‘Kill’ pushes global boundaries for Hindi cinema

The new action thriller has been dubbed the most violent film out of India—writer Rasha Goel talks with the filmmakers

"Kill" is an action thriller rarely seen in Hindi cinema.

Still frame from "Kill"

Words by Rasha Goel

Western audiences know Hindi cinema for its song, dance, family themes, and love stories. And this is precisely where the new film Kill flips the script.

A joint project between renown filmmakers Karan Johar and Guneet Kapoor Monga, and written and directed by Nikhil Nagesh Bhat, Kill is set on an express train and follows Army commando Amrit (Lakshya) and Viresh (Abhishek Chauhan) who are on a mission to rescue Amrit’s true love Tulika (Tanya Maniktala), from getting married against her will. The “rescue” mission becomes a gory adventure when a gang of bandits led by the ruthless Fani (Raghav Juyal) begin to terrorize innocent passengers. Kill paints a story of how far a man can go in love to rewrite his destiny.

What’s being heralded as India’s most violent film to date is headed to big screens in the United States on July 4 and India and the United Kingdom on July 5. The film made its world premiere at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival as a Midnight Madness selection and played earlier this year at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Johar is one of Hindi cinema’s most reputable filmmakers, who has launched the careers of several successful actors and filmmakers under his company, Dharma Productions. The production house is known for their global presence with Johar’s work in the movies for more than 25 years. Many of his films (Khabhie Kushi Kabhie Gum, Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani) have become major commercial successes. While these films have been rom coms and family dramas—categories more traditionally associated with Hindi cinema—he’s now venturing into a new genre: action thrillers.

The other half of the production team is Oscar-winning filmmaker and producer Monga, whose short documentary The Elephant Whisperers became India’s first Oscar-winning film in 2023. Monga was amongst the first producers from India to be inducted in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Producers Johar and Monga spoke to JoySauce recently about their excitement around the film and how it’s making an important impact on a global scale.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Five south Asian men and one south Asian woman stand lined up in a New York crosswalk, dressed in suits and a dress.

From left "Kill" producers Apoorva Mehta, Karan Johar, Achin Jain, Guneet Monga Kapoor, and director Nikhil Nagesh Bhat and actor Lakshya.

Swapnil Junjare

Rasha Goel: Given the types of stories you both normally create, why did you venture into an action film, which is being said to be one of the “most violent films out of India?”
Guneet Monga: I always wanted to make an intense non-stop action film with hand combat. When this script came by, I was very excited to develop it. We presented it to Karan and we were thrilled that Dharma backed it as a studio, and fully funded us to be on this ride to make this journey happen. He also introduced us to Lakshya, our main lead, who took nine months of pre-production to be on this journey. This is the first time something like this is happening out of Indiaa hand combat, this level of violence, blood, but it’s also very emotionally rooted. This is a cinematic experience that we wanted to create.

For Johar, one of the leading filmmakers in Hindi cinema, whose Bollywood films are centered around families, music, and melodrama, Kill marks an entirely new direction for him.

We always endeavor to push boundaries,  and this one is not just pushing the envelope, it's tearing the envelope and stabbing the envelope in literally the center of it.

RG: This is definitely stepping out of the box for your production company, which is widely reputed and known in the rom-com and family drama genres. Why the change?
Karan Johar: It’s a complete departure from where the entire filmography of my productions have been put in one box, and Kill in a totally different box. But I feel that was the whole endeavor, to break the myth that we only do one kind of cinema. We always endeavor to push boundaries,  and this one is not just pushing the envelope, it's tearing the envelope and stabbing the envelope in literally the center of it.

RG: It’s also a rare moment for Hindi cinema, with Kill being one of the first times a mainstream Hindi-language film partners with a Hollywood studio, Lionsgate, for a theatrical release in North America and the U.K.
GM: It’s definitely a lot of validation of craft and storytelling, because Lionsgate is also the studio behind John Wick and many action films. [Editor’s note: It was just announced that John Wick director Chad Stahelski will be producing an English-language remake for Lionsgate.]

To have this kind of distribution, to have diaspora, and non-diaspora come together, the action audiences of Lionsgate, and the Dharma footprint, I could not have asked for a better distribution plan. From my point of view there is Dharma distributing in India, there is Lionsgate distributing in the U.S., and I am thrilled with the opportunity that this film is getting.

Actor Lakshya kneels, with someone behind him with a knife to his throat, in "Kill."

Lakshya stars as Amrit in "Kill."

Courtesy of Roadside Attractions

RG: Kill marks the second collaboration of Dharma Productions and Sikhya Entertainment (Monga’s production company) after the widely loved film The Lunchbox. Talk to us about that partnership.
KJ: I'm so proud to be associated with Guneet, our director Nikhil Nagesh Bhat, debut actor Lakshay, and the brilliant Raghav Juryal. All of us collectively have really managed to create something that is new and path-breaking for action and storytelling in Indian cinema.

It’s a genre film, first of its kind for India. The fact that we have international distribution through Lionsgate and the rest of the world through other prolific distributors. The fact that we are having a global release makes us a global film, and what filmmaker wouldn’t want maximum eyeballs, even though one of the eyeballs gets stabbed with a knife! We’re talking about the eyeballs we love and root for. [Laughs.]

RG: The film departs from the typical Bollywood action and embraces its unique style to deliver a pivotal moment that shifts the narrative from intriguing to heart-pounding. Given your scope of work, what does this film mean to you?
GM: It is a testimony of the craft and of filmmaking, and the rest of it is on the audiences. It means a lot to us as Indian filmmakers, and I hope this opens up doors for newer filmmakers to come on board and be able to engage in global storytelling. This is the very, very start of it!

Actor Lakshya, stands in a train, shirtless, with wounds all over his body, in "Kill."

"Kill," starring Lakshya, has been dubbed the most violent film to come out of India.

Courtesy of Roadside Attractions

Published on July 3, 2024

Words by Rasha Goel

Rasha Goel is a journalist and three0time Emmy-nominated host/producer. Her beats include entertainment and human interest. Rasha is curious about life and finds her greatest joy in telling stories of marginalized communities. She is also a Reiki practitioner and enjoys sharing her healing gifts with people. Follow her on Instagram at @rashagoel.