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Celebrating 11 Years Of Rang De Basanti

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When Rang De Basanti opened on Jan 26, 2006 I was in a theatre in Patna watching a very fidgety, very confused audience reacting as we all to unfamiliar experiences, with embarrassment and heckling.

The film adopted a unique format to tell the story of a freedom  that we all have taken for granted . The entire film unfolds through the eyes of a  young British documentary maker Sue(Alice Patten) in India to shoot  a documentary on the Freedom Struggle. The film in two time zones. In the past , with Aamir Khan cast as Chandrashekar Azad,the Tamil star Siddharth as Bhagat Singh, Atul  Kulkarni as Ramprasad Bismil, Kunal Kapoor as Ashfaqullah Khan and Sharman Joshi as Rajguru. The same actors were also seen in contemporary times grappling with the grammar of socio-political corruption.

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On release I was stunned by director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s audacity and creative energy. I knew I was watching a film that would create history. But  I also felt, wrongly, that it would be a boxoffice  disaster. As usual I underestimated the power of the Indian audience to absorb and assimilate unique cinematic experiences.

 I remember speaking to Rakeysh(now a dear afriend) after watching this landmark of a motion picture. Rakeysh was confident of the impact his film would make on the audience.

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Looking back he says, “Rang De Basanti(RDB)  is  a younger film. But I  didn’t consciously choose a subject that would be more accessible to audiences than my first film Aks.  I knew I had to make this film. Since Aks my storytelling technique had improved. You learn  from your past mistakes and  new experiences.    This time I had the luxury  of living with my script for four years.  So many people  joined me on the journey that was  Rang De Basanti. It was no  longer my film. When it released  it  became  the audiences’ film.”

Looking back at  RDB, I am struck by how effective the entire cast is, and how miscast Aamir Khan was as the college brat. In fact he was so over-age for the part that the director had to write in a dialogue explaining why his character DJ chooses to hang on to his campus days long after he has crossed his student days.

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RDB came when  patriotism was passé. There were 4-5 Bhagat Singh films that didn’t connect with the audience. Then there was Aamir Khan a disaster Mangal Pandey. So any sign of patriotism  in an Aamir Khan starrer  read as a  danger sign.

Rakeysh was determined to make the film. He explains , “It’s a  collection  of many circumstances. In school I wanted to join the air force.  It didn’t work out for me. In college in Delhi  I was predominantly  a sportsman. It didn’t work out because  I was from a lower middle-class family. And the first priority was to bring money back into the family….As kids in Delhi  on August 15 when we flew kites, we could hear India Gandhi speaking…On the other side there were the patriotic songs on the loudspeaker….Ae mere watan, Mere desh ki dharti…We were looking at  the idea of our country through  a kite….Films like Mother India, Do Bigha Zameen, Naya Daur which came  on tv , touched all of us.  This  was the era  when escapism hadn’t seeped into cinema  or real life. That was the era I wanted to re-capture in RDB.”

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Seven years ago even before his first film  Aks Rakeysh wanted to make a film called  Awaaz. There are shades ofAwaaz  in Rang De Basant.

Recalls Rakeysh, “Awaaz was about  a  bunch of  boys working in a garage,  the haves and have-nots.  I wanted to make  it with Abhishek Bachchan.  Then  I wanted to make a film on the life of the revolutionaries. What I didn’t want to do was to shoot them with halos ….I wanted to shoot them as normal youngsters . I wanted to call it The Young Guns Of India.”

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   Initially Rakeysh wanted to make a film on the life of Bhagat Singh. Then the race for Bhagat Singh films started. Several of Bhagat Singh bio-pics hit theatres one after another.

Recalls Rakeysh, “Initially I wanted to enter the race. Then I realized we were all insulting his memory. Attention was diverted by who would get into theatres first. I moved on….I did a focus group  in Delhi and Mumbai. I took a new story idea to youngsters between 17 and 23.  Our survey showed that for our generation a relationship meant, ‘Let’s get married and make babies together.’ Not to this  generation. The  youngsters we spoke to were driven by ambition. And  I  didn’t even know how to get on the internet!  .Anyway, we then moved into surveying them about the country and  the tri-colour. The borders of patriotism had   blurred. Pagdi sambhal jatta  was no more relevant. Not too many kids knew who Chandrashekhar Azad was.I told my writer Kamlesh Pandey there was no point in making a  film about the freedom fighters. He insisted , reminded me  of  the passion that Manoj Kumar’s films used to incite. But that  was a different era.”

