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Kiran Rao: Wanted to make 'Laapataa Ladies' accessible and fun

Updated on: 16 February,2024 09:47 AM IST  |  Mumbai

Kiran Rao who returns to direction after 14 years, said audiences have been conditioned to expect the worst, especially when it comes to women's safety

Kiran Rao: Wanted to make 'Laapataa Ladies' accessible and fun

Kiran Rao. Pic/Yogen Shah

There is a lot of goodness in the world and it sometimes doesn't reflect on the big screen, says Kiran Rao who has done her bit to rectify that in her latest film "Laapataa Ladies", a comic take on two brides in rural India who accidently get swapped during a train journey. The "Dhobi Ghat" filmmaker, who returns to direction after 14 years, said audiences have been conditioned to expect the worst, especially when it comes to women's safety. But her film, while realistic and grounded, doesn't go there. "Honestly, this story could have gone in any direction. It could have been any other genre. When we were writing this, we were conscious that while we are touching upon several issues, the idea is to entertain and make it an accessible and a fun journey," Rao told PTI in an interview. "I feel there's a lot of goodness in the world. When we look at our lives, we realise there are so many people around us who give us hope and love. We're surrounded by people we admire, and we don't see enough of them on screen," she added. The director admits it was challenging to keep the touch light but she saw it as an opportunity to show flawed and familiar characters who are "lovable and real".

"It was a bit of a balancing act to keep the realism while keeping the satire and humour... You feel like you know these people," she said. Rao said she had been working on creating a script that would become her next film but "nothing quite clicked". Till ex-husband Aamir Khan returned from a screenwriting competition he was judging. "Aamir came home and told me a one-liner, about two girls on a train and how they get swapped. And I was hooked. I knew that this was not just a great story but also a great opportunity for me. "Honestly, I could never have written a story like this myself. It's not naturally my kind of story when I write but I felt I could bring something of myself to it," she said. Eventually, the story by Biplab Goswami was developed into the film with Sneha Desai working on the screenplay and dialogues. Rao's Kindling Productions and Khan's Aamir Khan Productions have produced the film, slated to release on March 1. The ex-couple has been promoting the film together. The fact that the two enjoy a great friendship despite their divorce in 2021 surprises many. But then, as Rao said, they have always made their own rules.

"Perhaps we've not adhered to anything very strictly conventional in many ways. It wasn't anything we planned. We are friends, we enjoy each other's company. We've had a fulfilling marriage for almost 17 years. You can't sever ties because of some sort of annulment or like breaking up of a social contract," she said. Continuing to be friends and family came naturally to them, she said. "We care deeply for each other and our families are still interwoven. The test of any friendship is to work together really because it is very hard. That actually will prove to people who think that we are acting. (So) It's proven that we still like to work together." The original story of "Laapataa Ladies" was more in the drama genre but Rao said she felt it would work better if it was a bit more "humorous, funny and emotional". Actors Pratibha Ratna and Nitanshi Goel play the brides and Sparsh Shrivastav is the hapless husband who ends up bringing home the wrong one. Shot in a village in Madhya Pradesh, "Laapataa Ladies" is set in 2001 when mobile phones were still a luxury in rural areas and something to be "given as dowry", she added. "It seemed more realistic that it would take somebody five days to find their way back home or to for someone to find it."

Actor Ravi Kishan is the "paan-chewing" police officer who is corrupt but not without conscience. Rao said Kishan took to the role naturally. Khan had also auditioned for the part but both felt that the Bhojpuri cinema star was a better fit. "He (Kishan) used to say, 'I have met many such police officers who chew paan'. I was very keen on paan. He said, 'karte hain, karte hain'. He enjoyed playing the character," the director said. The filmmaker said she has many projects that are slowly coming to "some sort of fruition" and hopes to begin shooting at some point this year. "I don't want to be 'laapata' for such a long time. Unfortunately, anyone in the film world knows this and will tell you that it's a waiting game. I don't have anything confirmed yet but I've got a few projects that I'm hoping will take off by the end of the year. So we'll be shooting hopefully in a year from now," she said. Along with Rao and Khan, "Laapataa Ladies" is also produced by Jyoti Deshpande. The film is presented by Jio Studios.

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