West indian people

People think I’ve done it all, I haven’t – The New Indian Express

Express press service

The Hindi western is booming. In 2019 we had Sonchiriya and Laal Kaptaan, two gritty and awful period pieces. And now comes Thar, who proudly wears the label of a “black western.” Shot in the titular scorching desert, it’s about an antique dealer (Harshvarrdhan Kapoor) who comes to a village in Rajasthan and gets caught up in a violent plot. There are horses, cattle carcasses and Anurag Kashyap in dialogue. “I feel like this movie isn’t about Gabbar…” Anil Kapoor’s grizzled cop muses in the trailer. Let revisionism begin.

During a chat with Cinema Express, Anil, Harsh and writer-director Raj Singh Chaudhary got into all things western. Extracts….

Sholay is considered the quintessential Indian western. But there have been several other attempts, such as Shekhar Kapur’s Abandoned Joshilaay (1989).
Anil Kapoor: I have good memories of shooting this movie (with Sunny Deol). I didn’t know how to ride a horse. I had only cycled a few hours in Mumbai. But the terrain and atmosphere of Ladakh, where the film was shot, was such that I felt I could do it. Once during filming, I lost control of my horse. I couldn’t see the road for miles. And the horse did not stop! My hands were sweating and I felt like it was the end of my life. Eventually we reached the paved road and the horse started to slip because of the horseshoes. I finally managed to get out of it.

What westerns have you watched or referenced for Thar?
AK: I revisited all of Sergio Leone’s films. I love Once Upon a Time In the West, which wasn’t a big hit when it came out. I also watched a lot of contemporary westerns: No Country for Old Men, Hell Or High Water, Django Unchained, Godless. Harsh also made me watch Drive which is not a western but has some elements of the genre.

HK: My key reference was Nicolas Winding Refn’s Too Old To Die Young series. There is a young protagonist with film noir elements. There’s a lot of stillness in Miles Tiller’s performance that I wanted to draw inspiration from.

Raj: I grew up in Darjeeling and Rajasthan with a lot of westerns and comics. There were the classics (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly; Bud Spencer & Terence Hill). There were Ennio Morricone soundtracks and lots of Louis L’Amour novels. They all fueled a child’s imagination. I think maybe I was a cowboy in my last life.
AK: A rather violent cowboy (laughs).

Western performance, as Harsh said, has its own rhythm. One of the best things about Sholay is how dry and brooding Amitabh Bachchan is. This is not the traditional mode of action for Hindi movie heroes.

HK: I found it quite difficult. My character, Siddharth, is unable to reveal who he really is. The task was to make a person like that magnetic. When he talks to someone, he shoots them an icy stare. But behind that look, something is happening. I tried to describe his thought patterns. Then came a lot of concentration and breathing exercises. I also worked on his voice. My previous two roles, in Ray and AK vs. AK, were too loud and self-involved. It was a complete departure from that.

Anil, from the gunslinger of Joshilaay, you are now the gray and hardened cop…
AK: I’m doing this part at the right time in my career. People think I did everything, but in reality I didn’t. I have so much left to do. Then they tell me the time is up. Some think so, others don’t. So I tried to channel those feelings into my character.

Why was it important to create Thar as a home production?
HK: I love movies that contribute to pop culture. There’s not much like Thar there. That’s why I decided to produce the film with dad. The uniqueness and authenticity of the world had to be protected. Because Raj is a new director and I’m a new actor, our visions have aligned. This was to make sure nothing got in the way.
Thar arrives on Netflix on May 6.


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