In 'Rang De Basanti' real hero is screenplay: MehraFeb 5, 2006 Subhash K. Jha
Mumbai, Feb 6 (IANS) Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, basking in the success of "Rang De Basanti" that boasts of an original script, says the film is a collection of circumstances from his life.
"It is a collection of many circumstances. In school I wanted to join the air force. It didn't work out for me. In college in Delhi I was predominantly a sportsman. It didn't work out because I was from a lower middle-class family. And the first priority was to bring money back into the family."
Defending the controversial ending of the film he said: The defence minister's murder is the pre-climax. After that we have 45 minutes of story. At the end my heroes realise how futile it was to kill the defence minister."
Asked who the real hero of the film was, Mehra told IANS in an interview: "You mean besides Aamir and the other characters? ...the real hero is the screenplay. I got so possessed by it that every day I was on the laptop till 4.30 a.m. either creating or destroying."
How is the commercial prospect of "Rang De Basanti" looking to you?
I have been told it has gone through the roof. The numbers are filtering in. The opening, I am told, is the highest ever for a Hindi film.
How did you break the mould and still remain so entertaining in your film?
Yesterday the film got a standing ovation in New York and Britain. In New Jersey the police had to be called in because the people wanted another show. Someone just called me from Jaipur. In a small locality in a theatre, which was on the brink of closing down, people are thronging to see the film.
There was a cloak of secrecy over the project...
There were four-five Bhagat Singh films that didn't connect with the audience. Then there was "Mangal Pandey". That too failed. And my film starred Aamir Khan (who was also in "Mangal Pandey"). So, any sign of patriotism in my film was read as a danger sign.
"Rang De..." is ingeniously original.
It is a collection of many circumstances. In school I wanted to join the air force. It didn't work out for me. In college in Delhi I was predominantly a sportsman. It didn't work out because I was from a lower middle-class family. And the first priority was to bring money back into the family.
As kids in Delhi on Aug 15 when we flew kites, we could hear (prime minister) Indira Gandhi speaking... On the other side, there were the patriotic songs on the loudspeaker... "Ae mere watan" and "Mere desh ki dharti"... We were looking at the idea of our country through a kite... Films like "Mother India", "Do Bigha Zameen", "Naya Daur" which came on TV, touched all of us. This was the era when escapism hadn't seeped into cinema or real life.
So how did "Range De..." happen?
Seven years ago, even before "Aks", I wanted to do "Awaaz". You will find shades of "Awaaz" in "Rang De Basanti". It was about a bunch of boys working in a garage - the haves and have-nots. I wanted to make it with Abhishek. Then, seven years ago I wanted to make a film on the life of the revolutionaries. What I didn't want to do was to shoot them with halos. I wanted to shoot them as normal youngsters. I wanted to call it "The Young Guns Of India".
Then what happened?
The race for Bhagat Singh started. Initially, I wanted to enter the race. Then I realised we were all insulting his memory. Attention was diverted by who would get into theatres first. I moved on... I did a focus group in Delhi and Mumbai.
I took a new story idea to youngsters between 17 and 23 years. Our survey showed that for our generation a relationship meant, 'Let's get married and make babies together.' Not to this generation. We then moved into surveying them about the country and the tricolour. The borders of patriotism had blurred. Not too many kids knew who Chandrashekhar Azad was.
I abandoned the original idea and hit on another idea of a British documentary filmmaker coming to India to make a film on the Indian armed revolution. She finds kids who are more Western than her. Two lines... the past and present run together. They intersect. There are sparks. Then the rooftop scene where the line between past and present blurs when Soha asks her friends to kill the defence minister... Suddenly, the original idea was replaced by this new idea.
"Aks" had happened. "Samjhauta Express" featuring Abhishek as a Pakistani terrorist who infiltrates to India to rescue his father was abandoned. That was inspired by "The Devil's Own".
Thank god you gave it up. You are an original voice.
You know Aamir today spoke to me at three in the morning. He said "make only original films".
What was your budget?
Rs.250 million! Everything except the jail scenes was shot on location. We shot the first 56 days without interruption. We shot between February and June.
The cast and characters are impeccable.
Yes, Aamir hasn't dominated the film. And yet he has brought in everything required... The whole Punjabi accent for his Mona-Sardar character was his idea.
There was an attraction between Siddharth and Soha. We couldn't bring it into the forefront because of lack of space. In any case love stories don't have to have a happy ending. Today's generation is very mature about love and its end.
What about the controversial ending?
What about it? The defence minister's murder is the pre-climax. After that we have 45 minutes of story. At the end my heroes realise how futile it was to kill the defence minister.
Every story has to follow its own course. When heroes in a mythology enter the caves to fight the demons, they have to perish. Mani Rathnam's "Yuva" didn't work for me after the heroes went into parliament... What is jolting the audience is they love my heroes and they don't want them to die.
Too bad! You love and lose the best people in your lives. It isn't a heroic but poetic ending. But they become heroes because they die.
Your historifying of headlines culminates in the defence minister being likened to General Dyer.
What I am trying to say is we got independence from the British. But we got enslaved by our own. Now we are killing each other. Take any government from the Congress' emergency (rule) to the Americans in Vietnam. You are from Bihar. You know what I mean. There can be no neat solution to the problems we face. My film is a conversation with the masses.
The MIG plane crash was tricky. Were you ready for the controversies?
I was ready for a long fight. Surprisingly, the censor gave us a certificate subject to clearance from defence ministry. When defence personnel saw it they were a little apprehensive about the sensitive issue. But the film was cleared in three days. The defence minister loved it.
Who is the real hero of "Rang De Basanti"?
You mean besides Aamir and the other characters? Binod Pradhan's camerawork is comparable with the best in the world. But the real hero is the screenplay. I got so possessed by it every day I was on the laptop at 4.30 a.m. either creating or destroying.
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Rang De Basanti