By: Subhash K. Jha, IndiaFM
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Fresh after the release of their film, we put our directors in the dock. We tell them what critics don't like about their film and give them a chance to hit back. Next in the series, Raj Kumar Hirani responds to criticism against Lage Raho Munnabhai.
It has been said that bringing Mahatma Gandhi into your plot is just another publicity gimmick.
I wasn't a huge Gandhian before making this film. But I started reading up on him for this film. It required a lot of research. That's when I discovered this amazing man. His simple and honest principles are eminently applicable even today. Why do we wait for others to change the world? Why can't you or I do it? You know, I wasn't scared of writing the script of Munnabhai MBBS. But writing the script of Lage Raho..., where I had to introduce Mahatma Gandhi into the plot, was scary. But the humour saved the film. You know, Gandhiji was a very humorous man. But I still took a big risk in doing a film where Gandhi was one of the characters.
Dilip Prabhavalkar, who plays Gandhi, is being criticised for his make-up and mannerisms.
Several actors including Naseeruddin Shah were auditioned for Gandhi's role. We had spoken to Naseer who was interested. But he got busy with Krissh and his own directorial venture. Then we thought of Surendra Rajan who had played Gandhi in Raj Santoshi's The Legend of Bhagat Singh. We finally zeroed in on theatre and television actor Dilip Prabhavalkar for the role. Though Dilip had done his home-work he couldn't get it right on the first day. We told him to stop aping Gandhiji and be himself because the attire was enough to suggest whom he was playing.
The turning-the-other-cheek philosophy seems outdated...
But we honestly need to revise our ideological stance. Many incidents in my film have taken place in real life. Take the scene where the uncouth man repeatedly spits outside the neighbour's door. The neighbour cleans the spit repeatedly until the defaulting man is shamed into stop his spitting. This incident actually happened to my mother-in-law but in her case the neighbour used to throw eggshells in her garden. In another instance a couple was in dispute about buying a flat because of their belief in vastu shastra. After seeing the film the couple decided to give the vastu angle the slip and decided to go ahead and buy the flat. I don't think the first film had that kind of impact. I'm not offering Gandhism as a full and final solution. But it's better than the complete erosion of ideology in today's society.
Where do you see yourself beyond the Munnabhai series?
I really need to prove myself beyond the series. Otherwise my well-wishers will turn around and ask, 'Can he do anything else?' Needless to say, Sanju, Arshad and I have a responsibility to carry forward the series. Having said that, Lage Raho... wasn't a sequel, it's an independent film. But I need to get away from these two guys. I must say Sanju and Arshad worked very hard. I do share a comfort level with Sanju and Arshad. And it would be stupid to let go. But at the same time it would be stupid to hold on to them for the sake of the comfort level. But let me tell you I'm not scared of doing another sequel. When I did Munnabhai MBBS they said comedies don't run. When I did a sequel to MBBS they said sequels don't run. Now they'll say sequel kar sakta hai, par serious film nahin bana sakta.
Some people think Lage Raho Munnabhai trivialises issues dealt with in Rang De Basanti on a serious note.
The comparison is flattering; no matter how it's made. I'm glad Rakeysh Mehra had the guts to make a film like Rang De Basanti. On paper it must have looked as scary as Lage Raho Munnabhai. Any regular producer would've said, 'Yeh kya hai, Gandhi aa jata hai...' From the reactions I've got so far I'd say this film has gone beyond what Munnabhai achieved. People are talking in superlatives. But just to assure those who think I am stuck in the Munnabhai mould, my next is a non-Munnabhai film and it's a serious take on the education system.