His debut directorial 'Aks' bombed at the box-office. People said that they did not understand the film. But Rakeysh OmPrakash Mehra did not care. He went on to make his second film 'Rang De Basanti' with Aamir Khan.
The question doing the rounds is: Will 'Rang De Basanti' do the trick for Mehra who sits on the other side of the fence? Read on for a heart-to-hear chat with TWF correspondent Vickey Lalwani
Q: All those who have seen the film or even its rushes say that it's fantastic?
A: I've been so busy of late that I didn't get time to check my reactions about the final draft of the film. All I can say is that as a director I've made the film to my best knowledge and capacity. I have left no stone unturned in any department. Frankly speaking, it's early days yet, and I hope that the film will be accepted in a large context.
Q: Are you imparting a social message via 'Rang De Basanti'?
A: Yes and No. Yes because- there is a hard-hitting message in the end. It will make you think. The film intends to speak to the youth and the nation and maybe the universe as a whole. No because- there is lots of entertainment in the film. At no stage, you will feel that it's become preachy. In 'Rang De Basanti', I'm basically narrating a story, with interesting twists and turns.
Q: What is the story about?
A: It is a story about today's generation, graduates and postgraduates on the brink of life. The film is about these boys and girls and how they are going about life. There is a matter of making a choice and accepting the responsibility of making it- that is the turning point in the film. The big moment is the decision for them to accept that choice, and take on the consequences of their actions, not to be escapists.
Q: What kind of homework did you do for this film?
A: One month of readings and rehearsals were conducted at Mehboob Studio that started in Jan 2005. It was an open house for discussions, developments as the actors became the characters in the film. All departments came together under one roof to give life to the papers of hard work. There were dress rehearsals, look tests and meetings with the entire crew.
Q: You shot in The Golden Temple on the very first day?
A: Yes. The film's first shoot day was indeed special. After 15 years, for the first time a film crew was allowed to enter and shoot at this holy pilgrimage place. The title song of the film 'Rang De Basanti' was picturised in three days. There was a crowd of about 3000 people around.
Q: How did you think of taking Soha Ali Khan in the female lead?
A: Soha is an enchanting actress. I did not have to think twice before finalizing Soha for the role of the young girl Sonia in Rang De Basanti. When she came in front of the camera, it took me merely 30 seconds to take the decision that she was my Sonia in the film.
Soha is actually paired with actor Madhavan. She plays a die-hard optimist and a traditional Indian beauty who is both well travelled and well read. Her character is an idealist who feels passionately about issues relating to youth.
Q: How did Aamir Khan agree to do the film?
A: I knew this was coming. I know Aamir is too choosy about the films he selects. He liked the story and the screenplay. Once he gave his consent, all things started falling in place. After that, all the impossible started turning possible for me in regard of the finance and other things.
Q: What about Alice Patten? How did you choose her?
A: We needed someone who would commit to come to India for eight months, do a month of Hindi coaching, a month for rehearsals and six months for shooting. Alice was finalized, an English girl from the theatre circuit, all the way from South Africa. She has been perfectly cast, I feel.Q: Many eyebrows have been raised that you have chosen Aamir for the role of a college goer?
A: I don't understand this age business. I think Aamir is the perfect choice for the male protagonist of 28-30 years. He worked hard to look his age, lost 10-15 kgs following a strict diet. He got into the skin of the character. That's all that matters. I hope we rock. Pray for us.
Q: Was the fact that your first film didn't do well, weighing in your mind?
A: "Aks" got its share of critical acclaim and stuff like that. It definitely started a trend in Indian cinema and has been responsible for a change, in its own small way. I was not bogged down by the failure of 'Aks'.