He’s the man behind hardcore actioners from Aatish (1994) to Kaabil (2017). Though he has also directed well-made but commercial non-starters like Hameshaa, Zinda and Dus Kahaaniyan, Sanjay Gupta is better-known for an array of testosterone thrillers like Aatish itself, Kaante, Musafir, Shootout At Wadala, Jazbaa and again, Kaabil and has produced Shootout At Lokhandwala.
Now busy with the post-production of Mumbai Saga and scripting a sequel to the Shootout franchise, Sanjay Gupta has taken up something unique for Hindi cinema. Hindi films have been based, so far as original stories are concerned, on books, plays and short stories, but Sanjay, in a Hindi movie first, is adapting a graphic novel into a— superhero—film!
The graphic four-part book telling a single story, Rakshak: A Hero Among Us has been written by Shamik Dasgupta and is co-created and published by San Jose, California-based Asvin Srivatsangam of Yali Dream Creations. Says Sanjay, “Shamik is a writer who I met on the sets of another big film he is writing for a top name. I read the novel and saw the tremendous potential in it as it lifted itself off the page for me when I read it! So I bought the rights immediately!”
Amidst the current scenario, Sanjay is unsure about when he will take up the project, which will need one big name as the protagonist vigilante, and another as the antagonist. He will not let on which artistes will be cast in these roles, but admits that iconic actors as villains are in short supply and he might cast a star in the negative role.
“There is no clarity on anything right now, but we will not waste time,” he points out. “At some point of time, Shamik, Sameer Hafiz, who is another writer on board, and I will complete the script and keep it ready so that we are prepared to go into production whenever things get better!”
Stating that a film always belongs to the viewer more than to a director, Sanjay will keep his mind open for sequels or spinoffs, but right now, is also keeping an open mind on whether the entire story can be fitted within one movie (“The wealth of information seems impossible to include within the timeline of one motion picture!”) or make more than one movie from it. What Sanjay is clear about is that the film “will be definitive and not derivative!” as in having influences from similar superhero or vigilante Hollywood movies. “I want to make a film for which the international version will only need subtitles and no other change!”
Sanjay stresses that what he is adapting into a film is a “graphic novel” and not a comic. What is the difference, we ask, and he says, “A graphic book is about far more evolved storytelling, and the writing is more literate. Broadly, I would say that comic books can be compared to Doordarshan and satellite channels and a graphic book to the evolved content on OTT platforms!”
He concludes, “It will be great seeing how we can take Rakshak, about an ex-Indian army marine commando, out of the two-dimensional world of graphic books and put him in the three-dimensional world of film. It’s a lot of fun, and very exciting.”
Sanjay is known oftener than not for his music and admits that he cannot conceive any film without songs. However, he says, “But here, the tonality of the narrative does not permit classic songs, so, though it is difficult to commit at this stage, I will try and work on using songs as I did in Zinda, one of the earliest Hindi films to use music differently from the typical lip-synch kind.”
Well, we cannot wait for a superhero minus superpowers. That’s as good as another first in Hindi cinema.
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