‘Erotica is a state of mind’

'Hate Story'

The Bhatt’s have had a singularly intimate relationship with the genre of explicit films. Having explored every vertical within the category from pornos shot with hidden cameras to adultery of every kind, they are now ready with their latest: ‘hate story’ an erotic thriller that is elaborate enough to include prostitution and other things in an effort to seek revenge. While erotica is often perceived as full frontal exposure, the director of the film Vivek Agnihotri tells Kunal Guha that it has a lot more than just that.

How did ‘Hate Story come about?

Vikram Bhatt had written the subject and when he narrated it to me, I was taken aback by the boldness of the story. It portrayed the power of womankind in a totally different way. It was something that has never been seen in Indian society or even in western society for that matter. Then I realised that it can be the character’s choice to do what she does and there can be a real life person just like her. In fact when I heard the story for the first time, I could relate it to the story of a very close friend of mine and then I began developing the story and instantly had a mental draft of how to go about it.

Is your film based on a true incident or a person?
Every human drama comes out of real life. If you’re making a fantasy, it’s a different thing. May be Vikram didn’t write it keeping a person in mind but I would be lying if I said I don’t know people who’ve gone through similar experiences that the character goes through in the film.

What were the challenges in filming ‘Hate Story’?
The biggest challenge was that since we were shooting in Delhi in November-December, there was a lot of fog and I wanted to capture that fog and I wanted to capture the new parts of Delhi which would the Gurgaon area and the emerging cities around it. So it was very difficult to wake people up at 4 am in the morning and have them in front of the camera by 5-5.30 am when invariable everyone would go to bed by 12.30 in the night. So it was very difficult to keep the crew and cast motivated through the period of 2 months when we shot the film.

When it comes to the storyline, the biggest challenge was to ensure that everyone understands what you’re making. It often happens in action movies, when everyone thinks that in every scene there has to be some action sequence and everyone is so involved and engaged that they forget that they’re dealing with human beings and that there has to be some relationship or exchange that leads to the action. So if you’re making an erotic thriller, it’s very easy for you to get carried away and make it a 100 percent erotic movie which will turn people off.  So it was very challenging to manage a balance between firstly- it’s a very dramatic emotion-based revenge drama and those emotions have to come out and secondly – people have to be able to chase the plot. Somehow we got too engrossed in these factors and the erotica just came across as an icing on the cake.

While there is no formula for an ideal erotic thriller, are there essentials for any erotic thriller?
I am no champion of this cause. I have learnt while making this film that erotica doesn’t mean that you just show skin all the time. A film shot at a beach is not erotica. Erotica is a state of mind. So you have to create those kinds of moments in your film where sex becomes an integral part of the scene. If one thinks that making an erotica just means getting a sexy chick and get her clothes off then you can’t make an erotica, it would just be titillation which is something else.

How does one tread the balance between skin show and doing justice to the genre of erotica?
When you see the film, you will be shocked to see that there isn’t much skin show but it has some of the boldest love making scenes ever. You don’t need to show skin but your characters need to have a certain attitude. It’s more about body language and it’s about the chemistry between two characters and even if it’s a 2 minute shot, its more effective than a 15 minute scene where a couple is faking an orgasm.

What were your learnings as a filmmaker from working on this project?
It’s taken away a very big part of me and it’s enriched me and I’ve learnt the language of commercial Bollywood cinema. So far, my films have been for a very niche and selected audience. (But wasn’t Chocolate an all out commercial film?). ‘Chocolate’ was speaking a very urban language and wasn’t cutting across small towns and villages and speaking a very relatable language. This film will work in an Inox at Nariman Point (an upmarket multiplex in south Mumbai) as much as it would at an Edward Cinema (a decrepit single screen) and that is the beauty of this film. It’s all thanks to Vikram (Bhatt) who persuaded and convinced me against my hesitance towards commercial films. I understood that the joy of entertaining millions of people is far greater than getting a lot of appreciation of a selected few.

Which are your favourite revenge films?
I don’t want to quote international films as there is no end to that list. But among Hindi films, my all time favourite is ‘Trishul’. In the film, the hero who is in a relationship uses his physical power and his mind to take revenge. In fact, I kept telling Paoli Dam (the lead actress in ‘Hate Story’) throughout the making of this film that she was playing Amitabh Bachchan from Trishul although there is nothing in common between the films.

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