RAMNATH N PAI RAIKAR | NT NETWORK
- Satish ji, is 2017 an exciting time for you, after having spent more than three decades in the film industry, especially now that you are busy with films, plays, television and advertisements?
Yes, it’s a very, very exciting time. It’s also a very innovative time for me, because I think I am re-inventing myself in a different manner. Actually it started from 2007 when I did a British film called ‘Brick Lane’, which opened the Toronto International Film Festival and won many awards, and I received rave reviews for my performance. After that I did ‘Road, Movie’ with Dev Benegal, which also starred Abhay Deol, which further provided me with appreciation. Then last year, I produced a film called ‘A Billion Colour Story’ directed by N Padmakumar, which was in the Film Bazaar and won 11 international awards. And now both of us are making ‘Distant Teardrop’, a film that is at the co-production stage, in the Film Bazaar. The pre-production work is complete and we are making it from the end of January 2018.
Then there is my radio show called ‘Filmy Calendar Show’ which is still airing. My advertisement with Amitabh Bachchan has become very popular too. Finally, for stage, I am reviving my successful play ‘Salesman Ramlal’, which is based on Arthur Miller’s famous play, ‘Death of a Salesman’, as also doing a new play, Mr & Mrs Murarilal. In addition, I am producing lot of stuff, as also working with new directors, and the younger generation. In fact, one of my Marathi films, ‘Udhaan’ is going on the floor on December 1, and narrates the story of a rape victim, which has a happy ending. It will also be made in Hindi. And then there is a Haryanvi film ready to be shot. I am also on the board of directors of Pan India Studios, where I enjoy doing creative work. So this is a very good period where I am actually getting into international cinema, as also doing our own films, which can make a mark globally. And yes, there is my directorial venture with the working title, ‘Main Zinda Hoon’, which is getting set to be produced with the international market in mind.
- You began your career as a film writer, then moved to acting, and later went on to direct them and finally became a producer. In which of these fields are you most relaxed?
I never thought of anything else in my life, other than working in films. In 1972, when I joined Kirori Mal College in Delhi, the head of the college dramatics society, Frank Thakur Das, who was a well-known professor of political science, supported me as an actor although there were many other good looking students in the college. One day he called me to his house and suggested that after passing out I should become a professional actor. When I explained to him that I have no good features, he said that when he sees me performing on stage, I become the ultimate good looking person. He really pushed me and got me into National School of Drama, about which I had no knowledge. My actual journey started from that point of time. I think I was able to achieve all these things, as I was a very passionate person towards my work. I only had a one-track thought process in my life and enjoyed my work. Basically I was an actor, then turned to writing, from there to direction and finally became a producer. I am also continuing with my roots, the theatre. I have a radio show; have done television programmes in different capacities. Now, when the younger generation is arriving in the film industry, the perspective of the industry is changing, and filmmakers with expanding vision and technical excellence can bring any story to the screen they desire, I am happy to be around. We, the experienced people from the film industry can learn a lot from them. This is a growing process which keeps me alive.
- In spite of being in the exciting stage of your career, do you still see the decade of 1980s as the best part of your life, especially as all your contemporaries, who were the students of the National School of Drama and the Film and the Television Institute of India had then just arrived in Mumbai?
I think that was very innocent time. We spent nice time in Mumbai because most of us didn’t have any other profession. Getting into films was a difficult task, and the expansion of television had not even started then. When I arrived in Mumbai, I said, for one year I will try to understand this place; do a handshake with this city. So I worked in a textile mill for a year; my first day’s job being sweeping the dust of the yarn bundles. This journey was however a positive journey as I continued doing theatre after my job at the mill. One day, the owner of the mill came to watch my play and was mighty impressed. He told me that although I was not a good looking fellow, my acting was remarkable. In Mumbai, I met people like Banarasi Lal Arora in the mill, and Javed Akhtar, Boney Kapoor, Anil Kapoor and Shekhar Kapur from the film industry, who always encouraged me as they well understood my passion.
- You have directed remakes of films as also directed films based on original stories/ scripts. Are you comfortable in both cases?
I admit that directing ‘Karzzzz’ based on the Subhash Ghai original was my mistake as one should refrain from interfering with good films. Sometimes one succumbs to certain pressures, like say in this case, I was carried away by my friendship with Himesh Reshammiya, who had given very good music for my film, ‘Tere Naam’ and played lead in ‘Karzzzz’. As far as other remakes of Tamil or Telugu originals are concerned, first of all I think our South Indian writers are quality writers. Take the example of one of my remakes, ‘Hum Aapke Dil Mein Rehte Hain’, which was based on a husband-wife relationship. When I first heard the story of the original movie, I was very impressed with the way the sanctity of marriage was portrayed, although it had a little melodrama in it. But then what is life without melodrama? The Hindi film subsequently turned out to be a big hit. Similar was the case with ‘Hamara Dil Aapke Paas Hai’, which narrated the story of a rape victim. Then take ‘Mujhe Kucch Kehna Hai’, in which a boy just cannot express his feelings to a girl. Finally, ‘Tere Naam’, with a weird and an odd character was also a huge hit. I may remake the originals into Hindi movies however they are not blatant copies of the originals but are adaptations. I interpret the original films and provide remakes with my own touch.
- Do you feel that the youth today are reluctant to go to training institutions like National School of Drama and the Film and Television Institute of India, as it “would waste their time”, and directly want to join the film industry?
As you see, this is an individual decision. However, I am of the opinion that the youth should receive training from an institution or a professional in the field. This is because the talent gets honed after undergoing training. The teacher understands the students thoroughly and strengthens the layers of their skills. When the youth reads Stanislavski or Brecht his vision expands. I myself had never read anything other than ‘Hindustan’ weekly and ‘Dharmayug’ magazine until I moved to the drama school. Today, thanks to the NSD, I am able to converse in English. In short, the training not only polishes your talent but also your life. It develops one’s entire personality.
- You were one of the writers of ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’ directed by Kundan Shah, who is being paid homage at the ongoing International Film Festival of India. Why do you think he could not make another cult classic like ‘Jaane bhi…’ subsequently?
Many-a-times it becomes difficult for a director to surpass his own cult classic. That’s exactly what happened with Kundan. His subsequent films were not bad at all, however, ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’ was a film made by hungry people; people who went on empty stomach to produce a good film. All of us including me, Kundan, co-writer Sudhir Mishra, cameramen Binod Pradhan, production executive Vinod Chopra, editor Renu Saluja, the actors, everyone was jobless and wanted to achieve something in the film industry. This made the film different altogether. The film however did not get cult status immediately. Even though it was the first National Films Development Corporation film bought by a mainstream distributor, Romu Sippy, and ran for 33 weeks at the matinee show in Delhi, it became a classic much later. However, this status itself became a burden for Kundan, which he had to carry every time he made a new film. And then around 15 people, who supported Kundan’s vision for this film, excelled in every way.