We need to rise above our circumstances: Hansal Mehta

Even if life threatens to take hope out of our existence, it is imperative to put ‘others’ before ‘self’. Eram Agha talks to Hansal Mehta on his film Shahid that’s about surviving hard realities of life

Eram Agha
Eram Agha
lAST year Dharamshala International Film Festival opened with the screening of the film Shahid, the film had its world premiere at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival’s ‘City to City’ programme, and today the commercial release will take the film out from the festival-going crowd to the masses. 

In his blog he calls himself  “Largely cyncical” but this is subject to change, as the film has taken cynicism out of his life. He doesn’t watch movies while shooting a film just to avoid any external influence. he loves films and food and with some forgettable works like Woodstock Villa his latest offering has placed him on the world map. He talks about Shahid and war films.

Hansal Mehta
Hansal Mehta

What message did you want to give through the film?

I believe films are not about messages but stories. They should be told in a way that people take home some understanding. My film is not making me a preacher but still provokes thought. Shahid mirrors the state of our society. Telling us how everyday occurrences impact common lives. 

Is making a film on a real life hero more challenging than making a film on a fictional character?

Challenges exist in any kind of film. Making a romantic film is as difficult as making a real-life hero’s saga. A romantic film is fictional and requires much more imagination. To tell a real story, we need to do borrow from real-life incidents, follow the graph of the protagonist, get facts right and the challenge then is to tell the story in an engaging way. 

Why didn’t you pick a star for a powerful story like this? What made you choose Raj Kumar Yadav to essay the role of Shahid Azmi?

In this film, the story is about extraordinary circumstances, so picking a name that has a fixed image is certainly not a bright idea. I had to look for someone to fit the narrative about an ordinary man put in extraordinary circumstances.

Do you watch war films?

I am bored of them because war to me is an extreme measure. I think no country should get into it and avoid this extreme all the times. It leads to irreparable destruction, economic downfall and loss for the common man. To some extent our economic crisis is because of the expenditure on defense.hans2_n

But still any war film to recommend?

I quite like the film 1971. It was made realistically and avoided any kind of anti-Pakistan propaganda. I recommend it to anyone interested in the genre. 

How shooting for Shahid changed you?

Well, filming the story made me more aware of the world around me. I went to different places to shoot, went to the courtrooms, got in touch with so many people and all this made me compassionate about people around me. The film is important because we are all the time faced by impossible situations. We need to rise above circumstances and serve others. I wanted to voice my discontentment through this. 

You started Khana Khazana… how often do you cook? 

I am a big time foodie and it is very close to my heart. Some of the recipes I have created are available on my blog. I’d recommend the Daliya Upma and Chicken Breast Bag.

A version of this appeared in Salute to the soldier magazine last year

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