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 This , says Rakeysh, was when RDB  born. “I sadly abandoned the original idea and hit on another idea of a  British documentary filmmaker coming to  India to make a film   on the Indian armed revolution. She finds kids  who are more western than her.  Two lines… the past and present run together. They intersect. There’re sparks.   Then  the rooftop scene where the line between past and present blurs when Soha Ali Khan asks her friends to kill the raksha mantri….Suddenly the original idea was replaced by this new idea.”

 RD cost 25 crores to make. Everything   except  the  jail scenes was  shot on location

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  Rakesh is all praise for his cast. “Aamir didn’t  dominate the film. And yet he has brought in  everything require.The whole Punjabi accent for his Mona-Sardar character was his idea.  There was an attraction between Siddharth’s  and Soha’s characters. We couldn’t bring it into the forefront because  of lack of space.  In any case love stories don’t have to have a happy ending. Today’s generation is very mature about love and its end.”

 The film controversial ending where our heroes gun down corrupt politicians has been perceived as fascist.

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Rationalizes Rakeysh, “Every story  has to follow its own course. When heroes in a mythology enter  the caves to fight the demons , they’ve to  perish. Mani Rathnam’s Yuva didn’t work  for me after  the heroes went into the parliament….What jolted the audience is, they love my heroes and they don’t want them to die. Too bad. You love and lose the best people in your lives. It isn’t a heroic but a poetic ending.  But they become heroes because they die. What I’m trying to say is, we got independence from the goras. But we got enslaved  by our own.  Now we’re killing each other. You’re from Bihar. You know what I mean. There can be  no neat solution to the problems we face.  Rang De Basanti  is  a conversation  with the masses.”

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Rakesh Roshan: “Everything I  Know  About Acting & Direction, I Learnt From K Vishwanathji”

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Rakesh Roshan

The  mighty moviemaker K Vishwanath who  was to Telugu cinema what  Satyajit Ray  was  to Bengali cinema,  passed  away on February 2,leaving behind a luminous  legacy.

Acto-director Rakesh Roshan  who had  the  rare honour of working  in four projects  with  Vishwanath recalls him with tremendous respect. “Everything I know  about acting and  direction I learnt from  him. He was  a stalwart , an institution, and so passionate about his work. I had the privilege  of being directed  by him in two films Aurat Aurat Aurat  and Shubh Kamna. He would show  his actors  exactly what he  wanted, down to the minutest gesture.His  understanding  of the medium was  extraordinary.”

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Rakesh Roshan remembers how  he  invited Vishwanath to make films for him. “I produced  two films that Vishwanathji directed. One  was Kaamchor, the other was Jaag Utha  Insaan.While the  first was  a runaway success, the second didn’t do well.”

Speaking on how Kaamchor happened Rakesh recalls, “Vishwanathji and I used to meet socially in Hyderabad.We  wanted to work together. But we had  no script.One evening when we met he  looked very depressed. When I asked him what was wrong, he  said his new release Shubodayam  (in Telugu) had  flopped. That  night I went to see Shobodayam  in  a theatre in Hyderabad. The  next morning I  told Vishwanathji, ‘We’ve  found our script’. I told him where  the  storytelling in Shubhodayam  had gone wrong.We corrected the script and that’s how Kaamchor  happened. Although the entire story revolved  around me,  it was Jaya Prada who benefited  from Kaamchor.”

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About the beautiful  Jaag Utha Insaan , Rakesh Roshan admits  bluntly, “It  flopped because  of miscasting. During those days Sridevi was known  in Hindi cinema as a glamorous heroine. We cast her as classical dancer. Mithun Chakraborty had  the image  of  Gun Master G-9 and  Disco Dancer.We cast him as  a downtrodden  underdog. I was  known  for Kaamchor and  other citybred characters,I was cast as a Brahmin pandit.With other actors Jaag Utha  Insaan would have been a superhit”

Rakesh met K Vishwanath six years  ago. “We were shooting for Krissh in Hyderabad. He came on  the set several  times. We  had so much to say to each other. After that we lost contact. He was  very very busy with many projects. K Vishwanathji lived  for his cinema.”

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As His Latest Work Faraaz Releases Today,  Hansal Mehta Speaks To Subhash  K Jha On The Exciting Times Ahead

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Faraaz

Hansal, Faraaz is  your fifteenth directorial  venture. How does it feel to have come so far  with so many  milestones behind you?

don’t count my films. Genuinely. Every film is a new beginning. Every film has its share of uncertainty and nerves. Perhaps it is also because of the choices I make. There is no scope for either complacency or me carrying a false sense of security. I’m not complaining,though. Living life on the edge keeps me going.

