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Maximum: A new police story

Seven years after his debut, Sehar, director Kabeer Kaushik is all set to release Maximum, another hard-hitting cop drama.

brunch Updated: Jun 23, 2012 16:06 IST
Saudamini Jain

It was the age of shootouts and gang wars. The underworld was in its prime. Dawood Ibrahim, Chhota Rajan, Chhota Shakeel… the mafia was spiralling out of control. Mumbai in the ’90s was a city with a very dark underbelly.

Enter Dirty Harry, or rather, an entire bunch of them: The Mumbai Encounter Squad, a group within the Mumbai police, tasked to tackle the city’s underworld. These were cops like Pradeep Sharma, Daya Nayak, Pradeep Sawant, Vijay Salaskar and Praful Bhonsle among others.

And tackle it they did. The encounter specialists reportedly gunned down over 600 gangsters.

Stories with spine: Director Kabeer Kaushik at his office in Andheri West, Mumbai (Photo: Prasad Gori)

Bullet proofs

Cut to 2003. The encounter specialists, now representing everything that is wrong with the system, get embroiled in a fierce power struggle. This is the point at which director Kabeer Kaushik’s new film Maximum begins.



The plot is inspired by the Mumbai police of the mid-2000s. It charts a dangerous five-year journey of the power struggle between two cops (played by Sonu Sood and Naseeruddin Shah) and others, to hold on to maximum power.



Sood, who looks unbelievably hot, plays an encounter cop largely based on Pradeep Sharma. “It was a gut feeling. When I met him (Sood), I knew he was the guy,” says Kaushik. “It was also his sheer physicality and the fact that he can emote with his eyes,” Kaushik adds. Shah’s character is an amalgamation of several encounter cops. Vinay Pathak plays a politician, brownie points if you guess who.


Naseer

“Eight years ago, a senior Mumbai police officer could tell you who the next commissioner of Mumbai police was going to be. The idea of lobbying was more intrinsic here than anywhere else… this couldn’t happen in Delhi, UP or Bihar,” says Kaushik.



It was this interesting slice of Mumbai history that inspired him to make Maximum. Between a poetic beginning and a poetic end, there is a moment of truth. After all, he adds, “Who wants to watch a documentary?”

Back story

You can’t help but wonder where Kaushik, who is capable of weaving harsh truths into a powerful narrative, has come from. An ‘uttar Bhartiya’ through and through, Kaushik spent his childhood in Patna and grew up in Delhi, where his family moved when he was 12 years old. In Delhi, he studied at the Frank Anthony Public School and Sardar Patel Vidyalaya and graduated from Sri Venkateswara College in Delhi University. And then, "like all good Indian boys" he did an MBA. His was from Lucknow University.



Sonu SoodIt is these places that gave the director such a diverse perspective. "The Ganga-Jamuni culture is very different, it provides you with new nuances," he says. "For example, if you’re from Delhi, Lucknow or Patna, you’ll know what student politics is all about. It’s all encompassing, with so many different shades, such dimensions… it’s very difficult explaining this to a Bombay kid."



The adman-turned-filmmaker has to his credit over 400 corporate ads. Moving to films was a logical progression. "There is no better business than show business," he says, smiling.



Kaushik didn’t exactly grow up in an environment conducive to Bollywood and filmmaking. But being the son of a noted journalist, the late Ghanshyam Pankaj, he was able to observe the system at very close quarters and that laid the foundation for the kind of films he makes.



"I got to interact with a wide variety of people – senior bureaucrats, politicians, police officers. I played with their children, dated their daughters... I got an intrinsic understanding of the system, better than any outsider," he says.



His first film, the critically-acclaimed cop drama Sehar (2005) was set in the Gorakhpur-Lucknow-Benaras belt he knows so well. It was based on true-life incidents: real cops and the Uttar Pradesh railway mafia in the 1990s. "In hindsight, I think Sehar was amateurish. It glorified cops without talking about the grey side of their existence," he says. Maximum is greyer, far more personalised, and more in-depth, he explains.



Sehar was followed by Chamku (2008) and Hum Tum Aur Ghost (2010), which were box-office disasters. What went wrong? "They weren’t honest films," Kaushik says simply.

From HT Brunch, June 24

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