July 14, 2024 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

Kill Hits Theaters This Weekend: An Action-Packed Thrill Ride on a Runaway Train

Our Interview with Indian Director Nikhil Nagesh Bhat

Kill is a new film that opens this weekend. It is the story of a train that becomes the battleground for a fight to the finish between two army commandos and a group of brutal armed dacoits after the robbers take control of the train. It is an epic of action set almost entirely in the claustrophobic confines of a railway train. For those of you who enjoy the John Wick films, this is a film that should interest you. The fighting is amazing, and the cast gives incredible performances filled with charisma and emotion. 

This Indian film was written and directed by Nikhil Nagesh Bhat and stars Lakshya, 

Raghav Juyal, Ashish Vidyarthi, Harsh Chhaya, and Tanya Maniktala. I had the pleasure of speaking with Nikhil Nagesh Bhat about his influences, both cinematic and personal, and how he balanced the needs of action and emotion in one of the best action films of 2024. 

You can purchase tickets here and the film will be screening at the AMC Century City 15. 

Dolores Quintana: Tell me a little about yourself. 

Nikhil Nagesh Bhat: I am the writer and director of the film Kill, which is produced by Dharma Productions and Secure Entertainment. Lion’s Gate and Roadside Attractions are distributing it. 

Dolores Quintana: I believe the film is being released on July 4th, correct? It’s just in time for the big American holiday that has to do with war.

Nikhil Nagesh Bhat: Oh, my goodness. Yes, of course. There is no liberty without sacrifice. 

Dolores Quintana: That’s very true. The question you get asked most frequently that I’ve seen is where did you come up with the idea for the film? But, from what I understand, this is the first action-type movie that you’ve done. I was wondering why you decided that the time was now to do an action film that’s this extreme. 

Nikhil Nagesh Bhat: As you know, I experienced this, and this was almost around 30 years ago. I wrote the story somewhere around 2016. It was very difficult to make this kind of film. But the story kept coming back to me. After 2016, I did two films. But this story just kept coming back to me, and it was something where I started feeling that I needed to tell the story. I started feeling it resonated so well.

That time was during the first wave of COVID. I was holed up in my house. There was so much insecurity; there was so much fear because we did not know whether Covid was ever going to end or if this was the way our life was going to be from henceforth. There was too much fear, claustrophobia, and insecurity, which was plaguing my mind. 

I didn’t want to think so much because I was getting anxious and everybody around whenever we were was asking what was going to happen. I wanted to figure out a way to vent and channel all these feelings. It was very organic and natural that I started writing this because it came to me, and it did not occur to me at that time. It only occurred to me later, and I realized that all my insecurities, my fear, my claustrophobia, everything you know, were translated down onto the paper. 

Dolores Quintana: I also wanted to ask because there’s a lot of emotion and pain in the film. I’m not talking about the kind of pain when you get hit with a weapon. The characters feel a lot. After the screening, there’s an aspect of mourning in the film that’s very poignant, and it’s not just the lead characters. Normally, with this type of film, the only people who really get to feel that type of pain are the good guys. 

Nikhil Nagesh Bhat: Yes. 

Dolores Quintana: I thought that it was one thing that really stood out from a lot of other films of this subgenre. It gave everybody the chance to feel and for a lot of characters to be mourned who normally would not be. Was that part of the process? Did that have to do with your translation of the feelings you wrestled with during Covid? 

Nikhil Nagesh Bhat: I am going to be very honest. I’m hugely inspired by James Cameron’s Aliens. I found that film to be a story about these two people at odds. What I am talking about is the character of Ripley and the character of the Alien Queen. The Alien was trying to survive and protect her children, and the same goes for Ripley, who was trying to protect the kid so, if it’s two mothers who were fighting. 

I kept watching the film and revisiting it. Aliens was pretty much at the top of my mind when I was writing this story. I thought that to make the audience feel that the story is believable and so real, I needed to get real emotions, and they cannot just be one-sided emotions. I need the audience to feel for the antagonists and the robbers. 

Also. I wanted the audience to feel that they were part of the journey, that they were sitting inside the train. That is also the reason why that kind of action because it feels very real and it feels very close to you. When you see that kind of emotion coming not just from the main characters but from different characters and from all of them, their suffering is a shared suffering. 

It is not something which is which is, which is not individualistic; it is a shared suffering. So, that journey becomes more realistic. So, just to give you an example, the train they’re traveling and it’s the Rajdhani Express, which is the premium-priced train in India. The price is equal to what you would pay for a plane ticket. Normally in India, the railways are used by the masses. So normally the tickets are not that costly. But, for this particular train, only the affluent can afford it. 

