At a recent press conference, filmmaker Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra was quite vociferous about his opinion on why he is not fond of the term Bollywood. Having made films like Aks, Rang De Basanti and Delhi 6, the director feels that it was just a term coined to assist Hollywood studios looking to expand their business to the Indian shores. The director talks about what Indian cinema means to him and his upcoming biopic on Milkha Singh…
You don’t quite agree with the term Bollywood. Why?
It reminds me that we are somewhat stuck in a system. It is a marketing term for all the studios that were looking at doing business in India. They wanted a term that referred to us. Rather than they coining it for us, we came up with the term Bollywood. And the worst part is that it rhymes with Hollywood!
How would you define Indian cinema?
Indian cinema has been there for 100 years and we have many languages. We began with Parsi theatre and then came folk theatre. We have covered over 100 years to reach where we are today. But our cinema is not limited to only song and dance. What justification do we need more than that our films have survived the onslaught of Hollywood films?
You were going to make a remake of a Bulgarian film with Amitabh Bachchan. Is that happening?
When I began work on the Milkha biopic, I lost focus. I’m sure we will pick it up soon. I can’t multi-task. Now my wife Bharathi has taken a bigger role in the production company. I suddenly have some time on my hands now. The film will happen soon.
You have been an athlete too. Was that the inspiration for the biopic?
I have practically lived in stadiums, practising and listening to the tales of cricketers and other sportsmen. Among them was Milkha Singh, although I never met him. As a director you are always confused about what to make next. You are always at a crossroad but you have to listen to your heart. Prasoon Joshi (lyricist and writer) helped me out a lot on this. We went to Chandigarh to meet Milkha Singh and his son Jeev and the rest as they say is history.
There is disappointment over not seeing Sonam Kapoor in the promos with Farhan Akhtar.
I just hope I can eventually please Sonam’s fans too.