In May 2004, while shooting for a film at Mumbai's Mahalaxmi railway station, a crew member of director Kaizad Gustad’s film Mumbai Central was fatally knocked down by a train.
After a long legal battle, Kaizad has finally moved on. He will now direct Sunny Leone and Sachin Joshi in a film called Jackpot.
The 45-year-old re-visits the incident for the first time. "I’ve never spoken about what happened because I didn’t understand it myself. We tried to save the injured girl's (Nadia Khan) life in the best way we could. Two friends of mine took her to the hospital where they were told they had to fill a punchnaama (FIR). The funny thing was, we went to the police to tell them exactly what happened. We didn’t know how to deal with it.”
Kaizad came away disillusioned from the incident. “I lost six years of my life. That’s how long it took for the case to be closed. I just wanted closure, whatever the verdict. Finally, the judges were very fair to me,” he says.
“Alexandra and I were married for just five months when this happened," he continues. "Though she was new to the marriage and the country, she stood by me like a pillar of strength. My family was with me, including my extended family of very crazy Irani cousins. I met cousins and relatives I had never met before.”
Looking back, Kaizad says, “After what happened, I just went up to the Himalayas, where I had grown up, and meditated. I also travelled all over the world, including Indonesia and Vietnam. I was feeling restless because I wasn’t making movies. I missed that every day. I was completely cut off from the Mumbai film industry.”
When Kaizad was ready to make a film, Bollywood was in no mood to accept him. “I spent three years trying to re-introduce myself to Mumbai but no one was willing to give me a movie to make. It was worst than the time when I had to make my first film.”
During the time he was away, Kaizad had two children, Zahaan, four, and Zachary, one.
"My inspiration for returning to filmmaking were my children. For their sake, I couldn’t just sit back and watch the world go by,” he says.
Jackpot, he says, is not a romantic film. "It is a crime thriller, shot in the backwaters of Goa, on board a floating casino boat. It's in the style of the noire films of the 1920s and 1930s. It's very dark and moody. Everyone is trying to con everyone else. Sunny Leone plays a femme fatale.”
Naseeruddin Shah, who had starred in Kaizad's directorial debut Bombay Boys (1998), will be back in Jackpot.
“Fifteen years ago, I remember running around with a script called Bombay Boys. Now I feel like the new kid on the block. A whole generation hasn’t seen Bombay Boys. The film industry has changed radically. It’s far more open to films like Bombay Boys. The audience has grown up as well," Kaizad signs off.
In the picture: Sunny Leone in Jism (top). Kaizad Gustad with sons Zachary and Zahaan.