The JOSH is still very high
In conversation with Aditya Dhar, director of Uri: The Surgical Strike, about how he is still receiving appreciation from all quarters and how the entire journey has been thoroughly engaging and exciting
Uri: The Surgical Strike, which released on January 11, is a patriotic Bollywood film that has passed on its ‘josh’ to our countrymen. Post the film’s release, a new kind of patriotic fervour has gripped the country. From its powerful dialogues like ‘Yeh naya Hindustan hai, yeh ghar mein ghusega bhi aur marega bhi (This is a new India. We will enter their homes and we will not hesitate to kill them)’ to its powerful slogan ‘How’s the Josh?’ — the film has struck a chord with every Indian and has also received critical acclaim and commercial success at the box office. The collections speak volumes about how much people have loved the film and are continuing to show their love. However, a few commentary pieces have called it a propaganda film.
But that hasn’t stopped it from raking in the moolah and appreciation. The film, which released last month, is still running to packed houses and has earned Rs 212 crore at the domestic box office so far. For the makers of the film and the actors, January 11 was the perfect day to release it because January 15 happens to be Army Day, followed by Subhash Jayanti (January 23) and Republic Day (January 26), hence the country seemed to be in a patriotic mood.
Starring Vicky Kaushal, Yami Gautam, Paresh Rawal, Mohit Raina, Rajit Kapur, the film is based on India’s surgical strike on Pakistan in 2016, after four heavily armed militants attacked an army base in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir on September 18, 2016 which was reported as the deadliest attack on security forces in Kashmir in two decades.
‘IT FEELS SURREAL’
Aditya Dhar, who made his directorial debut with the film, says that he is overwhelmed by the response and the amount of love Uri... has received in the last one month. Aditya, who is also a lyricist and singer, exclaims, “It feels surreal! I feel blessed to get so much love for my first film. The messages that I am still receiving from army personnel and everyone else is so amazing,” says Aditya, whose war drama has managed to mint more than what Baahubali 2’s Hindi version earned in the first five weeks of its release.
When asked about the idea behind the film and what lead him to write Uri..., the 35-year-old filmmaker says that the shelving of his first film resulted in him writing the screenplay of Uri... “I was all geared up for my directorial debut, Raat Baaki, which was to star Fawad Khan and Katrina Kaif, when militants stormed an Indian army base in Kashmir killing 17 Indian soldiers. This led to Bollywood producers declaring that they will no longer work with Pakistani artists, hence my film got shelved. Soon the surgical strike followed,” says Aditya.
This indeed was a setback for the young director but he didn’t give up and got intrigued about how the Indian Army carried out the strike. “I was always interested in the army and wanted to get into the army. I wanted to know how the army pulled this off. By the end of my six months’ research, I realised this was one of the best covert military operations ever conducted by the Indian Army, hence I wanted the story to reach out to people,” says Aditya who says that the film pays a tribute to the courage and sacrifices made by the Indian Army and their families.
For research, Aditya banked on newspaper articles, and took the help of his journalist friends in Delhi and a few retired army officers. He also read up material available in the public domain. This was enough for him to build a story around it.
“We had an army consultant on board to help us out. The script was approved by the army and they even trained our actors for the film and taught them every nuance of being an army officer — how they sit, stand, talk to their seniors, wear their uniform, hold their guns, salute etc. Once it was complete, the film was shown to Additional Directorate General of Public Information (ADGPI) under Directorate General of Military Intelligence, which deals with public relations activities, media relations),” informs Aditya.
The cast fits really well in the film. Speaking about it, Aditya, who has worked as a casting director in the past, says, “I always wanted to work with Vicky because he is an amazing actor. If you have watched his films, you’ll notice that he has never done anything like this before. When I saw Masaan, I was blown away by his performance and I went up to him and told him, ‘I need to do one film with you in my life’, but never thought I would end up doing my first film with him. So basically, I had three criteria for the lead —
a) He needs to be an incredible actor, b) He needs to completely dedicate himself for six months just preparing for the role, and c) He should be hungry to prove himself and I knew Vicky was,” says Aditya.
From the PM of our country asking the audience, “How’s the josh?” at an inaugural function, to teachers encouraging their students, and gym trainers motivating gym goers to people on the streets wearing t-shirts with the slogan, ‘How’s the Josh?’, Uri... has caught everybody’s attention.
Aditya says that while the catchphrase is quite common among army personnel, the idea to include it in the script is personal. “I had some friends from the defence background, and I used to go to a lot of army clubs with them as a kid. There used to be a retired Brigadier in Delhi, who would line up all the kids in front of him and have a chocolate in his hand. He would say ‘How’s the josh?’ and we were to respond, ‘High sir!’ The kid who was the loudest got the chocolate. Being a foodie, I used to be the loudest! And that line has stayed with me. I am happy that after the film released, the catchphrase is being used in a positive way,” says Aditya adding, “I think my film might inspire some youngster to join the army, hence it was my duty to make it responsibly.”