsoon Shootout, directed by Amit Kumar.

Featured in the Cannes Midnight program and scheduled to be screened 8 pm on 14th November at The Royal Cinema, 608 College Street, Toronto, Monsoon Shootout is an innovative and gritty cop drama with choose-your-own-adventure style twists that keep you guessing. The film features the familiar faces of Tannishtha Chatterjee (Siddarth 2013), Geetanjali Thapa, and Nawazzudin Siddiqui (Bombay Talkies 2013) as the brooding axe-wielding hit man.

The Weekly Voice caught up with Director Amit Kumar for a brief tete-a-tete

1. The concept of cinematically showing three alternate outcomes, somewhat like the 1998 movie ‘Run Lola Run’, is not something that India’s Bollywood audiences have seen before. How do you expect it to be received in India?

AK: While Run Lola Run may be the most well-known movie showing three alternate outcomes, Kieslowski’s Blind Chance explored this structure more than a decade earlier. However, the inspiration for Monsoon has been the 1962 short film, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, which very effectively used the cinematic device of expansion of time. (It was one of the first short films I watched at my Film School and it simply blew me away!) Also, while the savvy Bollywood audience may have been exposed to this structure through international/Hollywood cinema, there will definitely be a huge section of our audience that have not been exposed to something like this. To guide them through the movie, we’ve added a voice-over. And the funny thing is that during scripting, I always resisted the suggestion to add a voiceover, but we’ve managed to do it in such a delicate and minimal manner that it doesn’t seem like a compromise at all! Our test screenings have shown that audiences are connecting with the movie very strongly.

2. All else being equal one might safely wager that a concept like this should not have too many challenges finding funders. What has been your experience?

AK: Well, to be honest, that’s one way to look at it. The other is to say that something new, and (let’s say that this is a new concept for most Indian audiences and was a new concept for producers) has few takers…because fewer people are willing to take the risk. It needs a visionary to see the possibilities in something that challenges the norm. And let’s just say that the world isn’t quite bursting at the seams with visionaries! So yes, it took us almost two years to find such people…

3. Considering the absence of star power, do you expect the concept alone to carry the film to the box office?

AK: Well, we do have Nawazuddin Siddique, who is, to my mind, one of the finest actors of our generation. He has always been a star in my mind, right from when I cast him in The Bypass (2003)! And now he is also an emerging star in Bollywood.  For me, Vijay is also a star…just that the world has yet to discover him! But yes, to answer your question, I’m quite confident that the concept is exciting enough to involve our audiences, but then, I’m biased, right?

4. How much did the story and script change and evolve during the development process?

AK: OK…slight spoiler alert in this answer. It was always a story about this rookie cop with a suspect in his line of fire, but originally, my idea was that the three parts of the movie would essentially follow a different character…the suspect…his son…and then the cop himself. I’d say the main evolution was that it became more focused on the Rookie cop himself.

5. The film addresses humanity, morality, and the grey area between good and evil. How do you expect Indian audiences, so used to Bollywood’s ‘potboiler masala films’ to respond to this kind of film?

AK: Well, I think that even though the film does address all this, it does so in the guise of a thriller! So they can always just enjoy the ride, though I’m hoping that they take away something more…  And to use a masala analogy, just as they can enjoy a Kulfi-Falooda as much as a Spicy Biryani, I’m quite confident that our audience is smart enough to respond to Monsoon Shootout too!

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