The Indian remake of “Rambo” doesn’t start shooting until next February, but director Siddharth Anand has already earned something every filmmaker in his shoes would want: a vote of confidence from the original Rambo.
“I actually get excited in my heart whenever young artists get a rare opportunity to reach for the stars!” Sylvester Stallone wrote in an Instagram post on Saturday, referring to the 27-year-old Bollywood actor Tiger Shroff who will play the titular character. “I am sure you will put all of your heart and soul into it.” Stallone also tweeted the recently unveiled poster for the movie and wished the filmmakers good luck, adding “I like the energy of Bollywood.”
Shroff is an actor and martial arts expert whose credits include the recent Bollywood action films “Heropanti,” “Baaghi,” and “A Flying Jatt.”
Based on 1982’s “First Blood,” the first film of the “Rambo” franchise, the remake will follow the last surviving member of an elite covert unit of the Indian Armed forces who returns home to discover a war waging in his own land. Forced into the dangerous jungles and frozen mountains of the Himalayas, he unleashes mayhem and destruction, becoming the unstoppable machine he was trained to be.
IndieWire spoke with Anand on Sunday in advance of the official announcement at Cannes for the film.
Why is now a good time to remake “Rambo”?
I think “Rambo” is timeless. It’s always the right time, because we’re living in a society that’s really volatile anyway, so it gets more and more relevant.
How did you feel when you saw Sylvester Stallone’s tweet about the movie?
I’m happy to have Sylvester Stallone’s blessing. The fact that he tweeted the poster — that’s very important to me and Tiger and the production team, because he is someone we look up to and that audiences in India look up to.
What impact did the original “Rambo” films have on you?
I was very young, but my earliest memories of “Rambo” were of a man who can take on an army. When I watched “First Blood” again, I realized the angst of the character and the emotional baggage that he carries. You associate “Rambo” with action and blood and gore, but I think it’s an emotional film. There’s a lot of heart and angst in him.
How are you going to make this film your own?
I would give credit to the story of the film, which is too early to divulge… I’m looking at the action as a garnish. If you’re using a brand like “Rambo,” the action better be spectacular, but what else are you going to give the audience apart from that? It’s the emotion, the character, and the story, so I’m aiming to make that the high point. The character should leave you thinking, so that is my aim with “Rambo,” apart from giving you action that we are all expecting.
Your first time directing an action film was “Bang Bang,” the 2014 Indian remake of “Knight and Day.” What did you learn from that experience?
I had directed romantic comedies up until then. When I was offered the remake of “Knight and Day,” I was a little stupefied as to why they would choose me for it, but it just seems like it was foresight on their part because I’ve taken to the action genre like a fish takes to water. I think the vision that I try and bring to the genre in India is different. There’s a different outlook to action in India, and what I try and bring is a little more style and scale… But I would also like to do a film like “Silver Linings Playbook,” and try to adapt it. It’s a great idea because it’s a human story which resonates across countries and audiences. But to take up an action film and give it depth is a challenge.
How hard was it to cast the lead role?
Tiger’s casting was a no-brainer. He’s found a niche for himself and there’s no one like him in India, in terms of the action that he can do and the persona that he has. He’s stuck to this genre and tried to basically make it fun, and he’s successfully done that. He’s capable of a lot more than what we have seen of him, so I see a lot of potential in him… I want “Rambo” to reach out to every filmgoing audience and country in the world and Tiger to be synonymous with “Rambo” from here on. It’s a huge challenge, but it’s something that we’re really excited for.
What else do you think is going to be challenging about the remake?
Reactions are [going to be] so polarized because the character is so iconic and much loved. People wouldn’t want it to be messed around with, so my challenge is not the action really, but the fact that I have to live up to people’s expectations of the legacy of “Rambo.” I need them to connect with the character in the film. They need to love the character as much as they loved the original character, otherwise it’s a career-finishing film.
Is remaking “Rambo” in the age of Donald Trump significant to you?
I think that will be more relevant in the sequel. In this film he is just fighting the system, so probably in a couple of years it might be more relevant.