Rahul Bose dons the hats of producer, director and actor for the upcoming biopic Poorna. In an exclusive interview to Komal Sharma, Bose talks about bringing to life the true story of the Indian teenage girl who scaled Mount Everest
How did you come across the story of Poorna, and at what point did you decide that you wanted to turn it into a film?
I first heard the story of Poorna Malavath when the writers of Poorna offered me the role of Dr R S Praveen Kumar, her mentor. I was amazed by the story. Nobody I knew in Mumbai or Delhi seemed aware of her story, because the media tends to only report from the big cities. My first thought was, ‘Do they have the money to make this film?’ When I asked them this question, they replied, ‘No’ They didn’t even have a producer. So I said I would be very happy to raise the money and produce the film. That’s how it started, and gradually production became direction too.
When I started working on the production details, the team gradually concluded that one of us should direct the film. It wasn’t a hard-and-fast decision; it just happened. That’s why I say I got in from the other side. It was acting first, then producing too and then directing.
The film initially had a different title. What prompted you to change it?
Initially, the title was We changed the title because I felt it was too indirect for a biopic. I believe all biopics should be named after the person they’re based on.
What are the challenges while shooting a film based on real events?
The biggest challenge was that this girl, our subject, is still only 16 years old. Take one step wrong and you affect her and what people think of her for the rest of her life. Most biopics are about people whose lives are almost over, who have achieved success in the past. This girl has her whole life ahead of her. So I had to be very aware, very careful and sensitive, to the rest of Poorna’s life. I had to make sure that I did justice to her without compromising on the story.
How difficult does it get when you are not only directing but also acting in the film?
It’s not difficult for me to direct and act, or even to produce and act, but to produce, direct and act… yes, that’s very difficult! It was extremely difficult! The reason I did all three is because I knew I was the right actor for this character. But I wouldn’t want to do it again.
Where did you choose to shoot the m? Is there any real footage of Mount Everest in it?
We shot at the actual locations for all of it, except Mount Everest. We chose the hut where she actually grew up; the school in Telangana that she attended. We shot at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling, where she trained. But for the Everest parts, we chose Sikkim and shot at 15,000 ft.
I found it extremely easy, professionally. You just have to talk to children in the language that they understand. Never talk down to them; treat them like adults. But you have to feed their imagination, their empathy, and their sensitivity. I had absolutely no trouble. Aditi (Aditi Inamdar) was a joy to work with. There was no intellectual gap. I never had to treat her like a chhotu bachchu. She was consummate, sensitive and a thinking actress.
Does the film match what you had in mind before you started shooting?
Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined that Poorna would be as good as it turned out. I knew it would be good but it turned out even better. I am very happy.
You are a talented actor. Why don’t we see you on screen more often?
I don’t get offered the kinds of roles I used to get in 2013. Over the last three years, those roles have dried up. I am still waiting for good art house movies, where I play the lead. I don’t want to play the lead in a big film; I know I don’t have the star power for that. Currently, I have been offered two films that I am considering.
What would you say is the USP of Poorna?
It is the greatest real-life story of a 13-year-old girl that you will ever see. It’s just the most unbelievable, incredible, astounding story.
What was your overall experience of shooting the film?
Physically, very hard. As a producer, I learnt that it’s important to get the best lawyer in the country. As a director, I learnt that it is always important to listen to your team; never assume you know everything. And as an actor, don’t listen to anybody. They will all say good things… especially if you are also the producer and director, so listen to your inner voice.
Stories on sports, biopics, fiction, women-oriented tales, dramas, romance… Basically, everything… I am open to all kinds of stories.
What’s next for you?
I am writing a new film and I shall direct it early next year and set it in Mumbai.