Rajkumar Hirani: I can't sell my soul to entertain

At the ongoing 6th Jagran Film Festival in Mumbai, Rajkumar Hirani had movie buffs hooked to the bittersweet narrative of his journey in the industry...

JFFUndoubtedly one of the most popular and revered Bollywood filmmakers today, Rajkumar Hirani made an appearance at the ongoing 6th Jagran Film Festival here during the screening of his last film, 'pk' yesterday. The Aamir Khan-starrer, which released last December, was the first Hindi film to break into the Rs 300-crore league. Hirani made sure that he interacted with movie buffs attending the film fiesta.

Rajkumar Hirani
Rajkumar Hirani at the 6th Jagran Film Festival. pic/SHARAD VEGDA

Addressing the audience, he spoke about his struggling days as a film editor. "I remember there was a point of time when I was jobless for six months. But I remained patient and gradually started getting work, be it ad films or corporate projects. But I always dreamt of making feature films. So, I decided to write an appealing and interesting story," he said amidst applause from the packed auditorium.

Rajkumar Hirani with a fan
Rajkumar Hirani with a fan

Hirani said he used to have a lot of time in hand then to write and develop scripts, but now, he hardly gets a breather. So, he tries to cut himself off from the world to focus on his work or passion. "But when I do that and not answer calls or messages, my friends tell me that I have become a star, which embarrasses me," he added. In a second or two, a gentleman rose from his seat and identifying himself as SN Dubey, one of Hirani's seniors from the Film and Television Institute of India, he said, "Even I have been trying to reach you, but you have not responded to my e-mails." The audience cracked up and Hirani promised to keep in touch with his senior.

Rajkumar Hirani with SN Dubey, his senior from the Film and Television Institute of India. Pics/Sharad Vegda
Rajkumar Hirani with SN Dubey, his senior from the Film and Television Institute of India. Pics/Sharad Vegda

Then there were some movie buffs who told the filmmaker how he has changed their lives. One of them said that he quit his job as a medical representative to pursue his acting dreams after watching Hirani's 2009 blockbuster 3 Idiots. Another youngster also shared that he decided to relocate from Delhi to Mumbai to make a career in acting. He, too, did not take up a job just like R Madhavan's character in the film and had to convince his parents about following his heart.

Hirani, who by his own admission, is a man of few words, waxed eloquent about all that the aspirants must do to make a mark in the industry. In a candid chat with hitlist, he reveals his style of working and more. Excerpts:

Q. It is perceived that good films make a director successful. What does success mean to you?
A. For me, success is being in a position to make the kind of cinema that I always wanted to make.

Q. What keeps to you inspired and excited to make movies?
A. Any new idea that strikes me keeps me excited to continue making films. The excitement of developing a story into a script, then shooting the film, editing it and creating the music — the whole process gives me a lot of satisfaction. This joy, I think, keeps me going.

Q. Bollywood, of late, has been receptive to different kinds of films. What's your take on the evolution of Hindi cinema?
A. Cinema is seeing the best time today. Look at the kind of films being made — so different and appealing. Twenty years ago, it wasn't the case. Today, if you have an idea, you can go ahead and make a film. You can make a film on your mobile phone, edit it on your laptop and put it up on the internet for people to view it. This wasn't the case earlier. So, it is easier to get noticed now.

Q. Your films reflect a mix of both creativity and commercially viability. Do you do it consciously?
A. There are no rules to make a film commercially successful. Films are made with a gut feeling. If the story entertains you, you hope that others will also be entertained. So when I make a film, I know my primary job is to entertain, but at the same time I can't sell my soul to entertain. One gets lucky with some films and not so much with the others. Cinema is not mathematics that there can be few scenes which will be appreciated at the festivals and few scenes that will have commercial viability. I create a story and if it gets appreciated, it will travel all over the world to different film festivals and if it doesn't connect with the people, they won't watch it.

Q. A host of Indian and international films are being screened at the Jagran Film Festival. Don't you think we need more such initiatives in the country?
A. The best part about Jagran Film Festival is that it takes films to 16 cities; they are not restricted to one particular city. They take it to the interiors of India and people who are not exposed to world cinema get to watch them. Apart from screenings, Jagran takes the filmmakers to different cities to interact with the people and that is the greatest thing for me.

Market your film
Utpal Acharya, former CEO of Reliance Entertainment, and Vivek Krishnani, CEO of Set Max, offered tips to aspiring filmmakers on approaching studios and distribution companies to market their films, be it offbeat or commercial. Vivek says, "Two things that are of utmost importance while approaching a studio include carrying a bound script for the meeting and having an idea about the budget required to make the film."

Vivek Krishnani, CEO of Set Max (left), and Utpal Acharya, former CEO Reliance Entertainment, at the Jagran Film Festival.  pic/SHARAD VEGDA
Vivek Krishnani, CEO of Set Max (left), and Utpal Acharya, former CEO Reliance Entertainment, at the Jagran Film Festival. Pic/Sharad Vegda

Packed houses
Day three of the ongoing festival witnessed a diverse mix of audience hopping from the screening of one film to another.

A still from PK
A still from 'pk'

They were spoilt for choice with a heady spread of Indian and international films on offer. The list included Rajkumar Hirani's 'pk', Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Birdman, Gulzar's Angoor and Hiren Nag's Geet Gaata Chal.

Encouraging young talent
Director Kundan Shah, whose P Se PM Tak was screened on the third day of the 6th Jagran Film Festival, called on young talent to make content-driven cinema during an interaction session with Assamese director Manju Borah.

Director Kundan Shah
Director Kundan Shah

Filmmakers from various regional movie industries also shared their perspective with the audience and discussed the functioning of big studios and cinema in today's time.

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