The filmmaker revealed key details from the story of the film. He said, “In the opening scene, the hero is a Pakistani terrorist and he kills Indian commandos. He comes to get his father Liyaqat who is languishing in jail and that’s where the hatred starts with a case of mistaken identity. The film ends with him sacrificing his life and his body is going back on the Samjhauta Express. Liyaqat tells inspector Vijay Deshmukh, who shoots the son, ‘Jab tak hum dono mulko ke beech me ye nafrat ki khai rahegi, hum uss khai ko apne bacho ki laasho se bharte rehenge aur woh kabhi bharegi nahi (Till the time our nations are divided by a chasm of hatred, we’ll keep filling that void with the dead bodies of our children).’ That was the film”.
When asked how he feels about this missed opportunity, Mehra said, “You know how the mind thinks and people give advice. Back then a lot of people said that Abhishek will not be accepted by the audience if he plays an anti-national or a Pakistani terrorist in his first film. I was asked, ‘Bhai tu yeh kya kar raha hai? Devdas hi bana le! (What are you doing? Just make another ‘Devdas’)’ I was told to do something else.” Kiran Manral asked Mehra if he would ever want to revive this project, to which he quipped, “I don’t think I’ll make this movie, ever.”
Not that he feels resentment, but he knows that his personal opinion on India and Pakistan does not fit into the current scheme of things. He added, “I have never agreed with the idea of Indians versus Pakistanis and Hindus versus Muslims. For me, we are both equal villains for each other, this whole rhetoric that they are bad and we are good is something I cannot accept. That is not how the world works.” He summed up with the succinct observation, “If you go to the other side of the fence, you’ll hear a distinctly different story.”
For more revelations and insights tune into Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s full interaction with author Kiran Manral at the Times LitFest today at 5 pm.