Director: Laurens C. Postma
Writers: Laurens C. Postma, Farrukh Dhondy
Cast: Jackie Shroff, Anjum Nayar, Asif Basra
Streaming on: BMS Stream
The Interview: Night of 26/11 needs to be seen to be believed. Based on a Dutch film of the same name – sans the ‘Night of 26/11’ part of course – this Indian “remake” (I suspect there are going to be a lot of “air quotes” and parentheses in this review) opens in a town in North Afghanistan that actually looks like Borat did a number on the Bombay Velvet sets. (The film in fact opens with a random black-and-white scene of a man being released from prison, but nobody cares). A war correspondent named Rohan Kaushal (Oh, Jackie Shroff) hits a local Afghan bar – that looks more like a Ghatkopar quarter bar attending a fancy dress ball – with his colleague (the late Asif Basra). A suicide bombing later, the colleague has lost both his legs and laments Rohan having to return to India with a sensationalized version of the attack. “Is this not masala enough?” he asks, pointing to his wheelchair. Once Rohan is back, his editor tells him that “Afghanistan has become boring” (read the room, guys) and sends him to interview a mysterious Bollywood star named Tara Malhotra (Anjum Nayar).
A war correspondent named Rohan Kaushal (Oh, Jackie Shroff) hits a local Afghan bar – that looks more like a Ghatkopar quarter bar attending a fancy dress ball.
Tara is introduced as a bombshell attending her latest movie premiere with a bodyguard who urgently speaks into his lapel (I couldn’t see the mic). The movie is called Vishwasghaat, which is basically Tara doing a seductive photo-shoot followed by a scene where she gets killed by her lover, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar’s Ratan (Mamik), before the interval. A cynical Rohan meanwhile waits for her outside her pristine white bungalow in the middle of nowhere – ready with his recorder, arrogance and reading glasses. When she finally arrives, she gets out of her car while the car rolls back down the slope and gets chased by an ancient watchman. (I forgot to add that Tara is also seen in a saucy scene with another girl, before it’s revealed that she’s actually rehearsing her lines with the friend in satin robes. I guess it’s an industry thing). She leads an irritated Rohan into her house – and thus begins 130 minutes of the sleaziest, tackiest and most pointless verbal jousting ever written. Some of it needs to be heard to be believed.
For starters, the silver-tongued “award-winning journalist” addresses the woman as “Miss Silicon” throughout the encounter. “Bimbette” is an improvement. Some of his probing questions are: Are you a good actress? Are you an expert at seducing men? Was the casting couch worth it? His patronizing tone is attributed to the fact that he’d rather be in South Mumbai covering the ongoing 26/11 terrorist attacks than with a 25-year-old star who at one point exclaims that sometimes she feels “like an old used wall who’s been pissed on by too many men”. Right then. At another point she begs him to kiss her, and when he does, she declares she hates him because he’s weak. (For some reason, her swimming pool has green water – and no, this is not a metaphor). Needless to mention, Tara drinks, smokes and snorts cocaine at different points in the night. Everything she says is supposed to sound sexual because she’s wearing a black dress. She also suggestively addresses him as “daddy” to mock his age and his tragic backstory of a dead daughter and wife.
All the while, they keep switching on the television to see news channels flashing images of the attack. These visuals include a plain white apartment building that’s passed off as “Raj Hotel on fire” by a panicked anchor. The only thing worse than this is Tara’s answer to the “good actress” question: I want to play the kind of roles that Satyajit Ray writes. Shroff has been seen in many strange roles of late (a gorilla, a naked cult leader among them), but playing a war journalist is surely a bridge too far. As for Anjum Nayar, it’s unclear whether her main performance or her performance within this performance is worse. She fails on all counts.
I don’t think you need to read more about The Interview. The most fascinating aspect has nothing to do with its embarrassing content but with the identity of the film itself. A bit of online sleuthing reveals that photos of the film’s launch – under a different name, Cover Story – exist as far back as 2012. An article in 2013 about the arrest of the actress mentions that she was “last seen in a 2011 film with Jackie Shroff called Cover Story”. Then there’s a chat in 2015 with Shroff about his “latest role” as a journalist. And last but not least, there are the present-day press releases (and a trailer) about The Interview: Night of 26/11 with no mention of anything called Cover Story. So what is the truth? Was this a Boyhood-style decade-long production in which the bungalow’s pool water and tiles age more than the humans? Or has there been a digital rebirth? Did it have a theatrical release in 2012 or was it in the cans for nine years? Or is this an elaborate stunt to method-publicize a film in which nobody is who they really say they are? I need to know. It’s driving me up the (new, unused) wall. Thankfully, Tara’s eloquent answer to my probing questions comes early in the movie: “These Bollywood journos, lower than the vultures”.