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9/11 relived as New York releases today

Filmmaker Kabir Khan's latest venture New York highlights prejudices in the US after the 9/11 attacks. The director talks about his film and maintains that his take on the issue would provide a balanced view.

entertainment Updated: Jun 26, 2009 12:57 IST

Filmmaker Kabir Khan, whose latest venture New York highlights prejudices in the US after the 9/11 attacks, says Indian films made on terrorism are often "jingoistic" but maintains that his take on the issue would provide a balanced view.

Excerpts from the interview:

How did 26/11 change your perception on 9/11?
I don't think 26/11 changed my perception on terrorism or on my film. Though the attack on the Taj and Oberoi were the most audacious in Mumbai, what about the foiled attack on our parliament? And more people died in the train explosions of Mumbai. At the end of the day what do terrorists want? A splash.

So isn't that what you are giving them by making a film on terrorism with three glamorous stars?
No. I'd never do something like that. Even when Kabul Express went to the Toronto Film Festival I was asked by Americans why I was siding with the Taliban. All I can say is there's a human face to even the worst political ideology. My loyalty to my country is a given. No one can question that.

I'd say a film on terrorism would be exploitative if a filmmaker made a bad film on the events of 26/11. I am aware 36 titles have been registered for films on 26/11. No harm in that as long as they are sincere. Unfortunately, films on terrorism in our country are often high-pitched and jingoistic. And that's counter-productive. My film, I'd like to believe, is a very balanced view of terrorism.

You bond big time with John Abraham?
John brings in an incredible integrity. John agreed to be in Kabul Express even without Yashraj (Films) in the picture. Both John and Arshad Warsi were very supportive."

But there's no Arshad in New York.
Arshad and his wife Maria are my family. But Arshad suited no character in New York. I didn't take John, Katrina and Neil for their looks. They play very normal regular people... However, New York catches these good-looking people in a very natural light. If I can have my main characters look glamorous and yet make a realistic film, I see no harm.

John, Neil and Katrina are sex symbols. But they're without make-up and dressed in clothes that any New Yorker can buy off the shelf. No designer wear at all. They're very approachable in the film.

Your style of filmmaking is very different from your producer Yashraj's style?
That's true. There were enough directors at Yashraj doing conventional cinema. I'm happy Aditya (Chopra) allowed me to tell the story the way I wanted to do it.

Both Kabul Express and now New York stress on strife?
I've been fortunate that my documentaries have allowed me to travel to 60 countries. I've seen first-hand what the state of the world is. I think more of our mainstream cinema needs to get the geo-politics in place... For now I need to make a cinema about what's happening to our world."

Haven't you taken cinematic liberties by shifting New York to Philadelphia?
If it wasn't reported it wouldn't have been known. It's not as if we haven't shot in New York. We've shot extensively in New York for the outdoors... I agree I shot "Kabul Express" entirely on location in Afghanistan. But New York for practical purposes had to be shifted. Kabul Express needed to be narrated in the docu-drama style. It was based on my own experiences while shooting a documentary in Afghanistan.

But New York is more cinematic. With competition and recession being what they are, we can't afford to be self-indulgent. Recession has also brought in a much-needed note of caution in the film industry against a fast and furious flow of funds.

Is New York inspired by Mark Pellington's 1999 film Arlington Road?
First of all I don't even like Arlington Road. If I've to copy a film it'd have to be something I enjoyed at least... Arlington Road has nothing to do with the situation in the world today. There's absolutely no similarity between New York and Arlington Road. I wouldn't spend 11 months of my life writing a script that was ripped off.

(Subhash K. Jha can be contacted at jhasubh@gmail.com)