I’m writing this after a whole spate of interviews about New York. The film is releasing next week and it’s exhilarating to talk about something that I know is great. I’ve seen the film and everything I can say about it comes from my faith in the excellence of our effort.
The homework for New York started in Afghanistan while Kabir Khan and I were shooting Kabul Express there. During the course of the shoot, I met a lot of American soldiers, spoke with academicians and locals and made an effort to understand what the Taliban meant to different people, what jihad meant, what America meant to Afghanistan and the world, and why religions, the world over, were causing such death and destruction.
Before we began filiming for New York, Kabir and I had lengthy discussions about the Quran, I went online and went through several English translations of Quran to understand what it says. I truly believe that Islam is a beautiful religion — all religions are beautiful — but I am wary of overtly religious people.
New York, through an unbiased film and a complete fun filler, has a whole backdrop of issues that will encourage the audience to debate matters.
For Sam, my character in the film, I collated what I learnt in Afghanistan, what I discovered about life in New York and gave him a history, one that I lived for months.
It sounds serious, but we really had a great time in the 100 days that we spent filming in New York. There was one particular scene where my character had to rappel down a 40 storey building, and Kabir said he’d get a great shot if I did it myself. So, I roped in and began rappeling down. When I was at the 20th floor, Barack Obama entered the building and all movement had to stop.
There I was, hovering around a glass building for close to an hour and a half. There was a strong wind tunnel between buildings at that height and I was swinging like a pendulum —30ft both ways. It was safe, the ropes were secure, and I had my suction pumps but there was always the threat of becoming lopsided. I thanked God that I was fit enough to hang in there for that long.
I hope that New York sets a benchmark for how narratives ought to be told, how films should be shot and changes the way people look at Indian cinema.