Aanand L Rai, also known as the ‘Man with the Midas Touch’, is all set with his next production Mukkabaaz. Here’s the producer in conversation with Team Box Office India
Your film will release in a week. What does that feel like?
I am always happy. We make films with a lot of passion and a lot of hope. And what really counts for me is the journey, the process of filmmaking. If that goes well, then it ends well.
What has the response to the trailer and songs been like from the audience and people around you?
The response has been absolutely brilliant. Anurag (Kashyap) is the kind of director who, when he prepares himself to tell a story, is there full-on. He is very sure of what he is making. This time, he is greatly supported not only by a really strong cast but also fantastic music. We keep hearing people appreciating the music of Mukkabaaz as the songs release. So it is all very exciting for us.
How did this collaboration take place and how did you come on board with Phantom Films?
I had this story that I wanted to narrate to Anurag as I felt it was something he should do. He heard the story and loved it. He said he wanted to do the film right away but he was busy working on something else. He said it would take six months. When I asked him what he was making, he narrated this story to me. I said, let’s do it together.
Anurag Kashyap and you seem to have different approaches to cinema. You seem calmer while he comes off as a little aggressive about his ideas. How did you resolve your creative differences?
I don’t think it is like that at all. Yes, that’s the way people see us but when you really get to know him, you find a very different man than the image people have of him. He is a very sensitive and emotional person. Similarly, I might look calm on the surface but I may be very aggressive in some other aspects like being a filmmaker. I am enjoying my journey and the time we have spent collaborating. And it is a director’s film.
Even the script for our next project together, Manmarziyan, is Anurag’s film and he will guide it. Producers should act as a support system. I never dictate terms to my directors. I look forward to their way of making films. They come on board for that reason only ke yaar ye kuch alag dega mujhe. Anurag will give a different twist to the movies that we are making and I want to sit back and enjoy that process.
As a producer, what were your inputs to the story of Mukkabaaz?
Honestly, I loved the story the way it was told to me by Anurag. I am a very a different director than Anurag but what we have in common is the intention to tell a story. Both of us believe in our zones when we make our kind of films. Mukkabaaz is a love story and I was very clear about the way Anurag brought the backdrop of politics into it. I was very sure he was coming up with very potent content. I really wanted to be associated with something like this, something I would love but I knew I wouldn’t be able to direct. I believe this was a great time and great opportunity for me to have made a film like this under my production banner. We are very happy to have Anurag on board with us. It lends a different colour to Colour Yellow Productions!
How do you decide on which movie to direct and which movie to produce?
That’s very simple. Those that come to my heart I direct and those that come to my mind I produce. When I heard Mukkabaaz, or whenever I hear any kind of scripts that I like, my criteria is that they should excite me as if I were part of the audience. When I am directing, my energies are to give my whole heart to it. Right now, it is Anurag’s heart that is on the line. I am just a support system to all my directors.
Many sports movies made their way to the big screen recently. What sets this one apart?
I think this is more real and more edgy. When I say more ‘real’, it doesn’t talk about the achievements or the struggle of a sportsman; it talks about a lot of things around sports. It’s very original and very desi, and when I say ‘desi’, I mean it deals with a problem that we as a country are experiencing. It does not highlight the process of becoming a sportsperson; it is more about the other struggles.
There are sportsmen who get government jobs simply because of their sporting talent. I think we should not look at sports as an alternative career; we should see it as a full-fledged job. Therefore we should respect it like that.
As filmmakers, do you think sports movies help improve the condition of sports other than cricket in India?
We are such a vast nation and we have great sports people in our country. Unfortunately, they can’t speak about their problems in the open. This has been beautifully handled by Mukkabaaz. The politics of sports suppresses talent and only awareness can bring about change. That’s why films like these are so important.
If I talk about myself, and the career choices we had, they would be either medicine, engineering, accounting, etc. But things have changed and you can become a sportsperson and I believe cricket was never a profession but a hobby. Now, the situation has changed and people have extended their interest to other professions too. I think we should believe in our young generation. You never know where the next Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli or Saina Nehwal may come from. We should keep an open mind so that we can spot and promote talent from wherever it emerges.
The actors in your film are relatively new. Was it a deliberate decision to make a film with newcomers?
Anurag Kashyap came up with these actors and it’s the director’s call. I think this set of directors believes in stories more than set-ups. So it was all about the story and the casting. I think Zoya, Vineet, Ravi Kishan and Jimmy Sheirgill suited the characters.
What was your equation like with these actors?
They are all brilliant, lovely people, and very passionate about their work. We have seen a boxer becoming an actor but it is an altogether different thing for an actor to become a boxer.
The film has gone to many festivals. How does it feel to get a positive response from across the globe?
The only thing I am happy about is that you get a bigger audience and it is high time for this industry as producers, directors, writers, and actors, that we stop classifying films. For me, Mukkabaaz is as commercial as Shubh Mangal Saavdhan because if you reach your audience, and if you know your audience, you will get the numbers, and if you get the numbers, you are commercial.
Mukkabaaz has already been screened at MAMI and the press is already calling it the ‘film of the year’. On the Friday of its release, especially while competing with other films, is it reassuring to know there are positive reactions out there for the film?
Nahi yaar, I always sleep very peacefully on Thursday nights before my movies come out on Fridays because I always enjoy the process of making the film. None of my films have been forced on me, whether I wanted to produce or direct them. I have done them of my own volition. I am not saying that I am not looking forward to that Friday, I definitely am but I don’t have the jitters. I am patiently waiting to see how much love I am going to get for the film. That is all I look forward to.
As a producer, what do you want the audience to take back after watching the film?
The audience should be discussing this film the next morning over a cup of tea. I am very sure they will do that because there is something for everybody in this movie. For the young generation, there is a spirit to achieve something that they can connect with. For the generation a little older than that, there is sports and politics. Teenagers will enjoy the edginess in the story. There is something for everyone and they will thoroughly enjoy it. It is a well-intended film and not a commercial set-up. And you will get your money’s worth.
What are the projects on the Colour Yellow Productions slate right now?
I don’t want to talk about my upcoming productions. I will leave that to others. But there is one movie I am looking forward to seeing and that is Rajkumar Hirani’s film, the Sanjay Dutt biopic. I am really waiting to see Ranbir Kapoor as Sanjay Dutt saab.
Speaking of upcoming projects, the response to the teaser of your next directorial Zero has been phenomenal.
There is so much to say about Zero. The seed of this film was with me before I started Tanu Weds Manu Returns. I have been living with this story for three and a half years and it will stay with me for another year till it releases in December. I have so much to say about Zero that I don’t know where to start. So let’s just wait for it. Let me finish this journey. I will come back to Box Office India and talk a lot about it.