Renuka Vyavahare (BOMBAY TIMES; March 16, 2017)

Director Hansal Mehta, known for his penchant for making thought-provoking cinema, is back with a new risqué subject. His upcoming thriller Omerta captures the controversial life of British terrorist of Pakistani origin, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, known for his involvement in the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002, and his links to various Islamist organisations. BT has learnt that Rajkummar Rao will be seen essaying the titular role of the convicted militant, who is currently being held in a prison in Pakistan. The film is a dramatised retelling of Sheikh's journey to radicalisation.

In an exclusive chat with BT, Hansal reveals that it is by far his most explosive film. He says, “This is based on the said international fugitive, who was involved in Pearl's murder, and it covers a host of terrorist activities (including 26/11) seen through the eyes of this person, who was at the centre of it all. After watching A Mighty Heart (2007), I wanted to know more about the predator and why he chose this path. While various films have tried to showcase terrorism or its repercussions, I felt it was important to explore the other side of the spectrum - what goes on in the minds of these terrorists. There are so many stereotypes associated with terrorism, but the truth is far more murky and cold. Omar came from a privileged background before eventually being radicalised. Actor Mukul Dev told me this story way back in 2005. I wanted to make this film before Shahid, but a lot of research was required and we kept revising the script.“

About roping in Rajkummar Rao, he says, “It was interesting to see him play a character that is totally diverse from what he did in Shahid. Also, he surrenders himself to the role without any kind of baggage.“

Rajkummar elaborates, “It's a complete contrast to what I did in Shahid. I play the anti-hero here. I've tried my best to make this character as real as possible. I even stayed in London for a while to get the hang of his way of life. The character is extremely cold and aloof and it was a bit of a challenge to convince myself as an actor to believe in his convictions."

Since a film of this nature may invite censorship and trouble from various sections, we wonder if the makers are prepared to face the heat. Hansal explains, “Radicals, who indulge in cold-blooded violence, cannot belong to any religion. Religion is just used as an excuse. I want my film to provoke a healthy debate and not an unnecessary controversy. I've never been afraid of trouble or feared censorship. It's a political thriller that deals with radical groups and their nexus with intelligence syndicates. They work hand in glove. It's all a political power play to create unrest and keep the balance oscillating. Why do educated folks get radicalised? It's important to understand the entire system.“