The ultimate objective, Broadbent and scriptwriter Ol Parker said, was to make a film that wasn't a soft-lens, idealized vision of India, nor something in the so-called poverty porn genre focused on feel-good underdogs. "It's for others to judge whether we succeeded," Parker said. "You can't please everyone. I await the response with pleasure and terror."
Some issues in the film are sensitive ones — the tendency in the West to marginalize the elderly, a sense that India is stealing jobs from Europe and elsewhere. Add in India's many religious, cultural, political and social mores and you have a true writer's minefield, Parker said. "You're entering a world that's very perilous." he said. "You just have to tiptoe through everything."
Ultimately, Madden said, he wanted the script to capture the range of emotions people have toward India — from revulsion to wonder. "Look at these vehicles on the street," he said between scenes. "India's unpredictable and absurd but fantastically resourceful and energetic. And funny. The guys are driving, but they can't see where they're going."
A unique part of the experience, several stars said, was the camaraderie they developed working so closely uninterrupted for such a long period, a rare occurrence in the life of busy actors. It was a fight to block out everyone's schedules for eight weeks straight — like herding cats, Broadbent said — but it was also a reunion of sorts, since most had worked together in the past. "It's almost like a theater company," he said. "It's almost like they're doing rep 50 years ago."
From start to finish, the time spent in India was unforgettable, Dench said, one she recorded in a daily journal for her grandchildren.
"The color, atmosphere, difference between extreme wealth and abject poverty of India, the smell, the spices," she said. "Whatever anyone says about India, multiply it 10 times."