Mani Shankar, the director of 16 December, Rudraksha, is now all geared up with his upcoming anti-war film Tango Charlie. Manishankar,
who made over 400 films including music videos, ads and corporate films, won several prestigious awards including Golden Nandi.
He created few music videos - Mujhko haii asha. During 1996, he was picked by the then Government to make an anti-terrorist message film.
It is even aired on BBC. In 1996, he also made a patriotic music video Meri Jaan Hindustan, which starred big names and stood as
the number one on national and international chanels. He also made documentaries on AP Police department and IT department. Manishankar also made
a special video to screen when Bill Clinton visited India.
Mr Manishankar is busy with his upcoming anti-war film that has Ajay Devagan, Bobby Deol, Sanjay Dutt, Sunil Shetty,
Tanisha. Producer of Shool, Nitin Manmohan, is producing this film. Anand Raj Anand penned lyrics and shares music credits with
Anu Malik. Javed Akthar penned some of the songs. Surendra Reddy, also Hyderabad based, handles the camera and Ranjit Barot did the background score.
Here is what the director has to say about the film.
Why an anti-war film?
Look at the history of the subcontinent. When the British left, they carved the Indian region into pieces and raised enough disputes to
ensure that we fight for a whole generation.
But we Indians proved them wrong.
Three generations have passed and we are still fighting, still killing and still dying.
Western Europe and the US hasn't fought a war on its soil for the last 60 years. They have always exported their wars to other poorer nations and
made them fight. That's one clear reason for their prosperity. The other reason for their prosperity is that some part of the workd is always at war, keeping their
armaments industry bulging with profits.
To put it briefly, whenever an Indian or Pakistani or Iraqi or Afghan solider dies, someone in Europe or the US makes a buck. That's the rip-off ecomonics of war. Brutal. Simple.
What's really chilling is that as a nation, we Indians, intelligent as we are in many ways, are unable to see through this vicious game plan. For us a war with
Pakistan is something to be proud about. It brings out the Patriot in us. We sing songs in the soldiers glory, pass around stories of bravery in action. Make movies about
our war heroes.
That's the reason why I wrote Tango Charlie. To show my audience that war is not something glamorous and patriotic. Its not something to create songs and dances for.
Its not something to make us feel proud.
War is brutal and terrifying. It reduces us to our most inhuman and cruel selves.
There is another reason why I wanted to make a film like Tango Charlie. When we look around us, we find that India is burning all around its borders. Each day
our soldiers die in a war of attrition in many theaters of conflicts. The North-East burns with countless insurgencies. The North-west knows no peace.
Kashmir has been reduced to near Kosovo like starkness. After 5PM a hush descends in every street of Srinagar and the fear is so thick you can cut
it with a knife.
I know this because I have lived and worked in all these places. I have made short films here, on the very subjects I am talking about.
Many parts of India knows no peace either. Naxalites control large parts of Middle India. Violence has almost become a routine event in the Deccan heartland.
And yet, for most Indians, India is a peaceful country. War is something that happens only when Pakistan attacks us. We choose to ignore
the daily war of attrition all around us and pretend it means nothing.
Tango Charlie is a reminder to all of us that the little news item on page eleven about this ambush or that bomb blast is also our war. we must recognize it, come to terms with it,
put an end to it, before it spreads like a fire into our own hometown.
On the Visual-emotional fabric of the film
In visual terms, Tango Charlie is an intelligent, emotional and thrilling film. A Visual treat to an audience who has become tired of the routine
predictable hero-centric Bollywood flicks.
To a Hindi film spectator for whom action means more exploding cars and wired stunts of (digitally erased) flying kicks and speed-ramped
punches, Tango Charlie comes as a shocker. Its intelligence and chilling realism has a heart stopping quality to it.
Suddenly time stands still for the viewer as he plunges headlong into the heart of the scene. This is one film that will not be seen
sprawled and relaxed in the theater seat. Its visceral power will be felt in ripples of gasps, screams and stunned awe time and time again through the film.
