At a time when films on war abound in Bollywood, why have you taken a reverse gear and made an anti-war film?
I do not want to glamorize war. I have made an anti-war film. Look at the history of our own sub-continent. When the British left, they sliced India into pieces and left many unresolved issues to ensure that we fight for a whole generation.
Three generations have passed, and we are still fighting and killing, and dying! If you look into the history of the West, Western Europe and America have not fought a war on their soil for the last more than 60 years. They have made others fight on others' soil. And benefited from them.
In fact, they have exported wars to poorer nations. This is one of the reasons for their prosperity. When some parts of the world are at war, their armaments industry keeps bulging with profits. To put it briefly, whenever an Indian or Pakistani, or an Iraqi or Palestinian or Afghan soldier dies, someone in Europe would have made a quick buck. That is the rip-off economics of war. Simple, and brutal! This is one of the elements that I have touched upon in "Tango Charlie".
Has "Tango Charlie" anything to do with Indo-Pak conflict or is it about a war within?
Let me clarify that "Tango Charlie" is not about war but about a soldier and his psyche his personal life and the implications of war on his life. For us, war means a conflict with Pakistan. It brings out the patriot in us. We sing songs in the soldiers' glory. Pass around stories of their bravado. Make movies about war heroes.
"Tango Charlie" does not deal with any of these. I have made the film with the express intent that war is not something glamorous and patriotic. It is not something to create songs and dances for. It is not something to make us feel proud. I have said that war is brutal and horrifying.
The film delves into our own areas of conflict. We think war is something that happens only when Pakistan attacks us. In fact, there is the daily war of attrition around us and we conveniently pretend there's nothing wrong. "Tango Charlie" is a stark reminder of this, that we must nip the war in the root, before it spreads like a fire into our hometown.
To put it simply, what does "Tango Charlie" mean?
"Tango Charlie" is just a part of the telegraphic code used by soldiers, aviators and seamen across the world, and by itself it only represents the letters T and C. In this film, it stands for the principal character Tarun Chauhan, played by Bobby Deol.
This is Bobby's story, and that of his mentor Mohammed Ali, played by Ajay Devgan. The film opens with Sanjay Dutt and Suniel Shetty, ace pilots, landing in the snow capped Kargil area, where they find a badly bruised Bobby. They decide to rescue him and from him, they discover a diary, where there are several important notings.
From here, the story unfolds... the story of Bobby Deol, representing an average Indian soldier. Naming the film "Tango Charlie" is my way of drawing attention to the fact that the name could be used to represent any soldier anywhere in the world, implying that the story is the same everywhere.
To me, "Tango Charlie" is the 'Unknown Soldier'. It is my way of paying a tribute to all the soldiers who die across the world each day in wars that are absurdly fought in the name of peace.
Being from the south how did you adapt yourself to the working methods of the Hindi film industry?
I must say that my producer Nitin Manmohan was extremely supportive. In fact, this will rank amongst the best, if not the best in Bobby Deol's career. Ajay Devgan too has been completely immersed in the film right from the world go. Tanishaa, Nandana Sen and others have elevated the film with unforgettable performances.
Kelly Dorji is the shocker in the film. He plays a Bodo leader and he has turned out to be one of the highlights of the film. I am also indebted to Sanjay Dutt and Suniel Shetty who have contributed immensely in small but significant measure, without whose presence, the narrative would not have got its power.
Have you ever thought that songs would impede the flow of the film?
No. There are just four songs; three tuned by Anu Malik and one by Anand Raaj . All the songs have come in at the right time and right places. And there are just about forty minutes of dialogues in the entire narrative lasting roughly two hours and twenty minutes.
Were there any casualties during the making of the film, since you have shot in the wilderness and high altitudes?
There were no casualties. But there were close shaves. We always had a doctor on hand. Shooting in Himachal Pradesh was quite hazardous, where the temperature was very low and even the equipments were frozen. Most of the unit members were frostbitten and we could not shoot for days. In Assam, there was always the fear of the militants, attacking us.
In Veerappan forests, bordering Andhra, Karnataka and Kerala, there were poisonous snakes, reptiles and other insects. In Deccan, there were the rocks that were hot as coals and our skin would peel. And of course, Gujarat was inevitable. In hindsight, however, it was a tremendous experience for all of us. At the end of the day, it was worth all the risks and adventure.