July 27, 2002 
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Sanjay Gupta
Who is the surprise package of Kaante?
Director Sanjay Gupta on making a man's film

This is a room with a view. A glossy poster of Kaante declares 'Six complete strangers. One perfect crime'.

Another poster of an under production film Plan shows Sanjay Dutt pointing his middle finger rudely at the onlooker.

The desk is crowded with DVDs --- noir thrillers being the prominent ones, while books on legendary films and filmmakers grace the bureau.

Filmmaker Sanjay Gupta's den truly screams films.

Gupta is known for his fast-paced action thrillers like veteran producer G P Sippy's big budget, multi-starrer Aatish starring Sanjay Dutt, Aditya Panscholi, Karisma Kapoor and Raveena Tandon. The film met with average response. All his other projects , Hamesha (Saif Ali Khan, Kajol), Khauff (Sanjay Dutt, Manisha Koirala), Ram Shastra (Jackie Shroff, Manisha Koirala), and Jung (Sanjay Dutt, Jackie Shroff, Raveena Tandon, Shilpa Shetty) met with an abysmal fate at the box-office.

He is yet to deliver a solid hit, but the director is very optimistic about Kaante. It is the first project by White Feather Films, a company formed by Gupta in collaboration with friend and actor Sanjay Dutt.

Shot prominently in Los Angeles, Kaante boasts of a Hollywood crew, along with an unconventional starcast comprising Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt, Sunil Shetty, Kumar Gaurav, Lucky Ali, Mahesh Manjrekar, Rati Agnihotri, Malaika Arora, Isha Kopikkar, Namrata Cooper and Gulshan Grover.

The storyline and promotional slogans (Six crooked thugs. One straight cop) seem to suggest that the film derives inspiration from Quentin Tarantino's cult classic Reservoir Dogs. Sanjay Gupta along with Aftab Shivdasani, Lucky Ali, Pritish Nandy and Sunil Shetty at the Kaante launch

But Gupta declares, "It is not a remake of any one film." Sukanya Verma finds out why:

You have been quite candid about the fact that Kaante has been inspired from Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. Why this film specifically?

First, I didn't choose Reservoir Dogs. Kaante is not inspired by Reservoir Dogs. I haven't been candid about that at all. (Laughs)

In fact the media has been going crazy saying Kaante is a remake of Reservoir Dogs. It is not.
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My film is in the genre of films like Reservoir Dogs, The Asphalt Jungle, The Killing, City On Fire. These are the kind of films where you have five or six guys getting together to pull off a heist and how things go wrong.

It is a crime film, not a remake of any one film. Reservoir Dogs itself is a remake of a Hong Kong-based film called City On Fire.Sanjay Gupta instructing Amitabh Bachchan, Jeff Davies and Kumar Gaurav

Are you a Quentin Tarantino fan?

Of course I am. I enjoy his writing more than his movies.

Tell us about Kaante.

I had been working on the script of Kaante for a long time. It is about six guys who meet in jail. They are out of luck. They are all 40-plus. They decide to pull off one robbery together and plan to loot a bank.

How they plan it, execute and rob the bank and how their internal differences destroy them forms the crux of the film.

After you decided on the subject of Kaante, who was the first person you discussed it with?

Sanjay Dutt. Kaante moved from there on.

Did the idea of forming a joint production company with Dutt come about around the same time?

We have always wanted to do a lot of movies we believed in. But we could not find the producers with the same vision. The only way to get them made without making any compromises was to make it ourselves.

We chose the name White Feather because it sounds pure. In most Latin American countries, the white feather is considered a symbol of purity and longevity.

The film has six key characters. How did you ensure that each character looks different from the other?

To begin with, I sketched each protagonist. If you notice, no two characters look alike. (Pointing to a publicity poster of Kaante). That's the first differentiation.

Then their individual chararterisation and the extended subplots make them different.

What about their look?

Mike Michaels from Los Angeles worked on the look of each character. I had done the same a year ago. As you can see (pointing at a collage of individual stills of Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt, Sunil Shetty, Lucky Ali, Kumar Gaurav, Mahesh Manjrekar), these have been clicked by photographer Subi Samuel. The shots were taken when we did a special photoshoot as part of the makeup test.Sanjay Dutt

The casting of Kaante is unconventional. Stars like Amitabh Bachchan and Sanjay Dutt, action hero Sunil Shetty, director-turned-actor Mahesh Manjrekar, actor-making-a-comeback Kumar Gaurav and singer-turned-actor Lucky Ali. Was this deliberate?

