Box Office India (BOI): How did this team come together and what prompted all of you to bring Raid to the big screen?
Bhushan Kumar (BK): Kumarji (Mangat), you should be the one to start this.
Kumar Mangat (KM): No no, I think Raj Kumar should start.
Raj Kumar Gupta (RKG): I think Kumarji first got this idea which he later narrated to my writer Ritesh Shah and me. We both found it extremely exciting. We were really interested in the story and the era it was set in. It was the era that had the most raids happening in India. The film is inspired from a real-life character and we found that to be really exciting and interesting. We thought that we could explore this milieu and make a film about it because we need to shed some light on the people whose heroism we have not seen. Thus, the tag line for the film ‘Heroes don’t just come in uniforms’. That was one element which was the most exciting. That is where it all started.
KM: We were actually working on a project like this for quite some time. We spoke to Ajayji (Devgn) about it and he liked the idea. Then we went to Bhushan Kumarji with the script and I think he gave the green signal within the first ten minutes itself.
BK: I was on board after hearing just one line of the story.
KM: Yes, so he came on board and we all signed the contracts to enter this as a co-production. Then we all sat together with Raj Kumarji to discuss the movie. We actually did the pre-production in a very short span of time. The entire film has come together in record time, just about six to seven months. And to make a movie of this huge range with such a star cast is commendable.
BOI: Bhushanji, what made you say yes to produce this film so quickly?
BK: I think the main thing here is the connect. These days, the kind of films which are working, everybody is looking for something that they can relate to or real life cinema. We have also seen that movies like this, which connect with the audience on a day-to-day basis, are doing very well. We have done movies like Baby, Airlift and others that have been in a similar zone. Then there are films that are relatable to the audience like Hindi Medium. These movies always do well. These concepts are working big time with the audience. When Kumarji came to me and told me that there is this idea on which they were planning to make a movie, I immediately connected to it. The reason that I found it so interesting is because nobody has ever based a film on income tax raids before. There was a film like Special 26 which was produced by Kumarji only, but it mainly spoke about conmen and how they conduct fake raids posing as income tax officers. But Raid is a true story. I guess people will get that realism in the film that everybody is looking for. Hence, when we heard this idea, we were confident that it will work with the audience. That is why we got on board with it.
BOI: Speaking about trends, movies that have social messages are working quite well these days. Is there an underlying message in Raid too?
RKG: Any film that is connected to reality, such as income tax, has relevance. We are all social animals and live in a society inhabited by people. So, any film like this or any real life-driven film can carry a message. This film is also about what normal people would do because they might be doing some good work that we might not be aware of. Heroes can be amongst us and they don’t need to be in uniform.
BK: I think the message here is what Ajay sir says in the movie – ‘Tax ki chori bardaasht nahin hoti’ and that everyone has to pay tax. This dialogue here means that we should pay taxes because it is good for our country.
BOI: Raj Kumar, what kind of research did you do for a subject so unique?
RKG: We learnt that this story is from an account of a real life person at a particular point of time in India. When you are doing a film like this, the most important part is research. In this type of research you face two kinds of aspects. Firstly, the person whose story you are inspired by and secondly, the world that is in and around that story.
Therefore, it is not just important to talk to a person whose life it is about or been inspired by. It is very important to take various points of view from different people. We are also exploring the world around the character and the relationships that the character shares in his personal and professional life. Also, 1981 was still a time when the press was not so vocal and we were not aware of many things. I, along with writer Ritesh Shah, met people in order to understand the era and the kind of threats that were prevalent at that point of time. These are the things that we try to do in order to get information as best as we can.
BOI: What were the obstacles during shooting and how did you manage to overcome these?
RKG: I have been fortunate enough to have worked with good producers from the start of my career, be it Ronnie Screwvala or Siddharth Roy Kapur. I have recently started working with Bhushanji and Kumarji, and I really feel that I am lucky to have been given a chance to work with them. To be honest, we did not face obstacles in that sense and it was just the time frame that we were shooting in, which was a little less. So, we all had to be a little more prepared for that time frame. We were able to finish this film in a very short span of time. It was more hard work and less obstacles, in that sense.
BOI: In the past, you have done movies which revolved around different themes. What was it like working on this film and how was it different from your past projects?
RKG: If I talk about myself as a filmmaker, I would do a film only if I am touched by the story. This movie is special in terms of storyline and milieu. Like Bhushan Kumarji said, this film is about something that was never explored before. We have heard about income tax and we have heard about raids. But when we talk about raids, the one thing that comes to our mind is income tax raids kyunki raid police mein bhi hoti hai (Laughs). I have friends who are in the income tax department and when you ask them, they say that yahaan income tax raid hui aur itne paise mile. Also, when we were researching for this film one income tax commissioner told me that the worst thing is to go to somebody’s house and invade their personal space. This is because you see people crying and not giving away their jewellery. It is the worst feeling that you can have but you cannot do anything about it. It is their job. These were the things which seemed interesting and at the same time painful because we have never seen these things happening. That is what makes the film special.
BOI: How involved were the producers in the creative process of making the film?
Abhishek Pathak (AP): I think we were all involved from day one. We were totally involved in the script in terms of helping him understand what we wanted from him in the film and about how he should execute the process. This is our collaboration
RKG: The good thing about Kumarji and Bhushanji is that they are well aware of the creative process. There was never a time when I felt that their creative inputs were not required or invalid. I always had the liberty to do the things that I wanted to in that kind of space and in a very limited amount of time.
