Resul Pookutty, the Indian film sound designer, sound editor and audio mixer most well-known since his Oscar win for the 2009-film Slumdog Millionaire, has decided to make his directorial debut, under the banner of his own production company.
The script is based on Captain ‘Baba’ Harbhajan Singh, an Indian army soldier who served between June 30, 1965 and December 1, 2006. Revered as the “Hero of Nathula” by soldiers of the Indian army, the soldier has a shrine built in his honour and accorded the title of the saintly father viz. ‘Baba’.
Resul has tentatively titled the film Piharwa, meaning beloved. The film, which has just finished its third draft, is not a biopic, says Resul, but rather a woman-centric, romantic portrayal of the man’s life as seen by a 22-year-old boy in the current times.
Moreover, the whole story is woven around from the perspective of the love interest of the soldier, with scenes shot mainly in two locations — Kapurthala, where the soldier was born, and the second location in Gangtok.
“Two years ago, when I was researching a couple of stories I wanted to put on an OTT, I chanced upon Baba Harbhajan Singh’s story,” Resul tells us.
“The story remained at the back of my mind until six months ago, when an erstwhile classmate made a short film Plus-Minus, which was on Captain Harbajan Singh and even won an award. It was when she showed me the film that I began wondering about turning it into a feature film.”
However, even before announcing his directorial debut, Resul has been mercilessly trolled on social media. The reason? His co-producer Avi Raj had recently mentioned about having approached Alia Bhatt for playing the love interest of Captain ‘Baba’ Harbhajan Singh in the film.
Where the trolls have landed
While Resul thinks Alia will be a perfect fit for the role, which is that of a fierce Punjabi girl, he hopes to seek a fresh face for the male lead. And despite all the trolling aimed at him, Resul is very clear why Alia is his first choice for the role.
“I had worked in her second film, Highway. On the very first day, when the first shot was done, I knew she was going to be a phenomenal actor,” Resul tells us. “Acting comes naturally to her and she is a treat to watch.”
But the trolls have landed, we remind him. Especially with the raging online discussions after the unfortunate death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, trolls have trained their guns at Resul for ‘encouraging nepotism’ because he is even considering Alia Bhatt.
Alia, by the way, had come under fire with the likes of Karan Johar for mocking Sushant on Karan’s talk shows when the actor was alive.
“Yes, I’ve been getting messages from people saying, ‘Sir, please don’t take her; we will not watch the film’,” he says adding, “While I feel it’s sad that people get so taken in even without verifying their piece of information, I also condemn nepotism as the lowest and most unimaginative corruption. I don’t think it is good for any industry or for our economy.”
Not budging in his convictions
However, Resul is just clear that a crowd-mentality will not have him back off from his convictions.
“I am looking for what is good for my film and its characters. And I will surely cast Alia regardless of the social media trolls,” puts in Resul.
Additionally, Resul points out how the crowd mentality to get anyone and everyone’s head over Sushant’s unfortunate death is incorrect. “Nepotism is everywhere, the worst of which is in politics,” he says.
“Yet, despite nepotism’s innate structure, we must also consider a positive side to it. For instance, if not for nepotism, family businesses wouldn’t have flourished. But yes, when it comes to art and negates values of art and talent, I shall not stand for. As for Alia, she was born into Vishesh Films — the only production house in Bollywood, which has introduced new talents more than anyone else, including technicians and artists. If Alia’s father, Mahesh Bhatt wants to stand for such values and instil those in his kids, is that nepotism? Then, I stand for it.”
As we take in his words, Resul also points out how if nepotism was such a deciding factor in Hindi cinema many actors such as Akshay Kumar, Sunil Shetty or even Shah Rukh Khan wouldn’t have grown here.
“Why them, let’s talk about me—I won the Oscar for my work in India. So I think while there may be a certain percentage of people indulging in nepotism the muck exists in every facet of life. My appeal to people is not to pick up that muck and splash it on everyone’s face,” says Resul....