Aanand L Rai: Want people to develop a taste for all kinds of cinema
Aanand L Rai talks about being a filmmaker, producer and presenter and how he hopes to expand horizons by presenting varied subjects
Aanand L Rai prefers to do a fine balancing act when it comes to cinema. His next directorial venture may be the big ticket Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Zero, but at the same time, the filmmaker is keen to dabble in low-budget slice-of-life and real sagas as a presenter. This, he says, is his way of helping passionate, as well as young filmmakers, especially those who do not have access to big budgets, film studios and marketing moolah. More importantly, this is also Rai's way to make the audience savour varied cinema. "I want people to develop a taste for different kinds of films," he says.
Aanand L Rai
Last Friday's release Tumbbad had Rai as presenter of the Sohum Shah-starrer horror thriller. Writer, director and now presenter, Rai is keen to straddle all the different aspects of filmmaking. At his tastefully done Andheri office, he spells out the reason behind it. "As a creative person, I have managed to direct the kind of films that I am comfortable in," he says. This includes Tanu Weds Manu (2011), Raanjhanaa (2013) and Tanu Weds Manu Returns (2015). "As a producer, I have been able to fund and support writer-directors who had interesting stories to tell." Rai's productions include Nil Battey Sannata (2016), Shubh Mangal Saavdhaan (2017), the Happy Bhag Jayegi franchise and Mukkabaaz (2017).
"So, I thought what more can I do? Considering that I am not directing films back-to-back, I can perfectly balance the three roles — producer, director and presenter. When I saw Tumbbad, it stayed with me. I felt this was a film I would like people to watch. It is not a regular film. You have to develop a taste for such cinema. Tumbbad is a cinematic experience, it is thrilling, it talks about greed and greed can be scary."
He picks and chooses the films he would like to present under his banner. Last year, he presented the Rajkummar Rao-starrer Newton. "When a known name figures in the credits as presenter, it can help a film get greater mileage as well as more screens," says Rai, who had also presented Mangesh Hadawale's Chalo Jeete Hain, which is based on an incident from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's film. Tell him it turned out to be a propaganda film, which was screened across channels on the PM's birthday (September 17) and he says, "I liked the concept of the film, it is more for kids. I came on board as presenter much earlier," says Rai.
Another reason for him to take on the role of presenter is because he understands the struggles a filmmaker goes through. "For a decade, I was rising and falling till Tanu Weds Manu happened." Rai's earlier films include the Jimmy Sheirgill-Kay Kay Menon-starrer Strangers (2007) and Thodi Life Thoda Magic (2008), which starred Jackie Shroff and Parmeet Sethi.
"Filmmaking is a passion and I am keen to provide other passionate filmmakers a helping hand," says Rai who learnt the ropes of production with elder brother, Ravi Rai, best remembered for his pathbreaking television shows Sailaab, Thoda Hai Thode Ki Zaroorat Hai and Sparsh in the 1990s. "It has been a long journey for me, it is not that I made it overnight to launch my banner, Colour Yellow Productions."
Working on Zero
Aanand L Rai is not keen to divulge details about Zero, his directorial venture starring Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif and Anushka Sharma at this juncture. "Wait till November 2 for the trailer launch on SRK's birthday. The film has surprised me and sometimes I wonder how I managed it. It has been made with a lot of passion, but I don't want to think of it as my biggest yet."
Aanand L Rai and Anurag Kashyap
'There was no time to inform Anurag'
Aanand L Rai's last production Manmarziyaan courted controversy after certain scenes that hurt the religious sentiments of the Sikhs were deleted post its release. The makers approached the Censor Board again to get the scenes removed. Director Anurag Kashyap, who was travelling, was furious when he learnt about it and posted angry tweets against Manmarziyaan co-producer Kishore Lulla for getting the scenes removed from the film and even shared Lulla's mobile number in his post. Twitter took down his post and later Kashyap apologised to the Sikhs for hurting their sentiments. Rai says, "Anurag was travelling and the decision had to be taken within minutes. I had to take a call immediately to stop the film from being pulled out of theatres. There was no time to inform Anurag and explain. Anurag got the certification, but we had to go back to get the scenes out to avoid a boycott of Manmarziyaan. We are all aware of how Anurag lets go on Twitter. Things happened in the heat of the moment. I am sorry on his behalf. We are a close team, Anurag will always stand by me and I for Anurag. The team had made a good film and it was a learning experience."
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