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Lage Raho is a complete original-Rajkumar Hirani

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Starting of his career as a film editor, Rajkumar Hirani had moved into advertising. He directed a few ad films and also acted in some. He however, got back to film editing again. Having edited films like Jazbaat and Mission Kashmir, Rajkumar Hirani finally moved into film direction. His very first film Munnabhai MBBS rocked the Box Office. The comic tale of Munnabhai and his sidekick Circuit charmed the audiences in 2003. And now, Hirani has brought them back with Lage Raho Munnbhai which is set to release this September.

Is Lage Raho Munnabhai a continuation of Munnabhai MBBS?
Lage Raho Munnabhai is not a continuation of Munnabhai MBBS. It in fact is a whole new episode in Munna and Circuit's life. Like in any Charlie Chaplin or James Bond movies, the central characters stay the same and there is another story in every film. So it's basically like that.

The tagline says "They are back .........and they are not alone!"
Yes. There is Vidya Balan, Dia Mirza , Jimmy Shergill apart from Boman Irani with them.

What role does Boman Irani play in the film?
Boman is playing a completely different role this time. Last time he played Dr. Asthana. But now only two characters from the last film stay the same which is Sanjay Dutt and Arshad Warsi's. Rest of the characters have changed. So Boman is playing an entirely different character this time. He is playing a Punjabi Builder. Eventually you'll see him in the promos as they come out.

Can you give us the gist of the film?
Gist of the film... I won't really like to talk about because then you lose the flavor of the film.

Why is Gracy Singh replaced by Vidya Balan?
See only two characters of Munnabhai and Circuit had to be retained in the film. Rest of the actors from Munnabhai MBBS are in different characters altogether. Boman is not Dr. Asthana anymore and Jimmy Shergill is not Zaheer. Also, Gracy had to be changed but she didn't fit well in another character. Besides, we wanted someone to play a Radio Jockey which Vidya Balan suited well in. Hence, we went for Vidya.

How was it working with Sanjay Dutt and Arshad Warsi once again?
Last time when they were doing the film, for them it was just another film they were acting in. This time they have come back much more motivated and more engrossed in their performances. There was more detailing that they had done for their characters. So it was a tremendous pleasure to work with them.

What was it about Arshad Warsi forgetting his original character of Circuit on the first day of shoot?
On the first day of the shoot, we were shooting a scene at the dhobi ghat which has Arshad and Sanjay sitting at the same dhobi ghat like in the last film. Sanjay started saying his lines and did exceedingly well. And then came Arshad's turn. And when Arshad said his first line, he didn't sound like Circuit at all. He sounded like Arshad Warsi speaking with an accent. He continued 4-5 lines like that. He was wearing that black kurta but he was a different person. Then we did a retake but he couldn't do it. We then did some five retakes but he was the same. Then I went to him and had a chat with him. I told him you are not sounding like Circuit. He asked me "How was Circuit?" Arshad had completely forgotten how he had played Circuit. We tried to remind him but he couldn't. He said I play a character and then I forget about it. So we stopped the shoot. I gave him a DVD of Munnabhai MBBS. This was night shoot, so next whole day he saw the film about three times, then he came on the sets and finally did it right. I was initially worried thinking whether he'll become Circuit again or not. But he did. Sanjay Dutt then later told me that he had also seen the film some 8-9 times before coming for shoot, just to sink into the same character.

What was the story behind 'Jaadu Ki Jhapi'?
Munnabhai's was a character who helps people in the film. So, one was looking at something humane which he does. For a longtime I didn't have this 'Jadoo Ki Jhapi' in the film. I was very close to the shoot and I was looking for this one little thing that would suggest that he is a man who believes in alternate therapy. There was a time that I remember when Vinod (Chopra) used to give me a hug whenever I used to do something good, so 'Jaadu Ki Jhapi' came from there.

Tell us about the music of the film.
Yes, the music in fact has just released. Shantanu Moitra has done the music of the film and Swanand Kirkire has written the lyrics. Even Vidhu Vinod Chopra has contributed to the lyrics. Then there is Sajid, Farhad who have written one song. Talking about the songs, I personally feel that music is of two types generally. One is very album centric which sounds great but when you watch the songs in the film, they seem very out of place. Lage Raho Munnabhai's music like last time is very film centric. The songs have been written and composed in a way to help the film. So the film's story is constantly moving with the song. Also, Shantanu has got interesting melody in the songs. Making Bhaigiri songs melodious is a very difficult task. But I guess Shantanu has achieved great balance between the two.

