Filmmaker Kunal Kohli is making his foray into the digital space with the Zee5 original film Lahore Confidential. The spy thriller tells the story of a RAW agent, Ananya (Richa Chadha), who falls in love with an ISI agent, played by Arunoday Singh.
While Lahore Confidential is touted to be high on patriotism, touching on India-Pakistan relations can be sensitive, especially in an age where sentiments are quick to be ‘hurt’. Kunal hoped his film does not run into any such controversy.
“The victor is the Indian side, so I don’t think there is anything to upset anybody. We have taken care of it. It is a pro-India film but at the same time, it is a pro-peace film. It is not anti-anybody, it is anti-war, which is a good thing. Fingers crossed, nobody gets offended. We have shown everyone in a good light from the Indian side,” he said.
Kunal said that his reason for taking up Lahore Confidential was twofold. “One was, I wanted to work with Richa and finally, I got the opportunity, because she had already been cast for the role. Two, I really liked one aspect of the script. Earlier, women were objectified in spy thrillers – they were just used to trap men. Whereas, in this film, a man is used to trap a woman. I loved the twist in the tale. That was a very interesting take, that in the honeytrap, the man is the honey,” he said.
Last year, in May, Kunal lost his aunt to Covid-19. Naturally, he was worried about shooting during the pandemic. “We filmed in October. I followed very serious protocols, right from driving my own car from the airport in Lucknow and back. So, for the entire shoot, I drove myself to location and back. I sent packages of my own bedsheets, pillow covers, towels and everything else. I carried my own cutlery and disposable plates. I made sure everyone was at least six feet away from me on set, if not ten feet,” he said.
“I was very careful on set. In a friendly way, I told everyone that if I see anyone without a mask, I will tell the producer to cut their per-day fee. Of course, we would never actually do that. No one took off their mask and everyone was very strict, as a result of which we did not have a single case on our set,” he added.
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A few months ago, after the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, Kunal talked about how failure changes the way people in the film industry view you. On being asked if he was sidelined when his films did not do well, he said, “Yes, I say that from personal experience and I say that from the experience of other people. In fact, at one time, we used to joke among ourselves, us filmmakers and even with actors… I have seen this with actors, how many bouquets they get on their birthday is an indication of how their last film has fared. One very senior actor said, ‘Kuch saal baad toh birthday par bouquet hi aane bandh ho jaate hai (After a few years, you stop receiving bouquets on your birthday altogether).’”
Kunal called it a ‘fact of the industry’. “The entire treatment and perception that you get is very different when your film is successful or not successful. It is the way of the world, you have to accept it and not take work seriously. You should not get very upset if people don’t treat you well if your film is not a hit and you should not take it too seriously when they roll out the red carpet for you. Both should be taken with a pinch of salt,” he added.
Kunal advised people from the film fraternity to not give others ‘power’ over them. “The way people treat you is up to them but the way you react to it is up to you. So if you are going to get upset and react, they are going to keep controlling the way you are. If you walk with your head held high, it is not going to make a difference to you and you are not giving them the power to treat you like that,” he said.
Lahore Confidential, starring Richa, Arunoday and Karishma Tanna in the lead roles, will release on Zee5 this Thursday.