JP Dutta's LoC almost complete
May 2003 release scheduled for the Kargil epic
Subhash K Jha
After a two-month schedule in Leh (the capital of Ladakh in North India) from July to August, J P Dutta's ambitious war epic LoC about the Kargil war is 85 per cent ready. "I am looking at an April or May 2003 release," Dutta spoke exclusively to this writer after his return from Leh.
The film has a huge star cast, including Abhishek Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt, Ajay Devgan, Nagarjuna, Saif Ali Khan, Suniel Shetty, Akshaye Khanna, Manoj Bajpai, Karan Nath, Sanjay Kapoor, Ashutosh Rana, Raj Babbar, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Bikram Saluja, Munish (Armaan) Kohli, Himanshu Malik, Amar Updhayay, Puru Raaj Kumar, Inder Kumar, Mohnish Behl, Ashish Vidyarthi, Kiran Kumar, Ayub Khan, Sudesh Berry, Salil Ankola, Raj Zutshi and Rajeev Goswami.
The director whose previous war epics, Border and Refugee, created new frontiers in mainstream entertainment is tired and ill. A chest cold that caught in the high wintry altitude refuses to leave him.
But the movie mogul has bigger worries on his mind. LoC has proved more expensive than he expected. To add to his worries, there were two deaths in the unit during the Leh outdoors, bringing back unpleasant memories of another ambitious opus, Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Devdas which also claimed a life during the shooting.
There has been a lot of speculative reports in Mumbai about the mishap in Leh. Dutta seems offended by the liberties taken with the truth. His wife Bindiya choruses his sentiments. "People love to talk about a film of this magnitude, especially when the director chooses to do his work quietly. Sadly, even members of our crew are spreading malicious gossip."
J P sets the record straight: "Two unit members --- a light man and camera assistant --- died of cardiac arrest. The post-mortem report revealed that one of them had a 75 per cent blockage in his heart while the other's family had a history of heart attacks. I have already compensated their families, who were very grateful. I don't think they expected the amount I gave them. But it was my duty to do whatever I could for them. In fact, one of them has a son who has just completed his graduation. He will join me as an assistant director."
Dutta is clear about one thing: the deaths weren't due to the high-altitude climate in Leh. "I am not like Neil Armstrong landing on the moon for the first time. Chetan Anand shot a war film, Haqeeqat, in 1964 in Leh. And he shot it at a time when there were no decent hotels in the region. Yet nothing happened, no one died. Later, Shekhar Kapur shot some portions of Joshilay in the same region. And nothing happened. I don't know why this happened in my unit and that too, when we were already well into shooting and suitably acclimatised to the rigorous climate."
As LoC races towards completion, the 50-year-old director seems determined to weather all storms. "This isnt a film about frivolous entertainment. It has to do with a crucial slice of recent history --- the Kargil conflict --- which changed our lives drastically. Shouldn't we all join hands to ensure a safe passage for the film into theatres instead of creating unnecessary suspicion and speculation?"