We chose them because we wanted to make a film about characters, not stars.

Every director dreams of working with Amitabh Bachchan. What do you have to say about your opportunity?

Oh yes, he was a dream to work with. It still feels like a dream. I still cannot digest the fact that I directed him.

How was it directing a director (Mahesh Manjrekar)?

Wonderful. It was like directing any other actor. He is actually an actor, a professional one at that. He dyed his hair grey for the film. Working with him was marvellous.

Did you have a hard time managing so many actors? Were there any ego clashes?

Not at all. We had a blast shooting for this film. Everyone was extremely professional. Since we had tough deadlines, we worked at breakneck speed. The entire US schedule was completed in 30 days.

Why did you decide to shoot the film in Los Angeles?

Two reasons: Kaante is based in the US. And the characters reside there.

Second, we shot in Hollywood, LA. My co-producer, Raju Sharad Patel, is from Hollywood. He organised the whole international crew, cameras and shooting equipment. The entire production crew is from Hollywood.

Pritish Nandy Communications is also a co-producer. They are also the financiers of Kaante. We have all pooled in our resources to make this film. We also have future projects lined up.

Was the shooting of Kaante affected by the September 11 attacks?

We were affected for like three-four days. Everything came to a close. The location where we were shooting in was a sensitive area, so we were not allowed to shoot there. We had to shift, reallocate dates and schedules.

It did affect us in a major way. But we overcame that.Amitabh Bachchan in Kaante

Kaante seems to be an all-male cast...

(Interrupting) There are heroines too. There is Rati Agnihotri (opposite Amitabh Bachchan), Malaika Arora (opposite Sunil Shetty), Isha Kopikkar (opposite Sanjay Dutt), and US-based actress Namrata Cooper (opposite Kumar Gaurav).

They have definite characters. We chose them because they do not have a set image.

But it still focuses on the male stars, right?

Absolutely. It is a man's film. It is the first in our industry. Unless you experiment with genres, give the audience something they have not seen before, how do you know they will like it or not?

But I will tell you that Kaante is a big risk.

How important are the dialogues in Kaante?

Well, it is a dialogue-oriented film. Milap Zaveri has written the dialogues.

Considering it is in the same genre of Reservoir Dogs, are there foul words in Kaante too?

Yes, it does have a lot of profanities.

How come you have not faced trouble with the censors?

We have not gone to the censors yet. Once we do, we will [get in trouble].

Is it true that Raveena Tandon and Lisa Ray were to act in the film?

Lisa was, but Raveena was never a part of the film. Raveena will never be a part of anything to do with a part of White Feather Films.

How come? Did you two not become friends during the making of Aatish?

Yes. We are. That is why I do not want to mix business with friendship.

Tell us some interesting anecdotes that took place while filming Kaante.

An incident that comes to mind is the one after the September 11 attacks. Sunil had a slight problem at the LA airport. The officials thought he looked suspicious --- he had sported a scruffy goatee beard for Kaante. It was only after he patiently explained he is an Indian actor that they let him off.

All your films so far have been accused of being remakes of hit Hollywood films. For instance Aatish (State Of Grace), Jung (Desperate Measures), Khauff (The Juror) and now Kaante with Reservoir Dogs...

I am indifferent to such comparisons. I am a filmmaker not a writer. Hollywood filmmakers dish out remakes of European cinema all the time but when we do the same here, people freak out.

There are inherent double standards within the film industry. As far as I am concerned, I will beg, borrow and steal from any medium --- be it films, newspapers, magazines, novels, reality, fiction --- to make an interesting story.

Sanjay Dutt has been a constant fixture in all your films, barring the odd Hamesha and Ram Shastra. You share a healthy friendship, on and off the sets. Does either of you tend to take the other for granted as a result?

We never take each other for granted. We love and respect each other.

Your films have always boasted of big stars. Have you never thought of making a quick film with newcomers?

I have, but it somehow never materialises.

Besides Kaante what other projects are you handling?

I am producing Plan, which is on the floors. It is a crazy, fun entertainer with youngsters. The film stars Sanjay Dutt, Karisma Kapoor, Dino Morea, Sanjay Suri, Bikram Saluja. My associate director Hriday Shetty is directing the film.

Who do you think is the surprise package of Kaante?

Me! (Laughs)


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