Kabir Khan on Roar Of The Lion: My docu-drama will show an emotional facet of MS Dhoni
Kabir Khan talks about his digital debut Roar Of The Lion, documenting the fall and rise of Chennai Super Kings in IPL, and shaping his cricket drama 83.
Director Kabir Khan is the latest import from Bollywood to the world of OTT platform. After having delivered blockbusters like Ek Tha Tiger and Bajrangi Bhaijaan, the director’s entry into the digital world is through a docu-drama.
The subject matter he has chosen for his debut venture is riveting to say the least — the match fixing controversy that shrouded Chennai Super Kings, arguably the most successful Indian Premier League (IPL) team a few years ago. He seems relaxed as he is not burdened with jargons like ‘day one collection’ or ‘weekend collection’.
“For me as a filmmaker, it’s all about the story that I am narrating and how exciting the story is. I don’t like to think of stories in terms of ‘let me tell a story for a particular platform or a feature film’. Having said that, yes, there are certain stories that blend themselves better to a mini-series format and some in the feature film format, where everything is summed up in two and half hours.” Kabir concurs that the new OTT platforms have become game changers across the world and the youth has emerged as the driving force. “They don’t like appointment viewing anymore. It gives them a chance and flexibility. As a filmmaker, it’s also very liberating for me that OTT platforms take away the pressure of day one figure or opening weekend figures. It’s there for posterity and you don’t have to watch it on day one or day two. You can even watch it after 10 months. You don’t have the pressure that your story needs to click in the first three days, otherwise its gone,” says Kabir.
Kabir’s docu drama on the fall and rise of Chennai Super Kings, titled Roar of The Lion, could also be viewed as a precursor to his upcoming big budget flick 83, based on the Indian cricket team's road to victory in the 1983 World Cup. Kabir reveals that the offer to make the drama was served to him on a platter by Banijay, the production house. “They asked me if I would like to be a part of it and it was a no-brainer because it’s a fantastic story. It’s a classic rise of a sports team. The most successful team of the IPL gets banned for two years, and then they go into wilderness and come out of it and then go on to win in 2018 again. It’s an incredible story. (MS) Dhoni for the first time will be telling the story himself. Till now, he had maintained a certain silence on the whole thing and now we will be hearing it from the horse’s mouth.” Kabir believes that it would be the first time that people will get to see a more personal and emotional facet of Dhoni.
Even after death of the controversy related to the IPL match fixing scandal, it did continue to get coverage for days and every minute detail of the match fixing saga was reported extensively by most publications. Is there anything in the docu drama that people are not aware of? “Lots. I would say that it’s the story of the emotion behind the headlines. We all know the headline, we all know the details, and fact and figures, but we don’t know the emotions behind it. We don’t know the story of what individuals and the people who were named in the headline went through. No one knows how they coped up with the stigma of this whole allegation.”
The format that the filmmaker has adopted to narrate his story is that of a docu-drama, a genre that most in the country are not well versed with. Kabir believes that segmentation and classification of content is passé. “I don’t know anyone talking about scripted versus unscripted format these days. It’s all about drama and storytelling. After some point, the audience basically forgets the format and then it’s pure drama that unfolds on screen and in the case of Roar of The Lion, it’s all about the drama because for the first time, you will get to see the protagonist actually speaking about it for the first time.”
Now when Kabir has finally become a part of the OTT bandwagon, it becomes imperative to know his viewpoint on Steven Spielberg’s recent tirade on Netflix, when he requested the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences to bar the future participation of the streaming giant at the Oscars. “Before this, Christopher Nolan too had spoken about this. It is very difficult to take a hard position on something like this. I do agree with certain aspects of Spielberg and Nolan which relates to community viewing and big screen viewing but we also have to understand the realities of how people are watching content these days. I think there has to be a middle ground and I think Spielberg has taken too hard a position on Netflix. It is very difficult to take a position and observe things from here but I do see a certain element of truth in both the arguments,” says the filmmaker.
Finally, any conversation with Kabir Khan these days will remain incomplete without the mention of 83. Since it is an ensemble cast, how did he arrive at the team selection process? “We did not follow a pattern but we followed a very rigorous selection procedure. We made them play cricket and judged them on their athletic capability, and then we got them in the audition room. We must have auditioned close to 1,000 boys and there was a certain brief given to them in terms of physical similarity. It was not about looking the same but it was more about having a similar persona.” So has he found the nemesis of Indian cricket team during the World Cup final — Vivian Richards? “It's somebody from West Indies and he plays first class cricket over there, and we will announce the name very soon,” signs off Kabir.
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