Be it the Tanu Weds Manu series, Raanjhanaa (2013), Nil Battey Sannata (2015), Shubh Mangal Saavdhan (2017), Tumbbad or Zero (both 2018), filmmaker Aanand L Rai has — as a producer and director — always experimented with his craft to deliver a mix of entertainment and social messages.
As he puts it: “Of course, the priority is to entertain people, but at the end of the day is it just about entertainment? It [the film/story] should be layered with a certain kind of [ideas of] growth and change. As a filmmaker, since you are
a part of society, you are bound to do something, especially since this medium is so strong.”
And Rai takes the veil off the taboo topic of homosexuality in a very matter-of-fact manner in his latest production, Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan. “Mujhe lagta hai har film aapko kahin na kahin leke jaati hai. I also wanted to learn (about the issue) and entertain. When you decide to make a film, that’s when you win half the battle,” he says.
Moreover, he feels it’s not just filmmakers, but audiences too who are growing. “We are a progressive nation and it’s our duty to come up with progressive subjects,” Rai says, adding he was “very shy” earlier.
“Tab main bahut safe zone mein operate karta tha,” he reveals. But when he came to Mumbai, the filmmaker reveals he got a “great thing called fearlessness”. “Yeh ingredient mere liye naya tha, mujhe bahut pasand aaya aur maine pakad liya. Ab main yeh nahin chhodunga. I want to carry this with me till my last film. I don’t want anything like box-office numbers or any other uncertainty to take me away from it,” he shares.
Another element that has become a part of Rai’s filmmaking is his association with small towns, which holds true in his latest film too. “Maine kabhi small town ko small town ki tarah liya hi nai. For me, it is always a reflection of a progressive India and that’s how I always represent it. I have my reasons to go to Benares, Meerut or wherever I will go next,” he says.
Rai’s last directorial venture, Zero, didn’t set the cash registers ringing. Ask how he takes such setbacks and he shares, “Every film is like a chapter in my life. It teaches you something. I’ve gone silent after every film and tried to learn my lessons. Box-office collections haven’t changed the way I see my films. My process is still the same.”
As Rai readies for his next directorial, Atrangi Re, starring Akshay Kumar, Dhanush and Sara Ali Khan, he emphasises it’s not going to be a “safe” film. And I can proudly say that. It’s a story I want to tell. If anyone thinks I will make a ‘safe’ film next (after Zero) I don’t believe the word exists for any
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