Media reports suggests Uri: The Surgical Strike has declared a war of its own at the box office as it nears the 200-crore mark without much effort. In a long, long time, it is also said that people have been going for a repeat show. Such is the draw and success of this film, which trade expert Taran Adarsh attributes to “the choice of story as well as storytelling. The surgical attack and how it was executed is brilliantly depicted. Secondly, Uri is all about national pride, power and patriotism.”
For debutant filmmaker Aditya Dhar, there are a few personal inspirations which worked for him. In an exclusive chat over phone from Mumbai, he tells the Indian Weekly all about the film and what he is thinking, going forward (more on that later).
On 29 September 2016, commandos of the Indian army crossed the Line of Control to carry out surgical strikes in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) as retaliation for the killing of 17 Indian soldiers. The attack, which happened on the intervening night of September 28-29, killed 38 terrorists and dismantled various terror camps. It was hailed as one of the most successful covert operations conducted by the Indian army across the Line of Control. In the wake of it all, the Indian Motion Picture Producers Association passed a resolution to ban Pakistani actors from the industry. For Dhar, this was the third time he was close to making his directorial debut with Katrina Kaif and Pakistan-based actor Fawad Khan in a film called Raat Baqi.
Having missed his debut venture yet another time, he decided to turn this setback into an opportunity. He started researching on the surgical strikes – reading articles, talking to retired army officers and journalists and by the end of it had a fantastic film idea. About the same time, he was told that somebody in Mumbai was trying to get the film rights of the surgical strikes. A panicked Dhar quickly turned his body of research into screen play. He had a clear objective. The rest, as they say, is history.
Uri: The Surgical Strike is experiencing phenomenal success in India and abroad. As film critic Subhash Jha says, the movie “brings the blood of cross-border tension to a boil but avoids a spill over. There is a rush of patriotic pride in the product — and why should there not be? — but it is reined-in, curbed and never allowed to spill over in a gush of irrepressible jingoism. If you want to see soldiers dancing around a bonfire singing about how much they love their country and how much miss their loved ones, then you’ve got the wrong war film.”
Indeed, Dhar tells us that having his roots in Jammu, his deep-seated fascination for the army and watching war movies growing up were the personal inspirations for the film. “I always had this in mind that if I ever made a war film it should be on par with any great war films in the world. That was the intention. I don’t know if we have achieved it but the love we have achieved is unparalled.”
Importantly, he also wanted to show why the surgical strike was necessary. “I wanted to channelise the inner anger of the soldiers. At the battlefront, every soldier has a buddy soldier who becomes an integral part of his life. If that buddy loses his life, the resentment and anger are beyond what we civilians can imagine.” So he tapped into that mine of resentment and anger as a result of which, he avers, people are able to connect with the sentiments of the film.
And in all this, his love for the army shines through. In fact, he had once wanted to join the army. “They are standing at the border protecting us, the fact that we are talking is because our security is ensured. The most heart-breaking thing for me is when someone says something against the Indian army. You are sitting in your house and you have no idea what they are undergoing to keep you safe.”
Dhar is still soaking in the success of Uri. He says the love and appreciation he has received post the film is inexplicable. “Young people are now saying they want to join the army and serve the country. You couldn’t have asked for anything better. It’s humbling.”
Dhar, who grew up in Delhi, was brought up in a family with a love for the arts. His mother, who was the Dean of music, Faculty of Music and Fine Arts, Delhi University, had a huge influence. He admits he was not good in studies and so wanted to do movies. He took the first step and joined theatre which exposed him to the multi-faceted role a director dons – from handling music to set designs to actors. “I was just fascinated by what a director does,” he reveals.
The question that everyone is now asking Dhar: what next? Having set such a high benchmark with his first film, is the pressure high? “I am not the person who takes any kind of pressure. I would have felt nervous if I knew I could have done it better. With Uri, I gave it my all, the team and everyone involved gave more than their 100 per cent. So I am not nervous of the next project because if my conscious is clear and I give the same 100 percent, I will do a decent job.”
But that having said, the pressure is keeping on his toes. “Now, I am thinking of something that is better than even Uri, and that is going to be really difficult to do. I have to push myself in the right direction to create something that’s memorable and which we can all be proud of.”
Dhar says he is not thinking about any project for now as he is bad in multi-tasking. Rest assured, he has a lot of stuff up his sleeve – from a love story to super hero to action films. What is important, he feels, is telling the best story possible. “I want films that are entertaining. There is so much negativity happening in the world, on social media and in our newspapers. I just want to make sure that whatever I am giving to the audience is happiness for those few hours and spread a bit of positivity.”
To Uri fans in Australia, Dhar hopes their love will keep growing!