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In an exclusive interview with Firstpost’s Lachmi Deb Roy for her column Not Just Bollywood, Sriram Raghavan talks about cinema changing, the Red Lorry Festival, his upcoming project Ikkis and more.

It is not every day that you get a chance to have a chat with one of the greatest filmmakers of the Indian film industry who understands cinema like the back of his palm. Sriram Raghavan says his next film Ikkis, based on the life of the youngest Param Vir Chakra recipient Arun Khetarpal.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

What do you have to say about your journey in the film industry and cinema changing with stories changing?

That’s a very deep, vast question. I have been watching movies ever since I was 12. The movies have changed and the audiences have evolved to a large extent. Now we have movies made in a much more realistic zone. I feel the pattern keeps changing every few years.

Now writers are taking chances with stories and doing things which they wouldn’t have dared to do earlier. Even producers are far more accepting largely because audiences are now willing to see characters which are not just black and white. No more are people willing to accept the good guy and bad guy stories. But there is a lot of openness for disturbing stories as long as it eventually connects with the people.

What do you have to say about women lead stories?

A lot of the stories have shifted to women-led roles. In the past too we did have had women-led roles, but now we have women characters who are much more layered. I would say much greyer characters. Take for instance, 
Merry Christmas
 also. I am not saying that the character of Katrina Kaif was dark or anything, but then she had dark sides and also took a chance. And a lot of her vulnerability was also there in her.

What is the method you used to select the film at the festival at the
Red Lorry Festival
?

They asked me to make a list of thrillers, which I would love to see on the big screen and recommend. And they had a few choices, which they had already acquired the rights to certain films. I was given the liberty to add a few more films to it.  So we managed to sort of come up with six. And of course there are many more which are worthwhile contenders, but there were only six we were allowed.

On the making of Merry Christma… I know it is based on a novel, but what was the method that you applied while making the film?

When I read the novel, I distinctly remember the girl was quite opaque. You don’t get to know much about the girl from the book. I mean, the narrator is going through the proceedings. So it’s about his thoughts you’re seeing and so on. And so, but I love the story, the book had a different ending from ours. And so it’s just a great one-night story. Of course it was set in Paris, but I tried bringing out the Indian connection to it.

What is the next project that you’re working on?
I’m working on this war film called 
Ikkis
. We are shooting that and we are finishing it this year. And that’s the story of Arun Khetarpal. In the 1971 war, he won the Param Vir Chakra. He is a tank man. He was from the Punarvas regiment and he was just 21.

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