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Aanand Rai : “As Long As No One Is Indifferent To My Film I Am Fine”

Critics are  either  loving it or hating it Aanand Rai’s unconventional  love story Atrangi Re.He says  he fine with the divided opinions. “As long as  no one is  indifferent to it, I am fine.When I   set  off to make this film I  was not thinking  of  how people would react. I never do. I cannot be tied down  to expectations, mine or others. I have to do what I  have to do. I had to make a film about this girl who cannot be forced to conform.For the  longest time, I wanted to do a film on the father-daughter  theme. When my writer  Himanshu Sharma came up with this idea I knew I had to make this  film.”

As Rinku, Sara Ali Khan is  all over the place.And that’s the way Aanand wanted  it. “I wanted that uncontrollable personality. That’s why she  was  cast. I must say  it was  a delightful experience  working with her and with Akshay  Kumar and Dhanush who are  quite easily among the  best talent of Indian cinema. Incidentally , I didn’t know that Rinku was Sara’s grandmother Sharmila Tagoreji’s  nickname. Sara told me  during the shooting. She was  very kicked about it.”

 I suspect  Aanand wrote  Dhanush’s character  as a  Tamilian to accommodate Dhanush?

Aanand can’t stop singing  Dhanush and Akshay  Kumar’s praise. “Dhanush is  a marvel of nature. What he has brought to Atrangi Re is beyond anything I  expected.As for Akshay , you know, like me , he doesn’t think about himself. He thinks  only  about the film.I didn’t have to convince him to do the  role . He wanted  to be part of Atrangi Re. I wanted a certain magic in the  character he  played. Akshay has brought in that magic.”

People  are wondering  how  and why Aanand has  shown groom-kidnapping   in Bihar  in this day and age when it has long been abolished. Aanand  in his defence says, “But where have I said that my film is set in present  times? My films  never follow a timeline. In my film the  groom kidnapping  and what follows,  happens. This is  the world I wanted to create with my writer Himanshu Sharma.You may  have creative  and historic quibbles with my world. But I  think discussion is  a healthy part  of   any creative endeavour. I am glad people are  talking about Atrangi Re, good or bad. I’d be worried  if they had  nothing to say.”

The  film addresses  the very serious issue of schizophrenia.And yet nowhere is that word mentioned.Aanand says he  wanted it that way. “If as  you  say it is schizophrenia(that one of  the protagonists suffers from)  then  the people  around her  do  not recognize it  by  that name.Her grandmother,played by Seema Biswas,calls it madness.  The  characters in the  film  have probably never heard of schizophrenia. I  wanted it to be that way. Early when I had  just started shooting Atrangi I showed some rushes to  a friend who laughed  and cried.He confessed  he felt guilty  about laughing at the  mental disorder of  a  character.  But the laughter is not meant to  take  away  from seriousness of  the situation.  It is  meant to take away the sting from tragedy.”

As for  charges of trivializing mental  disorder, Aanand shrugs,  “I am  used  to such accusations. When my Raanjhanaa was  released I was accused of legitimizing stalking.These things  don’t bother me. I won’t stop making the  films I want to. I won’t live in  the fear of failure. For half my life I was frightened.  I am not going to be  frightened as a filmmaker.I want to make the  films that will be discussed  long after I am gone.”

In the end-credits of  Atrangi Re  Aanand  has  paid his team members A R Rahman, Irshad Kaamil, (cinematographer) Pankaj  Kumar,  (editor) Hemal Kothari  and writer Himasnhu Sharma a tribute by designating  Atrangi Re as their film?

Aanand says he hadn’t planned this as a   gimmick  to impress the audience on how generous  he  was.  “I genuinely feel  the  film couldn’t have been  made without them.Rahman Sir’s music takes my film to another level.I told him I didn’t want  single songs that  would go up the charts. I wanted a soundtrack album where  the  music and songs  carry  the story forward.

Any regrets  about Atrangi Re  not being able to  release  in movie theatres? “Of course I wanted it  released in theatres. That’s where  Atrangi Re  belongs. Having said , I don’t think  there was  a choice in the matter. The  OTT platform doesn’t diminish  the impact of my film.”

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