Phantom, a controversial territory for Katrina Kaif, Saif Ali Khan

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Phantom, a controversial territory for Katrina Kaif, Saif Ali Khan

Katrina and Saif play the members of an elite intelligence group who set out on a covert mission to kill all the masterminds of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

By Arti Dani

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Published: Thu 27 Aug 2015, 8:00 PM

Last updated: Sat 29 Aug 2015, 11:26 AM

Legendary film critic Roger Ebert said, "I've always felt that movies are an emotional medium - that movies are not the way to make an intellectual argument. If you want to make a political or a philosophical argument, then the ideal medium exists, and that medium is the printed word - a movie is not a logical art form. When we watch a film, the director is essentially standing behind us and saying, "Look here," and "Look there," "Hear this," and "Hear that," and "Feel this," and "Feel the way I want you to feel." And we give up conscious control over our intelligence. We become voyeurs. We become people who are absorbed into the story, if the story is working. And it's an emotional experience."

Director Kabir Khan, actors Katrina Kaif and Saif Ali Khan are under the spotlight with their upcoming action thriller Phantom, which opens in the UAE today. The film is a based on a book called Mumbai Avengers by Hussain Zaidi. Katrina and Saif play the members of an elite intelligence group who set out on a covert mission to kill all the masterminds of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. Phantom, produced by UTV and NG, was recently banned in Pakistan.


City Times went to Mumbai to have a chat with Katrina and Saif. While on the subject of the Pakistan ban, both Saif and Katrina said that the film is not against Pakistan. "I am aware that I have a lot of support, love and appreciation from Pakistan and I would never do a film which would hurt anyone's sentiment. Beyond anything, Kabir is a correct person, so I do not think he would ever use propaganda just to make a successful film, that's not something he would do as a human being. Having said that, what we all need to do before we jump the gun is understand that the whole country is not responsible for one person's actions. Yes, there is a person in the film who is a villain from Pakistan. We are not saying that Pakistan is a villainous country. The same goes for American films where there is a villain from Russia, they are not saying that Russia is a bad country. Villains in movies just happen to be from 'X' or 'Y' country. Phantom has a backdrop, which is based on real life events. There are certain coincidences or connections that people will make reference to people who are alive in Pakistan, but that's not saying that the country is wrong. We need to be confident enough and clear enough to segregate the difference," said Katrina.


The counter-terrorism drama film, directed by Kabir Khan, whose Salman Khan- starrer Bajrangi Bhaijaan hit the jackpot in Pakistan, has been banned in the country by the Lahore High Court after a petition was filed by alleged 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed.

Saif explained why it was expected that the movie would be banned in Pakistan. "Certain areas of the world are more sensitive than others. If you talk in any kind of real way, your film is bound to get banned in Pakistan. Only some sort of love and fantasy story will be allowed to have a release. So it was kind of expected but our makers still wanted to make the film. So obviously they are not that concerned with the ban. It's a complicated thing; our relationship with Pakistan is complicated. I know their censor board chief Fakhr-E-Alam very well, he is a nice guy and very open-minded. I am sure he must be having his own pressures for banning the movie. We are the same people and we love each other. We have family in Pakistan. But there are certain topics that you can't discuss, it will get banned. It's a shame because they are going the watch the film anyways; it will be available in some pirated disc. Generally one shouldn't react to a film without watching it but I guess you don't need a clairvoyant to say that Phantom will be an action movie. With people firing guns in the film, it's not just Pakistan, the Middle East, America, and London are also featured; those countries are not banning it."


Both Katrina and Saif are not in the best phase of their careers right now. How does it feel when your movies are constantly becoming delayed? "You feel very frustrated for sure, you feel helpless since it is not in your hands and you can't control it. But you have to be fearless in such situations. As an actor, I have to be fearless whether the audience will like me or not, whether I am looking glamorous enough or not. If you like a story, you must go with all positivity and full conviction. This is not an easy industry to part of. It is not meant for timid, shy and cautious people," answered Katrina.

Whereas Saif, who has given back-to-back duds like Happy Ending, Humshakals, and Bullet Raja, said that getting rejected does not shatter him. "I think it is the most democratic profession; everything that we are doing for is for the audience. If the audience rejects your film, then obviously you have done something wrong, I don't think it's me, personally, who is getting rejected. There is enough success to disprove that theory. It doesn't shatter me. But you can't be arrogant thinking that everybody is mad and your idea was great. So you have to understand that they did not like this idea and so you have to come up with something that they like."


Katrina is largely known for her glamorous face, but Kabir successfully managed to bring out her best side in movies like New York and Ek Tha Tiger. Was that the motivation to sign this film?

"There have been so many different directors, Zoya Akhtar in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Prakash Jha in Raajneeti, Kabir in New York, Vipul Shah in Namastey London, Ali Abbas in Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, who bought out different shades of me on screen.  With each new director, you just keep looking for a new journey and experience. My equation with Kabir Khan has been a special one, right from the first time we met, there was an instant liking. I felt connected with him. He is a very intelligent and evolved human being, he was very respectful towards me. A lot of people, at times, are listening to you because an attractive woman is talking, but they are not taking you seriously. Kabir took me seriously, right from the first meet. He heard me patiently. I think that formed the basis of a very strong relationship that was to be continued from New York to now. In Ek Tha Tiger, I saw him take on a mammoth project and jump from the scale of New York and take Ek Tha Tiger all over the world. I saw him step up, take that challenge and completely adapt, blend so seamlessly that kind of a world with his own unique voice. The way people responded to that film was even beyond our expectation. Now with Phantom, I have that inherent trust on him that he is a very dedicated filmmaker, who lives in the kind of film that he makes. He never took me for granted, always presented everything to me very correctly. He asked me for my feedback for the script."


Why is the movie called Phantom? Saif plays an ex-army officer that is thrown out of the Army for cowardice, after a misunderstanding. He gets a chance to win his honour back by going on this suicide mission to nab terrorists. He joins the mission, but he cannot get credit for it.

A major part of the film was shot in Lebanon. "I used a couple of Arabic words here and there but not sentences. Part of the film is shot in the Middle East in Lebanon. We are trying to show it as Syria," said Saif.

Katrina was happy to do various action stunts in the film. "The action in Phantom is very hand-to-hand. It is very situational. It is not about unbelievable actions sequences like bikes flying out of the sky etc. There is a part of the film where there is a war going on. Kabir does not like to step out of his zone of reality. He wanted to make sure that the action was believable and that is what we have done. I am comfortable doing actions like handling a gun or running or chasing after something. I am quite confident in that zone. We shot the film in Lebanon, the atmosphere of the city created such a nice vibe for our film."

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