The opening action sequence lasts for 28 minutes, yet no one who has seen it thinks of it as more than seven or eight minutes duration. Such is the power of an immersive
experience. Indeed many scenes from the film will burn a hole in the mind of the viewer and be remembered for long afterwards.
To be sure, there is not a dull or boring moment in the film. This is a 100% outdoor motion picture, shot in wild exotic locations, often at great risk and hardship to
the actors and crew.
Wherever the action happens, whether it is the deep jungles in the Indo-China border, or the icy wastelands of the Himalayas, or the barren rocks of the Deccan, the audience
immediately plunges into the action, feels the heart of conflict, sees the intelligent tactics of the lead actors Ajay Devagan and Bobby Deol.
The vast cunning of the enemy is equally impressive. The enemy's unorthodox tactics and impenetrable shrewdness leave the viewer awed. The unpredictability of the outcome and the
real possibility of defeat at any moment keeps them glued and breathless.
But the Tango Charlie is not just about Ajay Devagan's goals-fighting and winning. Its also to do with Bobby's struggle to preserve his innocence and do the right thing by his
The true barometer of a good film is that it does not manipulate the audience into a set of feelings, but just holds them spell bound
while their hearts open up to feelings that were always there deep inside. Tango Charlie is just such a film. It enthralls, entertains, immerses the audience without being
preachy or pedantic. Any impression against war you might form are those that arrive from within your heart- and not because the Director has asked you to feel them.
On the entertainment and humour in the film
Contrary to what one might expect, there is a surprising amount of good humor and lighter moments that are downright hillarious and funny. The humor has not been added
on to bring relief to the seriousness. It has risen spontaneously throughout the script. As a writer I have often observed how men who live on the edge deliberately regard
the world iin light humorous terms. Its their way of disconnecting with reality, of showing wit in the face of adversity.
Tango Charlie is also biogrpahical in style and takes the audience into the simple charming personal lives of its protagonists. Even here the film proves that realism in love is much more
stimulating than contrived romantic sequences. There is a difference between candy floss to love that is larger than life and the simple intense love that people actually feel when smitten.
Tango Charlie keeps its realistic appeal without a break, and so the love in the film is equally vibrant with a ring of truth in it. All the characters in Bobby Deol's village come across as
refreshingly real people, each with a mind and heart of their own.
Tanishaa, Nandana Sen, Alok Nath, Tiku Talsania, Vivek Shaukh, Sanjiv Mishra and others have elevated the film with unforgettable performances. The shock actor of the film
is Kelly Dorji, who has essayed an unforgettable role as a Bodo leader. He makes his screen debut with this film, and has opened up for himself a long
and industrious career in Bollywood.
The special apperances essayed by Sanjay Dut and Sunil Shetty come as a pleasant surprise. Even though they play a small role, it is critical to the film. I am personally indebted to them
for elevating the film by their scintillating presence.
What does the word Tango Charlie mean in the film?
Tango Charlie is just part of a telegraphic code used by soldiers, aviation and seamen across the world. By itself it only represents the letter T and C. These stand for the lead
character Tarun Chauhan, a role played by Bobby Deol. This is Bobby's story, and also the story of his mentor Mohammed Ali, played by Ajay Devgan.
Naming the film Tango Charlie is my way as a write to draw attention to the fact tht the name could be used to represent any soldier anywhere in the world, implying that everywhere the story is the same.
Everywhere people die for their cause or country just because some leader decided to play a power game with some other leader.
To me Tango Charlie is the unknown soldier. It is my way of paying a tribute to all soldiers who die across the world each day in meaningless unnecessary wars. Wars that are absurdly fought in the name of peace.
Tango Charlie is a tribute to the unknown soldier. The film begins with this simple eulogy. I repeat it here for emphasis.
"Every day hundreds of soldiers across the World die in strange battlefields. In Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Chechenya, Pakistan, India.. the story is the same.
If we were to pick one name from this endless list and tell you the story of his life, his love.. it would be a tribute to the unknown soldier.. for now and for ever".