Ruchi Narain is all set with her directorial debut, an animated film called Hanuman Da ‘Damdaar. Set to release on May 19, the film is already generating a lot of buzz, thanks to its interesting trailer and a galaxy of stars, especially Salman Khan, who has dubbed for the film. Here’s Narain, also the writer of the movie, in an exclusive chat with Komal Sharma.What kind of response are you getting for the trailer?
Honestly, we are getting a hugely positive response. I think people did not expect something which was this entertaining. We have received over 5 million views on YouTube and the film is still trending.
How did you come up with this concept?
I always wanted to do films like this. After I wrote Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, I received a few offers to direct but I was keen on making an animation film and they thought I was crazy. They couldn’t understand why someone who had written Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi would want to do an animation film. But I believed in my vision and the scale you can show in an animation film. That kind of scale cannot be shown in a live action film.
I found that Hanuman had a childhood connection with adults and a certain innocence. Although he was very powerful, he never used his powers for himself but always stood up for people and their rights. I thought that, in a day and age where selfishness reigns supreme, it would be nice to tell the story of someone who thinks and does something differently, who is absolutely selfless.
You have assisted Sudhir Mishra and also written for him. How did your journey as a filmmaker begin?
I worked with him in Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi. I wanted to be a director but I thought I should first concentrate on writing. So I learnt how to write and developed it as a skill. Filmmaking is a skill you can acquire but writing is an art that has to be in you inherently and, as a creative force, it cannot be learnt. Keeping that in mind, I tried to polish my writing skills, writing screenplay. Then, I wrote Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, which I think worked out really well for me. After that happened, I decided to renew my onward journey, which was to be a director.
I have both written and directed this film. And while I was waiting for the right time to make a film of my own, I directed many advertisements and commercials. Filmmaking is all about multitasking. You often end up writing your own material.
Hollywood animated films are more popular in India than Hindi animated films. In the light of that, what made you do this film?
I don’t think Indian kids are biased and think they should only watch Hollywood animated films. I think they are looking for entertainment and something they can relate to. I think our trailer has done so well because the minute our characters are introduced, you are entertained and we have an advantage due to the characters, language and especially Salman Khan and the artistes who have dubbed for us.
It’s just that, earlier, animation was not approached with a view to making it entertaining, whereas you instinctively choose to watch something that holds out the promise of fun. That’s what we tried to do; we tried to deliver fun, adventure and entertainment. In that sense, our film has been mounted like a Hollywood film. I love animation and had always wondered why we couldn’t do the same kind of animation that Hollywood does. So, a huge star cast, fun with good animated characters, adventure and entertainment… That’s what I wanted to do and we have been lucky to pull it off.
How did Salman Khan and the other artistes come on board for the film?
As a filmmaker, we can only approach people and hope for the best. I think what was happened that the same things that appealed to me about this subject appealed to them too. The whole vibe of the film and the contemporary treatment of the film, like the way dialogues have been written, makes it easy to releate to. There are so many people, so many amazing people, starting with Salman Khan, Raveena Tandon, Javed Akhtar, Kunal Kemmu, Chunky Pandey, Vinay Pathak… and they all came on board. It’s not that they have a connection with me; they came on board because of the material of the film.
The dialogue relates to today’s young audience. That’s a very smart move but weren’t you concerned that it might backfire as Hanuman is a religious icon?
There have been many versions of epics on Hanuman and other Gods. Also, because we have such an old culture and language is constantly changing, with each decade, the kind of treatment and narrative differs. Obviously, back then, no one spoke the way kids speak today; their way of expressing is totally different now. They did not speak this way when Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan was made.
So, yes, we decided to write the dialogues the way we speak and the way we understand it. This is why the film has turned out to be entertaining for kids. They already know the character and now they have him speaking like they do! At the end of the day, I think it is important to spread the message and that’s what we are doing with our film.