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Anubhav Sinha Explains Why He Didn’t Approach Amitabh Bachchan for Mulk

In an exclusive interview to News18, Anubhav SInha talks about the standing ovations that Mulk has been receiving at theatres, its ban in Pakistan and why he didn’t cast Amitabh Bachchan in the movie.

Sneha Bengani | News18.com@sneha_bengani

Updated:August 7, 2018, 2:48 PM IST
Anubhav Sinha Explains Why He Didn’t Approach Amitabh Bachchan for Mulk
(Phoot: Anubhav Sinha official Facebook handle/ Youtube screenshot)

On the surface, director Anubhav Sinha’s latest release, Mulk — a courtroom drama focusing on the perils of linking terrorism with religion and othering communities based on prejudice — may seem critical of the ruling government’s politics to some, but the filmmaker says divisive governance is not a four-year-old phenomenon but a 70-year-old practice deep-rooted in the Indian psyche.

Sinha, who has directed films like Tum Bin, Dus and Ra.One, was attacked on Twitter after Mulk’s trailer launch and was labelled a Muslim propagandist. Today, five days into the film’s release, he is being lauded by audiences across faiths.

In an exclusive interview to News18, the filmmaker talks about the standing ovations that Mulk has been receiving at theatres, its ban in Pakistan and why he didn’t cast Amitabh Bachchan in the movie. He also explains why Taapsee Pannu was the only choice for the lead role.

How difficult was it to make a film like Mulk in the current socio-political climate?

I was advised by some friends against choosing a controversial subject but to my mind this wasn’t controversial at all. If you notice, there was so much controversy before the film’s release but ever since it hit the theatres, there hasn’t been.

Mulk is not saying anything against anybody. If anything at all, it is against prejudice, irrespective of who the people practicing it are.

You also faced threats during the making of Mulk...

By paid unidentified trolls on Twitter? Sure. But nothing ever amounted to any real danger.

How are people reacting to the film?

We knew critics would like Mulk or that they would at least not trash it. But I was expecting more disagreement from them on the film’s politics. However, there has been none, which is heartening.

As for audience’s reaction, despite Mulk being intense and not big on entertainment, I heard people clap on Friday night when I went to see it in theatre, which, honestly, was surprising. I am getting messages that it is getting standing ovations. Though I am not realising it now but Mulk has done more to my career than all my other films put together. If a director, who has made an important film with Shah Rukh Khan (Ra.One), can be known for another film, I think that’s quite an achievement.

Is there any pattern in the audience’s response?

Not at all. I am surprised. I asked a programmer of a big multiplex chain if more Muslims were watching the film, he said no. It’s not that the theatres in Muslim areas are doing better than others. No matter their religion, people are watching Mulk.

Was it a conscious choice to not cast any star in the film?

I wanted a vulnerable man in his mid-sixties. Despite my deep desire to work with Amitabh Bachchan at least once before either of us retires, I didn’t cast him in Mulk for two reasons. One, he has just done a very significant courtroom film. It wouldn’t have been very exciting to see him back in the court again. Two, he is such a larger-than-life personality that audience expect him to successfully deal with any problem. I wanted someone who could be believably helpless on screen. Hence, Rishi Kapoor.

As for working with Mr. Bachchan, I am waiting for a story that I can take to him and say, ‘Sir, let’s make this’.

The decision of putting Taapsee Pannu at the helm of affairs seems to be working.

I never approached anyone else. In fact, she was the first actor I told the story to. She had heard it even before I wrote the script. As a person, Taapsee is very opinionated, strong, transparent and honest. She fitted the role perfectly well.

Mulk has been banned in Pakistan.

I have no idea. When I asked Zee International, the film’s worldwide distributor, they said they weren’t given any reason. Interestingly, the head of Pakistan’s film censor board has recently started following me on Twitter. I’ll follow him back and try to have a conversation about this.

You have made films across genres — romance, action, sci-fi and now a socio-political drama. What are you working on next?

My next film is a funny but dark political satire called Abhi Toh Party Shuru Hui Hai. It has actors like Saurabh Shukla, Pankaj Tripathi, Kumud Mishra, Richa Chadha, Divya Dutta, Vinay Pathak and Pavan Malhotra.

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