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Juggling comedy and reality

Jag Mundhra, who's in India to promote Shoot On Sight speaks to Diganta Guha about the film and his next comedy film with Govinda.

india Updated: Nov 21, 2007 11:32 IST
Diganta Guha

Filmmaker Jag Mundhra is in India to promote his new film, Shoot On Sight. HT City caught up with him over phone.

Was it a deliberate attempt to make a film that is not woman-oriented?
Yes. I have completed my trilogy on women with Kamla, Bawandar and Provoked. I was inspired to do Shoot On Sight because during my stay in London after the July 7, 2005, bombings, I realised that many of my friends who were moderate Muslims were feeling the pressure.

Even I sometimes didn’t get cabs. The drivers must have mistaken me for a Muslim because of my beard. The atmosphere of fear was a result of the act of a few terrorists and it has affected the lives of moderate Muslims. I thought of a story to be told from their point of view.

<b1>You couldn’t have a better person to portray the protagonist than Naseeruddin Shah…
Naseer has brought such dignity to the character and has perfectly portrayed the emotional roller-coaster ride of a policeman sandwiched between duty and faith. A Muslim policeman who was working with Scotland Yard and was made the spokesperson of the investigative team inspired the character.

Some people say that he was just being used to pacify the Muslims. Naseer has portrayed this anguish and pain in a dignified manner. Om Puri, who was Naseer’s friend in Lahore, comes to London to preach to jihadis. This conflict of interest with his former friend creates the scope of drama in the film.

Is it a work of fiction?
Yes, but it is set in a realistic background where the incidents are identifiable.

Are you expecting the film to spark a controversy?
My tagline asks ‘Is it a crime to be a Muslim?’ I think it’s strong enough because many a time if you have a Muslim name you are being looked at with suspicion. It is a political thriller and I have tried to be balanced. There was a trailer in Los Angeles of the film and many Pakistanis praised me for making such a film despite being a Hindu living in America.

<b2>Is it your biggest film ever?
The 105-minute thriller is the biggest in terms of budget. We are looking at a March release but before that we will premiere the film at the Dubai Film Festival, a place that practices liberal Islamic ideas, as that’s what the film is about. We plan to take it to Berlin after that.

News is that you are remaking Hollywood film The 40 Year Old Virgin with Govinda…
I met him in London where he was shooting for Bhaagam Bhaag and had narrated a script to him. He is an amazing actor and I want to do a comedy with him because I have done a lot of serious films.

Provoked didn’t work…
It did well abroad but in India language was a problem. Audiences didn’t accept a Hindi film called Provoked. It is their discretion.