Filmmaker and producer Anand L Rai of ‘Tanu weds Manu’, ‘Raanjhanaa’ and ‘Tanu weds Manu: Returns’ has been a path breaker in filmmaking. After his initial films ‘Strangers’ and ‘Thodi Life, Thoda Magic’ bombed, he has emerged as a fearless director who has the power to connect with his audience across various strata of society. At the knowledge series at NFDC’s Film Bazaar, held on sidelines of 47th IFFI, he was in conversation with film critic Rajeev Masand speaking about ‘Spicing up the Urbanscape in Mainstream Films’.
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After spending quite some time in television, first assisting his brother and then directing his own shows, Anand L Rai thought he knew it all and decided to become a filmmaker. “My learning has been from television. I learnt the basic emotions there and that is what I was thriving on.”
While Rai thought he had done a fabulous job in his first film ‘Strangers’, a psychological thriller which looked sleek and was completed in 20 days, he failed miserably. His next film, ‘Thodi Life, Thoda Magic’ the following year also bombed. He said: “My biggest learning has been from the first two films which flopped. It made me realise that I was not just cheating the audience but also myself.”
He then decided to only tell stories that he truly believed in. He added that he had nothing to lose while he was making his third film ‘Tanu weds Manu’. “Either it would become a hit and I would thereon be a successful director who would go on to make many more films and earn lots of money, or it would flop and I would return to television and also make lots (extra emphasis) of money. Either ways I was going to be successful”, he said.
While being asked about how his films portray reversal of roles, whether it’s the feisty, unapologetic Kangana in ‘Tanu weds Manu’ or the shy yet overtly sensitive Dhanush in ‘Raanjhanaa’, he said that he just tries to sync the middle class with the small towns as shown in his films.
In most of his films the actors who play supporting roles stand out for their performance which only shows that casting is a very important factor for the director. He said: “It’s not about writing or acting those two lines. Every actor has his part in the story and is part of the larger story which makes complete sense. It is not a show for two people who play the lead roles.”
He went on to say that after 37 years he is now a fearless director which is his weapon. Talking about the qualities a director should possess, after contemplation, he stunned the audience with his response moving away from what we’ve heard every other director say. “Falling in love, understanding human beings and enjoying communication is what I feel makes a good director.” He stressed that he doesn’t consider himself a director, but rather a storyteller. When asked to comment about the character of Kundan who stalks Sonam Kapoor in the film which is a concern in society and that brought the film some criticism, Anand was quick to say that he never felt it was stalking which could inspire people wrongly. But instead in areas like Benares it is all to do with emotions – love or no love, acceptance or no acceptance. “There is innocence in that sort of love and that’s all they know. A person from Colaba, Mumbai would think it is stalking,” he said.
As a director who is spicing up the urbanscape in mainstream films, his concern is nothing to do with big producers or studios, but is about reaching out to the audience. He went on to say that was after making the successful film ‘Raanjhanaa’ that he got the feeling of being a director who has a strong hold on stories.
Most directors turn into producers, but for Anand the reason behind turning producer is not just to do with the monies. He said: “It’s a director’s production company. Besides giving me the option of not going to sets, it is for me a very emotional job that is not for money.” He said he realised the troubles first time or budding directors face just like he did, and thus being a producer he can reduce the stress of budding filmmakers who believe and trust that banking on Rai their films can be successful.
He said that his next project is with SRK who will be playing a dwarf. “It’s much more than that. Even if he was not playing a dwarf there’s a strong story. We are taking some time, but wait and watch it will be really interesting,” he said.