For weeks our photographer followed the production of a low-budget film inspired by the Mumbai terror attacks. An inside look at the insanely comic handling of this tragedy
Not long after the night of 26 November, several filmmakers had a wholly original thought. Why not make a disaster movie out of this? And so, as the filming of Total Ten commenced at Film City in Goregaon, there was a certain hesitation over the sensitivity of the subject, which roughly translated to: “Will somebody kill me for doing this?” One actor asked another if the script had an anti-Muslim or anti-Pakistan stance, and got a shrug in response. Neither had seen the script.
Rajan Varma, who plays Ajmal Kasab, was in a pink polka-dot shirt and tight denims. His thumbs hovered over his phone’s keypad while unit boys prepared the set. Tonight, Kasab and Ismail would sneak past Cama Hospital and fire upon a police van. While the actors waited, a short man ambled up from the set to say hello to Varma. He bowed his head slightly at the other actors, who did the same. After he left, Homi Wadia, who played Hemant Karkare, asked who he was. “Oh,” Varma said, “He’s the director.”
It was that sort of movie. The actors expressed hope that there would be controversy. “Internet pe dekho, sir. Film ne aag laga li hai, aag (Check out the Internet, sir. The film is a rage already, a rage)!” Varma told them confidently. When asked about this, they replied that it wasn’t about the controversy, the film had a message: terrorism does not pay. They tried hard to put a positive spin on the enterprise. But Varma took pride in publicity, irrespective of the sentiment behind it. A month ago, he said, two men had attacked his car. “They had a weapon, sir!” although he wasn’t sure. In half an hour, India TV and the others put him on television.
—text by Rahul Bhatia