The first look of Yash Raj Films’ new movie New York – Kabir Khan’s second directorial feature film was released along with Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi last Friday.
New York will be Yash Raj’ Films’ first release in the year 2009. In his first ever interview to the press after the trailer release, director Kabir Khan talks about New York, defends John Abraham’s ho-hum performance in Kabul Express and why he cast him again for New York, opines on 26/11 Mumbai terror tragedy and umpteen films being made on the subject.
The first look of New York was released last week. What response did you get for it?
The response has been good so far. I have also read reactions of people on a couple of websites and seen the response on youtube.com. The trailer of New York has got people talking about the film, which is what we wanted.
The trailer is truly representative of the film. The purpose of the trailer was to give the film an intrigue element, which has been achieved. It is too early to reveal anything else.
What in this subject excited you now after so many years? It’s been more than seven years since 9/11 attack happened.
See, 9/11 is just the backdrop of the movie. The film is about several other things, which I cannot reveal at this point. There are several more layers in the film.
Various films have already been made on 9/11 in many parts of the world.
Yes, I have seen a lot of films made on 9/11 and most of the films made are American. They have a certain approach towards this subject, which people from other parts of the world do not have.
Back then as a documentary film maker did you go to New York to shoot 9/11 incident?
I was already present in New York when 9/11 happened. After that incident I stayed back in New York for a month and hence I got to experience a lot. And apart from this I have done a lot of more research for the movie.
At what stage is the film right now? By when will the film be ready?
The New York schedule is over completely. We have a two day schedule in the Middle East, which will also be done soon. The film will be ready in three months, but its release date will only be decided in 2009.
Abraham received a lot of flak for his acting in Kabul Express. How did you choose to cast him again in New York?
An actor is as good as his director. If Abraham received flak for his acting in Kabul Express, I take the flak too. It is just that Arshad had funnier lines in the movie and he is such a good actor, that Abraham suffered in comparison to Arshad. Apart from that, Abraham has great commitment towards his work. Also I will not forget the fact that Abraham signed Kabul Express much before Yash Raj Films stepped in as producers, otherwise many actors come only because of Yash Raj. Also Abraham physicality suits the character in New York to the tee.
What were your learnings from Kabul Express?
I am a film student and I understand that certain films require a cinematic treatment and certain don’t. The subject of Kabul Express was such that it required a documentary-like treatment. The film’s approach was meant to be niche, it was shot on a budget of Rs 6.5 crore, but the expectation from the film was of a mainstream delivery.
Kabul Express has won awards at the most prestigious film festivals, the movie got released in places in the eastern belt like Taiwan, Korea and Philippines due to the film festivals.
So this time what treatment have you given to New York?
New York is a more larger than life film, because the movie’s subject required such treatment. It is not as small and intimate as Kaabul Express. New York is real and of course glossy at the same time, but it doesn’t take away anything from the movie. The actors are glamorous so they add a lot to the film but the costumes are very real, they aren’t wearing make up and there is no unrealistic lighting.
Kaabul Express did not have a heroine and this time your movie has Katrina kaif. Also this is Katrina’s first "real" film. Did you have to convince her a lot for the movie?
Kaif suits her role very well. We were not sure initially if she’d be interested to act in a movie like this, but she decided to do the film by herself. And this is her first attempt at a subject like this.
Neil has just had a single movie release until now- Johnny Gaddar. How did you decide to cast him?
First of all there are very few young actors in our industry. After I saw Neil in Johnny Gaddar I knew he would be able to play the character in my movie. He had a very intense yet vulnerable look about him, which works very well for New York. He is a surprise package in the film and has a very important role.
How was your shooting experience in New York City? What co-operation did you receive from New York film commission?
The New York Film Commission is very good and professional. The film New York has been shot in the city of New York and Philadelphia. It is a lot easier to shoot in Philadelphia than in New York. But the film commission helped us a lot with police security; we had marked the areas of shoot one month in prior so we had clear permission for shooting on roads. We were less stressed during shoots.
Why do you work on subjects with social, political and terrorist themes?
The 26/11 incident which changed everyone’s life and it changed some people’s life forever. It is important to reflect such themes in movies. Mani Ratnam’s films have always had such themes; barring one or two all his films have political layers. More and more movies these days are incorporating such backdrops, which is very interesting.
Were you present on location during 26/11 to shoot a documentary or short film?
No, I didn’t go there at the time of the incident. I went after a few days. I made a personal choice to not shoot a documentary on this. So many news channels were already there so I thought they should only do it.
Would you like to make a feature film on 26/11 someday? So many film titles have already been registered for it.
I may get an idea with 26/11, but as of now there is nothing in my mind. Subjects like these need to be dealt with differently. We need sometime to pass so that objectivity comes in otherwise movie makers will get swayed by emotions. I know that 39 film titles have already been registered. I am worried that people are just trying to cash in on the 26/11 incident, which will be tragic and negative. A film maker should not come in a hurry just because the incident is fresh, it is not the correct way to approach a film’s subject.