With bloodshed, high-octane fight sequences, nail-biting suspense, and hair-raising action, when the teaser of Kill dropped in April in India, it sets the tone for a thrilling ride for the audience. The teaser introduces the debutant Lakshya Lalwani as the vengeful protagonist Amrit. However, the teaser opens with a warning: ‘Viewer discretion is advised, as its makers proudly call it.the most violent film made out of India.” Kill, produced by Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions and Guneet Monga’s Sikhya Entertainment, tells the story of a soldier, played by Lakshya, who turns a train into a bloodbath as Raghav Juyal’s character kidnaps his girlfriend, played by Tanya Maniktala, on a train.

Amrit is not your everyday soldier; he transforms into a ruthless killing machine, unleashing brutal vengeance on the goons who attack the train. Directed by Nikhil Bhat, who earlier helmed Apurva and Brij Mohan Pyare Amar Rahe, Kill, months before its upcoming release on July 5, has been creating buzz internationally, with filmmaker-actor Anurag Kashyap claiming, “Kill is the best action film I’ ve seen coming from India ever.”

“It’s one thing to find a good response outside the country, but when your own people shower praise and love, it’s a very different feeling. It’s a feeling of validation and immense satisfaction,” Nikhil reacts to Anurag’s praise for the film.

Nikhil, in an interview with indianexpress.com, shares how his personal experience inspired him to write the story of Kill. “Back in 1994-95, as a student, I used to travel sleeper class on the Bombay Janta Express from Patna to Pune. One night, I was jolted awake as the train stopped at a small station. I noticed we weren’t in Allahabad, the expected stop. News then traveled through that the AC coaches were being robbed! In my car, a group of soldiers from Danapur chuckled, confident they’d have stopped any attempt on our sleeper coach. That incident stuck with me for years,” Nikhil recalls.

Kill premiered in the Midnight Madness section of the Toronto International Film Festival in 2023. The film earned a spot among the ten selected films for screening at the festival. It is also one of the first Indian films whose distribution rights have been acquired by Lionsgate for North America and the UK. “It’s the first of its kind that an Indian film has been acquired by a major studio for distribution in North America and the UK,” says the Hurdang director, adding, “Indian cinema is traveling, and it’s very fulfilling to know that a local story based out of a small region in India could travel all across the globe. When a huge blockbuster film like RRR and a genre film like Kill can get such an amazing reception, it means there is no stopping a well-told story. The world is our playground.”

Festive offer

Not all films that travel the film festival circuit end up with a theatrical release and commercial success. There is a misconception that festivals often showcase independent or artistic films with niche themes that might not appeal to a broad audience to justify the costs of a wide theatrical release. Debunking the myth, Nikhil says, “It’s actually an incorrect perception that films that travel to festivals don’t release in theatres. In fact, Lunchbox, which was a Sikhya Entertainment and Dharma Production film, was widely celebrated on the festival circuit and then went on to become a hit in the theaters as well. Films like John Wick, SISU, and The Raid also traveled to many festivals but were also massive hits in theaters. We are actually guilty of putting films in slots as festival films and commercial films. A ‘festival film’ like Laapataa Ladies can also be commercially successful.”

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Nikhil’s Kill has intense hand-combat scenes and gore. The protagonist, as seen in the trailer, is so merciless that even the villain (Raghav) ends up saying, “Aise kaun marta hai (Who kills like this)?” But Nikhil is not afraid of the criticism that might follow the release of the film. As seen recently, Ranbir Kapoor’s Animal, despite its phenomenal success at the box office, received criticism from certain sections for its graphic violence with scenes involving guns, axes, and blood splatter and portrayal of women. “If Animal was criticized on one hand, it was also widely appreciated and was a huge blockbuster hit,” he argues. He continues, “As a filmmaker, I am always willing to experiment and push myself and my craft. I am a very greedy filmmaker, so if someone criticizes it with a valid reason, I will definitely take learning points from the criticism. But having said this, Kill is a genre film. It’s an extremely violent film, so if it gets criticized for violence, it’s almost like a horror film being criticized for scaring people.” Nikhil wrote the entire action in the script, penning everything in detail. The actors had to undergo grueling training to ace the fight sequences.

He stresses that despite Kill being an action film with gore and violence, at its heart it’s a very emotional film. “It’s a story which explores a lot of relationships and how these relationships are tested in this journey,” he tells us, justifying the cast of the film which doesn’t really have a ‘star’ in it. “All three are amazing actors and are extremely committed to their craft. Because this is an emotional film, I needed actors who could bring out the performance easily. Moreover, all three were also very committed to training for action for a long time. So to balance both these departments, I found these amazing actors who grew strength by strength while doing the film,” adds Nikhil.

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