The character Fani is funny, and he works at a gas station. All of the other characters who are robbers are in similar situations. They are just trying to make a living. So there is a class divide, and I didn’t want that to be left unfocused; I wanted people to think that they are real people because that’s why they’re doing it at the end of the day. What they are doing is not the correct way, but they’re doing it as a means of survival. 

Dolores Quintana: That’s also a really important aspect of the film is that normally, people who are considered criminals in these films are often poor or disadvantaged in some other way and they’re always cast as the villains. It is really a humanizing aspect of your script and the performances that really show all of these people are human beings. That is what gives it a depth that a lot of films of this type do not have. 

Nikhil Nagesh Bhat: What’s really interesting is that this humanizing aspect comes from the influence of a film about aliens. 

Dolores Quintana: I think that’s a great point because that’s actually something that’s been in the back of my head about Aliens; the Alien film series, obviously, our sympathies are cast with the human beings. Yes. But what about the aliens? You know, they’re living beings too. 

Nikhil Nagesh Bhat: They’re living beings too. Yeah. Just that they look a little dangerous. That’s ok. 

Dolores Quintana: Yeah, they are very dangerous. I was at Beyond Fest and I was at the Kill screening last night, and I was so thrilled to see it again. You mentioned something that happened at Beyond Fest part way through the film: the Kill chant. 

Nikhil Nagesh Bhat: Oh my God. It was beyond anything. It was so true to the name. 

Dolores Quintana: I was wondering how you felt about that because you even mentioned it. It’s been like months and months. 

Nikhil Nagesh Bhat: I can’t describe that feeling because, when, and to be very honest, I’ll tell you something of which I’ve not spoken too many times. The first time I watched the film was in Toronto last year where the film had its world premiere. I was sitting in the audience, and I started watching it and the moment the film started, I started feeling every shot was bad. Every note was bad. I could just see problems in each and every shot and I started sinking in my seat. 

I started feeling, oh no, I should not have brought this film. Then the people started getting the film, and the people started to react. I could hear gasps and oo’s and ah’s. Then I started feeling a little bit of confidence. Oh, yes, people like the film. Then at Beyond Fest which is where people are chanting about it. I was too overwhelmed. I felt it was very, very unreal, and it just felt very surreal. That entire feeling was just out of the world. I felt really, really nice. 

Dolores Quintana: I’m glad to hear that because, as an audience member, I can tell you that the audience was over the moon. They loved it. They would not do that for any other reason than they loved the film. 

I was wondering what it was like balancing the needs of the action and everything else you had to do as a director of, you know, 

Nikhil Nagesh Bhat: When I started prepping for action, we did almost nine months of hard prep because we didn’t know this was the first time I was doing action. This was the first time my producers were doing action. My DOP was doing action. Nobody else in my crew has ever done action apart from my action choreographer. So we prepped a lot, but I noticed at one point in time that I was getting too involved in the process because the process was very overwhelming. It is almost like a black hole; you keep doing things, and you will not know how to and to what extent you can keep working towards it, which is a great thing. A few days before the shoot, I told my associate director, Rishab, that I needed to get out of the process because I was getting too consumed by the process. 

I need to start concentrating on the emotional aspect of the film because that is the film that is the main film. The action is just a by-product of the emotional turmoil that the characters are going through because there are a lot of relationships that are getting tested in this journey of 2.5 hours. I wanted to pay attention to that. That was when I stopped thinking about action for some time and started only thinking about the emotional aspect of the characters. 

That is how I balance it during the shoot. While writing it, I was very, very conscious of that because it comes from a personal experience when I’m watching an action film, and if it’s just one action after the other, I just don’t feel invested. I did not want that to happen. What I was doing was constructing a very, very strong emotional situation. Even after the action sequence, there is a very strong emotional situation. 

So what happens when you’re watching as an audience, you are getting hooked into that emotion, you’re getting hooked into the characters and you, and then the moment that action comes, you feel, oh wow, this is, this is such a nice thing. It takes you on a different ride. But the thing that keeps you invested is the emotion. 

Dolores Quintana:  I really think that’s so important with every kind of film because, without human emotion, you don’t have anything. That’s how you’re really connecting with the audience. But I was just wondering if you have anything you’re working on right now. 

Nikhil Nagesh Bhat: Yes, I am. I am currently writing a mythological action film based on Indian mythology. The story is from about 10,000 years ago. Yes, I’m hoping that if the film is loved and gets the kind of response that I’m getting right now at the box office, I will make Kill 2 in the future.

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