Even Sanjay Dutt and Arshad Warsi sang a song.
Yes there was song which had lot of dialogues in it. So, we thought it would be great if Sanjay and Arshad could sing it. Sanju has sung earlier so it wasn't difficult for him but Arshad panicked. The moment he heard he had to sing a song, he panicked big time. His wife (Maria Goretti) called me up asking 'Are you sure you want to make him sing. He is the most besura guy I've ever heard in my life. Don't make him sing. You'll ruin his career.' I said let him give it a shot, Shantanu is here and we'll see. So Arshad was very scared and Sanju kind of pacified him saying 'don't worry, hum log gaayenge yaar, saath mein gaayenge. I'm here with you.' Then we started recording the song and Sanju finished the parts in half an hour and he pushed out. Arshad was suddenly left alone in the studio wearing a headphone, so he panicked big time. But then Shantanu helped him. And he was good. He sang very well. The song is a nice buddy track, two friends drunk in the night, walking on a lonely street and narrating a story to each other.

How has the association with Mr. Vidhu Vinod Chopra been?
The kind of comfort level one gets working with Vinod is absolutely stunning. You never feel that you are doing a job here. You never feel that you are here to finish a film and go away. Usually when a film ends after one or two years, the producer and director might end up fighting with each other or there is a problem with the unit members and all of them are on their edge and want to finish the film off and leave away. However, here, as the film is getting over, I could see the unit members becoming sad. So the whole process of film making is a very joyful process with Vinod. Be it myself, Shantanu or Swanand (Kirkire), everybody who has been associated with Vinod has a sense of belonging. You always have this feeling that there is guy who instills the right ethics. A sense of honesty towards film making! Never ever have I heard Vinod say 'do this because this will make commercial sense or put an item song because somebody out there will like it'. He'll never say that. In fact last time when I had a song in the hospital he was worried. He said why you want to do it. So, films are made here because of the good script and because he wants to make good films. A film is never made here thinking that it will make money. So it's a great environment to work in.

Why has the title of the film changed twice?
When MBBS was made, we thought of making a film called BA.LLB. We thought that now we are done with doctors, now we should take Munna to the courtroom. But that was a script we gave up pretty soon because we thought it wasn't very funny. So people thought that there is a BA.LLB coming but it never happened.

Then we started working on another script and only when we thought it reached a particular standard, we decided that it should be made into a film. But when we were working on it, we had a working title called Munnabhai Meets Mahatma Gandhi. It was always a working title and never a title which was finalized. Even our clapboard said Munnabhai 2.

Only title which we had finalized at one point was Munnabhai 2nd Innings which was close to the film. Only when we finalized Munnabhai 2nd innings, surprisingly we got backlash from the audiences. There is something strange about this film. People tend to think that it's their own film. In fact whenever I walk on the streets people come and thank me. They say thank you for giving us this film. So people didn't like the title 2nd innings. Finally there was a time when we thought it should be called Lage Raho Munnabhai. So there was a poll which we did and surprisingly, 87% people said Lage Raho Munnabhai, so we said ok.

You acted in ad films at one point...
When I passed out from film institute I came to Bombay. I edited a couple of feature films here. I had specialized in editing. But unfortunately my experience with feature films was not very happy. I never got paid and had a disastrous time. So I kind of drifted away into advertising and started editing ad films. So while I was editing ad films, there was this ad film Piyush Pandey was making, directed by Meena Bakshi and at the last moment there was a model who vanished and they caught me saying 'hey you are the right guy'. So I modeled for that ad and very surprisingly I got lots of offers to act than to edit. There is a series of ad films that I acted in until one day I thought enough is enough. This is not what I came for in Bombay. I want to make films. Then gradually I started making ad films then one day I decided I want to make feature films. So then I started here.

Which noted ad films did you make?
I have made lots of ad films. I have done brands from Parachute to Vim to Dalda to Cinthol. Lots actually, variety of them. I did that for almost 5-6 years.

If Lage Raho Munnabhai also becomes successful, do you plan to continue with the series?
Earlier I used to think why make a sequel. But now, that the sequel has turned out to be pretty good, so I am more confident. I feel they are loveable characters and loveable characters might as well have long innings. Let them live as long as they can.

Any plans for future projects?
No. I've actually worked back to back on these two films. After I finished Munnabhai MBBS, I straight got into this film. It has been 5 yrs that I'm working continuously, so for couple of months I want to go back to my family and spend some time with them. I do have a couple of ideas and I'm working on them. One of them was Munnabhai and there is another I'm working on. I'm in no rush to make another film. Maybe after two yrs I will.

Finally, what are your expectations from Lage Raho Munnabhai?
See, the film has been made. We are very happy with the film. Vinod has seen it and is very happy with the film. And now I'm at peace with myself. Because there was a time when I was scared while scripting it. I thought there would be comparisons made between the two films. Now I don't care because I know that we have done an honest effort. It is a very unusual film. There is no reference to such kind of film, forget in India but across continents. I have never seen a film that has a script like this so nobody can pinpoint it saying this is a copy. Last time some people said that Munnabhai MBBS is inspired from Patch Adams but finally Munnabhai got picked up by Hollywood. So people knew that it wasn't Patch Adams copy. Finally, I would say that Lage Raho Munnabhai is a film I'm very proud of, irrespective of what happens at the Box Office.

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