Raj Kumar Gupta’s India’s Most Wanted follows the pursuit of a terror mastermind whom the movie refers to as “India’s Osama”. But do not expect “gun-toting commandos”, the filmmaker cautioned during an interview. “The film is about how a bunch of people risk their lives to catch India’s most wanted without firing a single bullet,” Gupta said.

Arjun Kapoor’s Prabhat Kapoor leads an operation to capture the man allegedly responsible for “52 blasts between 2007 and 2013”. The May 24 release stars Rajesh Sharma, Prasanth Alexandrr, Gaurav Mishra, Aasif Khan, Santilal Mukherjee, Bajrangbali Singh and Pravin Singh Sisodia.

Gupta made his debut with Aamir (2008), about a doctor who gets embroiled in a terror plot. No One Killed Jessica (2011) was a dramatisation of the Jessica Lall murder, while Ghanchakkar (2013) was a comedy about a bank robber who forgets where he has hidden the loot. Gupta finally tasted box-office success with Raid, based on an income tax operation from the 1980s. “Raid gave me the push to make India’s Most Wanted” Gupta told Scroll.in. “It has charged me up to tell better stories.”

Your debut ‘Aamir’ looked at the effect of terrorism on ordinary people. What has changed from then to ‘India’s Most Wanted’?
At that time, there was very little social media and few influencing forces on both sides of the spectrum. But now, you have so many points of view. The way information is absorbed today is very different from 2005, when I was working on Aamir.

There are no two ways about the fact that we have become hyper-sensitive today. Earlier, we used laugh at ourselves but now, we have stopped doing that.

India's Most Wanted (2019).

‘India’s Most Wanted’ claims to be about an Indian version of Osama bin Laden. Have we ever had a single terror mastermind orchestrating blasts on this magnitude?
It is about India’s Osama, but you have to see the film to understand the context. It will not be fair to say that we did not have somebody who masterminded this many blasts. Not many of us know about this mastermind. It speaks about our agency’s credibility to keep it all covert.

I did not decide to make this film now. It is not that I decided that the film will be released now. When blasts like these happen, they kill everyone and have the same impact on every Indian.

When did you start working on the screenplay?
I started researching towards the end of 2013. It took me around one-and-a-half years to research, meet people and understand their dynamics. I started writing the film by the end of 2015, and it took me another year to finish.

As a filmmaker, you keep your eyes and ears open until something pops up. It does not have to be a great thing or a magnum opus. Even the smallest idea or conversation can touch you emotionally or intellectually. That is how this story started. The events were unbelievable – the capture of India’s most wanted without the firing of a single bullet. Often, we don’t know the details behind things and do not go beyond the headlines.

How much of reality is the film based on?
It was very important to maintain sensitivity to the facts. There are a lot of lives involved when you are telling a real story. As filmmakers, we dramatise for effect, but we do keep in mind the sensitivity of the subject. I spoke to a lot of people from agencies such as the Anti-Terrorism Squad, Intelligence Bureau and National Investigation Agency. I tried to understand the realities under which they work.

Raid (2018).

How different is ‘India’s Most Wanted’ from other terrorism-themed dramas?
We have seen many thrillers in which protagonists act like they are superheroes. Our heroes are not gun-toting commandos. There are no weapons involved. The whole premise of catching a criminal without firing a bullet gives a feel of how these people work and how these operations happened. We are telling the story of people who do their jobs as discreetly as possible. These are people you might have come across on a daily basis. That is where the film sets itself apart.

Why cast Arjun Kapoor?
Arjun has brought a lot of sincerity and passion to the character. He is somebody who is a regular guy. He is not someone who behaves like he stands out. That is something that was required in this film.

You have written and directed all your films except for ‘Raid’. How do you keep your distance?
It does get difficult at times. When you are researching, the subject could get overwhelming. Some stories affect you more than others. Once you finish the research, you have to have a little bit of distance before you sit down to write. Once you start writing, a lot of doubts start taking shape. It is a lonely process, and sometimes it takes a lot out of you.

Raj Kumar Gupta. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Bollywood Hungama [Licensed under CC 3.0].