The making of a war story :

Posted by-Kalki Team

Debutant director Sankalp Reddy talks about what went behind Indias first submarine-based war film The Ghazi Attack

When debutant director Sankalp Reddy, decided to set off on the road less travelled with a war film The Ghazi Attack uncovering a chapter of history that had remained hidden in the depths of the ocean, he knew it was not going to be easy. Back then, he could have never imagined that his maiden cinematic venture would make such a sensational launch across the country. As the film hit the big screens across India this week, it has generated a lot of buzz among cine buffs. Sankalp, no doubt, is in an exuberant state of mind. “Its been three years journey for me from that moment when I thought of making the film till today. It’s like seeing your child grow. I feel proud about it, but at the same time I am nervous and excited,” says the young director. The film is a fictionalised account of the 1971 Indo-Pak war and the mysterious sinking of the Pakistan submarine PNS Ghazi that planned to attack Visakhapatnam, but was destroyed by the Indian warship INS Rajput.

In a chat with Metroplus, Sankalp shares his views on the making of The Ghazi Attack and his journey into the film world. Said to be India’s first war-at-sea film, the entire shooting was completed in 60 working days. The toughest part in the shooting of The Ghazi Attack, says the director, was getting the camera movements right within a tight space in the submarine settings. For that, Sankalp perfected the shots on a submarine miniature model with small button cameras. “We first created a submarine miniature model and kept the small toys for the characters to plan every thing. This was before R. Madhie, the director of photography joined us. The challenge was to get the camera movements right, but Madhie was simply brilliant. He made it look like a breeze,” says Sankalp.

Incidentally, The Ghazi Attack was originally planned as a one hour film for YouTube release. “For a first time director, it was almost impossible for me to release the film on my own. You Tube was the only medium then,” he says.

The idea of making a submarine-based war film occurred to Sankalp during a chance visit to Vizag in November 2012. “I was intrigued by the history on 1971 Indo-Par war after my visit to the Kursura Museum on the Beach Road in Vizag. After returning to Hyderabad, I started looking for stories that I can make on submarine and came across this Ghazi article and got hooked to it,” he says. Being a classified mission, very few knew about the actual events that led to the incident. And that was the most challenging task for Sankalp — to piece together this historical event with all the resources he could find. He came back to Vizag and spent over a month interacting with retired naval officers to and understanding how they lived inside submarines.

Sharing the challenges he had to face as a debutant director in the initial days, Sankalp says, “I spent almost Rs 25 lakhs before I could get producers for the film. My initial budget for the film was only Rs 10 lakh. Then I ran out of money and had to borrow from friends, who were not willing to support me.” At the beginning, he approached the producers with a budget of Rs 1 crore but, eventually, once Rana Daggubati joined the team, it was made on a far larger scale than expected. “Three years ago when I started working on the film before any producer’s backing, I had only 40 to 50 computer graphics shot for the film. At the end, the computer graphics shots crossed 700 and all were done in Hyderabad. All the underwater scenes, which form 30 percent of the film, are computer graphics,” he adds. A majority of the shoot was done in Hyderabad with two days in Vizag where the dockyard shots and aerial view of the coastal belt was filmed.

Three submarine sets were made for the film. “We began work on the first set in 2013 when Rana was not a part of the project. That submarine was created with exact dimensions of an actual one. After Rana joined us in 2016, we had to create another set for him, because the original one was very compact,” shares Sankalp. Small cameras like GoPro and 5D were used to shoot in the initial days due to a shoestring budget. Rana’s addition automatically made the film big, both in terms of budget and scale. Talking about the challenges in shooting inside the submarine, Sankalp says the crew members used to be cooped up inside the submarine for days at a stretch and many of them had to take Vitamin D pills due to lack of exposure to sunlight. “We would begin shooting before the break of dawn till late at night. I spent 45 days at a stretch inside the submarine shooting and then we took a break and came back,” he recollects.

Sankalp’s journey into the film world has been almost as dramatic as his debut film. After completing his B.Tech graduate from Hyderabad, he went to Australia to pursue his MBA. At the end of the first semester of the course, he realised he was not cut out for the management world. Incidentally, in the same university there was a filmmaking course and he joined that. “When I returned to India with an MFA degree instead of an MBA, my parents were shocked. But eventually, they supported my dream,” he says. With rave reviews that have started pouring in for the film, Sankalp is at present enjoying his time in the sun before he moves to his next project. “I want to experience this moment that I have wanted to see for a long time,” he sums up.

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