Omung Kumar: Another director would perhaps have presented Sanjay Dutt in his previous avatar, I focussed more on his acting’
Omung Kumar began his filmmaking journey with a bang. While his directorial debut, ‘Mary Kom’, bagged the National Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment, his second outing, ‘Sarbjit’, was equally impressive. The film, which told the story of an Indian farmer convicted of being a spy by Pakistan, received glowing reviews. However, after two movies based on real characters, Omung has turned to fiction for his third directorial, ‘Bhoomi’. What makes this movie even more significant is the fact that it marks the comeback of Sanjay Dutt after his release from prison. With the father-daughter story, also starring Aditi Rao Hydari, nearing its date with cinemas, we caught up with the filmmaker for a Q & A. Excerpts…
After biopics like ‘Mary Kom’ and ‘Sarbjit’, what prompted you to make ‘Bhoomi’?
When I decided to direct a Bollywood film, I approached many actors with a script I had with me for long. Though most of them are friends, they became choosy when it came to giving their nod to that project. That’s when I decided to pen a script for an actress. Being a first-timer, I had to prove myself and I told my writers to come up with a script that no actress could refuse. The result was Mary ‘Kom’. I had no plans to make a biopic for my second directorial venture. It was Sandeep Singh, my partner, who suggested a film on Sarabjit Singh. Though I told him that I would be labelled a biopic maker, at his insistence, when I read the script, I knew that the story had to be told. Talking about ‘Bhoomi’, my plan was only to produce the film. I had five scripts with me and when I narrated all of them to Sanjay Dutt, he chose ‘Bhoomi’ saying that it was fantastic. Then he asked me why I wasn’t directing it. So, in a way, this film chose me.
Years ago, in ‘Pitaah’, Sanjay Dutt had played a father who avenges his daughter’s rape and murder when he doesn’t get justice from the law…
‘Bhoomi’ is different, it’s a mature story. I know that many films have been made on the subject. Also, there has been no change in our legal system, but as far as our movie goes, the story and execution are different. You will also see the daughter joining the fight along with the father.
How did you zero in on Aditi Rao Hydari to play the daughter?
Once Baba was on, it was basically about who fits the bill to play the title role. We needed a strong performer, who can deliver an intense performance. Aditi was our first choice, but her dates were not available. However, once she heard the script, she said that she would push everything else to do this film. She is like a tigress in the film and beautifully matches up to Sanjay.
Considering that Bhoomi is Sanjay’s first venture after he completed his prison sentence, do you feel the pressure of giving him a successful comeback film?
That’s where I think I come in. While some other director would have presented Sanjay Dutt in his previous avatar, I focussed on his acting, nuances, and the detailing… Since this is his comeback film, the pressure was there, but once I started shooting, the story took over. Only when the promotions began did we feel the pressure again.
Has Sanjay Dutt seen the film?
He loved it. In fact, he feels that he got more than what he was expecting. That is satisfying for us, too.
Since your movie highlights the issue of rape, which has become rampant in our country, what is your take on the laws that deal with such a heinous crime in India?
We need stricter laws and a quicker justice system. While researching for the film, we learnt that in every 20 minutes, one rape happens in India. When there’s public outrage, the system is shaken up, but not every rapist gets the strictest punishment. When you watch the film, you will agree that this is what all rapists deserve.
Reportedly, you were upset about the 13 cuts asked for by the CBFC (Central Board of Film Certification)…
That’s not true. At the end of the day, the Censor Board is also doing its job. Yes, there are cuts and they were expected. All I can say is, the cuts haven’t hampered the narrative..
What’s the easiest and the most difficult aspect of directing Sanjay Dutt?
The easiest part of directing Sanjay is that if you give him a five-ten page dialogue, he will do it in one go. The most difficult thing was, well, he would sometimes ask, ‘Itna bolna zaroori hai kya?’ We would then work to reduce the dialogues. So, he would say one line and convey the rest through his eyes and facial expressions. Of course, you will get all the reaction you wanted and his performance will still give you the goosebumps.
Apparently, you’ve formed such a great bond with Sanjay that you’ll be working with him again in your next production…
Yes, my assistant Aarambh Singh is directing ‘Malang’. It’s a very good subject — intense and commercial at the same time. However, since Sanjay wanted ‘Bhoomi’ to be his comeback, we made it first.
Sanjay Dutt gives a sneak peek into his upcoming film ‘Bhoomi’