Interview : Manish Gupta

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Why did you choose THE STONEMAN MURDERS as the subject for your directorial debut?
Well, it’s a long story. It all started one fine morning when I was reading the newspaper Times of India. My eyes fell on an article about India’s most infamous serial killers namely – Raman Raghav, Billa-Ranga, Charles Sobhraj and a killer known only as ‘The Stoneman’ or ‘Patharmaar’. I learnt through the article that while all the other killers had been apprehended and punished, the ‘Stoneman’ remains elusive and till today, 26 years since he claimed his last victim on the streets of Bombay, his identity and his motives remain an unsolved mystery to the world. These facts intrigued me. Upon further researching the subject, I was convinced that this is a good subject to write a script around.

“I cannot relate to a commercial Bollywood potboiler.”

So how much of the film is fact and how much is fiction?
40% of the film is fact and 60% is fiction. Very little is known about the Stoneman. No one knows who he was. His identity and his motives are unknown. Only his modus operandi is known – that he killed poor footpath dwellers in their sleep by crushing their heads with a large stone. Later he left behind the same stone next to the victim’s head as his signature. This killer claimed many victims in Bombay between 1983-1987 and then he disappeared from Bombay only to resurface in Calcutta in late 1987 claiming numerous victims there too. Through all the murders, his modus operandi remained the same. In the film, these facts and other known facts like the locations of the killings, the general profiles of the victims, etc have been kept true to life but rest of the film has been fictionalized.

How did you learn all these facts about this case?
I researched the subject thoroughly. It took me and my assistants one and a half months to finish the research that involved digging out old newspapers from the Asiatic Library and from the Govt. Archival Library in Elphinstone College. Later, we combed the Archives of newspapers like The Times of India, Navbharat Times, Maharashtra Times and Indian Express. It was a tedious job since we had to search through each page of each and every newspaper printed between 1983 and 1987. Finally the hard work paid off and we obtained many old articles that had reported the ‘Stoneman’ killings at that time. Based on these articles, I wrote a script intermingling fact with fiction.



The films that you scripted for Ramu – SARKAR, D and others, they too had a dark undertone to them. Why do you always choose dark subjects?
I would say that I choose subjects that are close to reality. That is the genre that I specialize in.

Would you not like to someday write or direct a commercial Bollywood potboiler?
Never. I cannot relate to those kinds of films. I can’t stand that song-and-dance routine.

Are there no songs in THE STONEMAN MURDERS?
There is an item song!

How come?
Well, the producer Bobby Bedi coaxed me into it for ‘commercial’ reasons.

“Ramu and I fell out after he rejected my story for SARKAR RAJ.”

Why did you not choose Ramu to produce THE STONEMAN MURDERS?
Ramu and I fell out after he rejected my story for SARKAR RAJ. Since I wrote the story, screenplay and dialogues for SARKAR, it was only natural that I approached Ramu with a story when I heard that he was planning a sequel. But Ramu turned the story down because he had some other ideas. At that very moment, I knew that it was quits for us.

So are you bitter with Ramu about this?
Not at all. Whatever I am, I am because of him. But it just became a little difficult for me to work with him after this whole affair.

So how was the transition from writer to director?
Smooth. Not many people know that I have directed one story of DARNA ZAROORI HAI that had six stories and six different directors for each story. Directing one of those stories gave me the necessary experience to direct a full-length film on my own.

What are your future plans?
None as yet. Am too busy with the promotion of THE STONEMAN MURDERS to think about the future.

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