When the coronavirus pandemic hit India and an eventual countrywide shutdown was announced, the makers of ‘Squad’ could have never imagined that their April schedule in Belarus-where they are still to shoot two additional action scenes-would be delayed by six months. But after a Bollywood crew recently returned on completing their film in Scotland, writer-filmmaker Nilesh Sahay decided to fly out and finish his film. He has thoroughly rehearsed the choreographed action scenes in advance so that they can conform to social distancing rules. “The only thing to be done now is to go and shoot there,” he asserts.
But since the pandemic is still raging, it won’t be as easy as it sounds. Belarus is not under an air-bubble agreement with India, and special permissions had to be secured from the governments of both the countries to fly out the cast and crew. That apart, the Eastern European country has been witnessing mass political protests, triggered by the August 9 election, believed to have been rigged in favour of longtime leader Alexander Lukashenko. Nilesh is unfazed, “Some protest is always taking place in some corner of the world, be it Thailand, Romania, Bulgaria or even the United States.”
He is still risking the outdoor shoot because, as he points out, even though one can always cook Butter Chicken at home, it doesn’t mean the dish will taste as good as that served in a restaurant. “‘Squad’ is the first Indian film to be shot in the independent country of Belarus where we will be shooting our next two films as well,” Nilesh shares.
Having shot a climax scene with 400 stuntmen, downsizing to a skeletal crew will irk but the maker, who speaks passionately about the battle royale of the Special Forces, reasons, “I’ve dedicated my life to action and want to prove that it can be shot in different styles. We’ve already completed seven daringly different action scenes, and during the 12-14 day schedule, we’ll be filming two more to up the ante,” he adds. They’ll be taking off in the next 10 days.
The action thriller revolves around an officer of the special forces, played by debutant Rinzing, son of Danny Dengzongpa, who goes out of his way to protect a little girl. He avers that it is an apt story in the current times. “A country should protect every citizen. If I could, I’d send my squad every time a girl is brutalised; maybe that will be the story of ‘Squad 2’,” he muses.
Despite his 2020 release plan being thrown off, Nilesh is sure that the film will be a crowd-puller despite the fact that theatres have only reopened last Friday in a few select states. “The entertainment industry has been hit badly”, he acknowledges, “but it has also provided solace to people who were isolated from families”. He’s confident the business will revive soon. Meanwhile, he’s all praise for his hero, who, he reveals, has been running from Juhu to Worli and back every day to maintain his fitness. “His dedication comes through from the fact that he shot for 15 hours non-stop, and didn’t bat an eyelid when hung like a pendulum, 160-feet up in the air. He is a man of few words, till it’s time for action. Then, he lets it rip,” he signs off, his anticipation evident even across the wire.