He calls himself a documentary filmmaker, but cinematographer-turned-director Kabir Khan has churned out several Bollywood blockbusters. He has an eye for detail, which is obvious in his movies and personal collection of antique cameras. Kabir talks about his journey in Bollywood, his latest web series, the JNU students’ stir and things close to his heart.
Why are your films mostly about war and conflict?
Yes, my stories have conflict as a background as I’m always looking out for human stories. These stories are not only challenging but are intriguing as well. Human beings react differently in a conflict zone. Similarly, The Forgotten Army: Azadi Ke liye is a fascinating story of our freedom struggle and not much is known about this chapter of history. The real motivation is to bring this untold story to the audience.
What is your take on the recent attack on JNU students?
It’s really heartbreaking. I have played cricket on the roads out there and I have personal connections. Even if this would have happened to students of any other university, I would have felt very upset and sad. Is this the society we are living in? When my mother, who is also closely related to JNU, saw this on the TV, she was heartbroken. How can we as a country tolerate this? When religion exits from the hearts of people and walks onto the roads, then the environment really gets dangerous. When religion is discussed on the streets, it spreads negativity and divides people as well. This should not happen. We have grown in a country that follows the mosaic of different cultures and religions. We celebrated Diwali, Christmas and Eid. I am not a political activist but as an Indian citizen, it pains me a lot. We need to address it, surely.
You have given us several blockbuster movies. How has your journey been in the industry?
I am actually a documentary filmmaker from Delhi. I had dreamt of making just one film — Kabul Express and after that, whatever films I have been doing, is just a bonus for me. I am more than thankful to have been associated with all these projects. I love making films and telling stories and therefore, I’ve never felt insecure. However, I do not wish to make sequels to any of my films. If I don’t get to make any more feature films, I will go back to making documentaries.
How is it different from the documentary that you made earlier on the same topic?
The documentary had just two characters. This web-series is made on a huge scale and we have more characters from the Azad Hind Fauj. Also, the story has always been told from Netaji’s point of view but here, we are delving into the lives of the soldiers, their experiences, motivations and what made them join this army. I had this story with me for the past 20 years and after every film, I wanted to go ahead with it. Finally, it has happened now.
Do box office results affect you?
Firstly, none of us set out to make flop films. If a movie is successful, it will keep me happy for a few days. But if it flops, I feel sad for maybe a week and then I move on. None of my films have put me into depression, ever. I do not get euphoria from success or take flops very seriously. Though I feel success has spoilt many minds. We need to be more than happy with our journey. No filmmaker has had all successful films. I started my career from the Yash Raj films and that is like a school to me. We have learned to keep working irrespective of our successes or failures. This is the best way of existing in the industry and to be relevant. If I am able to tell stories, then I am successful.
What, according to you, will be the takeaway for the youth?
There is a dialogue in this series which can be identified with today’s situation — Humari ladayi azadi ke liye hai …aur azadi ko kayam rakhne ke liye hai. (Our fight is for freedom and to maintain that freedom). The youth will surely identify with this dialogue which will remind them to stand up and speak if they don’t agree with something. It’s their right.
How supportive has your family been of your profession?
My family has been very supportive. My father Rasheeduddin Khan was one of the founding professors of the Jawaharlal Nehru University [JNU]. While growing up, our dining table conversation used to be about the current affairs, maybe that’s why my films have a political backdrop most of the time. My parents have always been supportive of whatever I do. My wife Mini is a great sounding board and my fiercest critic. She also reads all my scripts and watches all my films. My support system has always been great.