BOI: Bhushanji, you have the most prolific studio right now. While promoting Raid, you also released the promo of Blackmail. How do you manage to handle so many projects simultaneously?
BK: We have independent teams that are working in the company. Plus, as we get to work with other producers in joint ventures, it makes us more comfortable handling several projects simultaneously. As a studio, we are capable of releasing eight to ten films. We have done it in the past as well. In fact, in the last two months we have had four releases. It is just a part of the job. I am quite habituated to multi-tasking.
BOI: Raj Kumar, it is the biggest film for you in terms of scale and star-cast. Did that put any pressure on you?
RKG: No. For me, it is not the pressure; it is the responsibility because there is a lot at stake, if I may say so. But I always go by the story and the demands of the script. And fortunately, with my producers and Ajay (Devgn) sir, everybody was on the same page as far as the script was concerned. I have never felt the pressure. Ajay, Ileana (D’Cruz), Saurabh (Shukla) sir, everybody understood the script; they understood the requirement and what this film is. So, nobody was trying to do something that wasn’t required and that helped. I agree to the fact that it is my biggest film till date but I realise that only now, when you mentioned it (Laughs).
BOI: In the midst of clashes at the box office, as we are witnessing currently, Raid is getting a solo release. As filmmakers does it make it easier to release a film?
KM: It definitely makes a difference when it is a solo release. From the time we decided the release date of this film, no other film decided to release on the same date. Also, a week later, no other big film is releasing. So, we will get a good two weeks for our film.
BK: And we decided it long back, when we started the film. Kumarji was very confident, though I was very skeptical about the possibilities of releasing the film on time. But hats off to the team. They have worked day and night to make the film release on March 16. Three days before the release of the film’s promo, many people called me to ask if we are actually releasing it on the respective date, especially other producers as they wanted to schedule their films.
KM: Everything was done on time, be it the shooting or releasing the promo, everything was executed in a smooth way.
BOI: Ileana is also part of the film. Could you elaborate on the significance of her character in the film?
RKG: Ileana portrays the character of a very strong, brave and supportive wife in the film. Her character really came out from the research that we did on the real life story on which the movie is based. I also got to know the wives and families of the income tax officers. The officers confessed that they wouldn’t have been able to do such a difficult job without the constant support of their wives. Not only were the wives supportive, they were also brave enough to understand the job. Nowadays, due to the over-indulgence of the media in the matters of even a dangerous raid, information leaks from the place of the raid to the world outside in no time. The situation was different years back. In those times, when an officer was sent for a raid, their families were usually not aware of where the raid was taking place. Wives would know just the fact that a raid was going to happen but not the exact place or even how many days their husbands would stay there. Even without much information about what was happening they were brave and supportive of their husbands. That kind of really hit me. In our film, the character of the wife also becomes a hero without the uniform.
BOI: As producers, how do you decide to back a particular film?
BK: For me, it depends a lot on the content. Obviously, when you are investing big money, you also look for a big star; in this film we have Ajay sir. But, if the content is not good, not even a big star cast can make the film work.
AP: For example, when we get to see the trailer first, we decide if we want to see the film. Also, it just took one line for us to decide that we want to produce the film.
BK: As businessmen, we know what kind of raids can happen. Many people don’t know about it so people will be excited to see what actually happens. I myself have been in a similar situation. Twenty years back when I first took over the business, an income tax raid took place. All that has been shown in the film is real. They actually come and tear the pillows, curtains and break the walls. It will be entertaining for the audience to see.
BOI: Bhushanji, could you enlighten us about the music of the film?
BK: Yeah, we have blockbuster songs like Sanu ek pal chain by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, which nobody has touched till today, don’t know why. Also, there is Nit khair manga that has also been originally sung by Nusrat sahab and we have recreated it. Both the songs have released and are doing really well. It will go very well with the story because the film is about raids, and also the relationship of a husband and wife. The song has also been captured very well, portraying the moments nicely.
BOI: Kumarji, you have made different scales of films, small films like Pyaar Ka Punchnama with no face value as well as star-led films like Omkara and Raid. Do you approach films differently?
KM: No, there is no difference in the way I approach my films. Be it a small or big film, the process remains the same. It is the same way we shoot, and the structure is also the same. The most important thing for me is people coming to watch the film or not at the theatres.
BOI: Has your job become easier since your son Abhishek has joined you in the business?
KM: Yes, surely. All the creative decisions are taken by him; I mostly take the financial calls. It becomes easier for me as the work is divided.
BOI: Even though this film is about a serious issue, the entertainment aspect needs to be taken care of as well. Did you have to strike a balance to keep the entertainment value of the film alive?
RKG: It is not that it is a serious subject; it is a subject that is very engaging. It is not that just because this is a film about raids, that there aren’t any funny situations. The film is not only about raids but also about moments that you will laugh at. That is what makes it interesting. It is just unbelievable. As they say, reality is stranger than fiction. People might laugh about a joke, but they might not believe it even though it might be true. Humour is one of the elements which is also one of the main attractions of the story.
BOI: What are your expectations from
BK: We will get to know only on Friday. We can just hope for the best. All of us work as a team and have worked very hard for the film. I hope everyone sees this film and enjoys it.