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I  consider  Faraaz to be  a part of your great trilogy on  the dynamics  of terrorism, after  Shahid and  Omerta…where do you see Faraaz  positioned  in your creative ambit?

Thank you , Subhash.Faraaz is a film I’m very, very proud of. It was a challenge to pull off, a tough journey but creatively a very satisfying one. As Rajkummar Rao told me after watching the film , the Trilogy is complete now. Time to explore new stories and new characters. And finish post-production for all the exciting things that we shot for over the past eighteen months.

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Out of curiosity which of your films  have given you  the most creative  satisfaction?

Almost every film Shahid onwards has been immensely satisfying , both in terms of process and the outcome. Save a couple that I need not name. But even those I own for all their flaws, failures, deficiencies and redeeming qualities. But Faraaz has been a great process. I’ve made so many new friends in this journey and found some of the most exciting colleagues that I’m proud to introduce through the film. Writers Raghav Kakkar and Kashyap Kapoor (who co-wrote the film with Ritesh Shah), Cinematographer Pratham Mehta, Sound Designer Mandar Kulkarni, Editor Amitesh Mukherjee, co-producers Sahil, Maz and Sakshi – all of whom have given their blood and sweat to make this film happen. And of course Anubhav Sinha one of my oldest friends in the industry who backed me in telling this story just the way I wanted it. So yes, Faraaz has been satisfying and also filled me with a deep sense of gratitude. I must have done something right, no?

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Of course. Faraaz has a lot of young new actors in it. Tell me  about the  process  of  casting in this film? It couldn’t have been easy since there are dozens  of faces?

That was the challenge and the joy of making this film. I worked on the story during Chhalaang and I always knew that it would be a return to my indie roots for Faraaz. The film had to be made. And it needed fresh faces, bereft of image or trappings of stardom. A huge credit to Mukesh Chhabra who has a huge role to play in my filmography since Shahid. We constantly challenge each other and never ever give up. Casting is a process I really enjoy and finding the right talent to bring characters alive is something I thrive upon. Faraaz has an amazing ensemble. Right from Aditya Rawal , Zahan Kapoor, Juhi Babbar to every small character in the film including the officers, parents and the hostages this one is a triumph of honest casting , casting without an eye on profits, simply in service of the film, of the character.

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Faraaz is  about a terror attack in Bangladesh?how  do you respond to those who want to know, why Bangladesh?

In our research of this dastardly attack we realised that here was a story that had a larger message and something very universal to share. Misguided youth taking up violence in the name of religion or a parent’s love for her child or the unexpected bravery from an unlikely hero are themes that cannot be limited by borders, nationality or language. These stories must be told. They must transcend the limitations of perceived local relevance – particularly when our polarised times need such stories to be told to a larger audience.

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In 2020, your OTT series Scam 1992  proved to  b e game changer. Do you see Scam as a turning point  in your career?

I see Scam 1992 as an enabler. We did not expect its humongous success and to say it did not change things would be fake humility. It gave me back a lot of things I had lost in the years before it released. Including some money. And the courage to tell the stories I desperately wanted to. Also exceptional friends and collaborators like Sameer Nair and his Studio Applause.

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Your films  and your  attitude to cinema has always  been fearless. How  do you  cope with the  threat of growing intolerance in our society  vis a  vis your  convictions as a  filmmaker?

It is not new to me. Remember Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar in 2000? The only difference now is that then I was deeply affected by the intolerance to a point of self destruction. Now I channelise my despair and anger into telling relevant stories and through them taking on those who have made it a business to be intolerant.

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To Attend Siddharth-Kiara’s Destination Wedding, Karan Johar Preponed His Twins’s Birthday  Bash

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Siddharth-Kiara’s

For those  who are  wondering why Karan Johar hosted  the grand birthday party for his  twins Roohi and  Yash who will  turn 6 on 7 February,  six days in  advance  on 1  February  here is  why:  on the day of his twins’ birthday,  Karan  will be in Rajasthan attending the wedding celebrations of his dear friends  Siddharth Malhotra  and Kiara Advani who are  getting married on  February 6.

 Reveals   a friend close  to  Karan,  “Karan was in a dilemma. To him there is  nothing more important than his  children’s happiness.  How could he break their hearts by skipping  the most important day of their  lives? At the same time, how could he  not attend Siddharth and Kiara’s wedding ? They are  very close to him.”

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Karan did the best thing possible to resolve the situation:  he put the dilemma before his children Yash and Juhi who happily  agreed  to  have their party  a few days in advance so their ‘Dada’  could  attend  his friends’ wedding.

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The  Big Independence Day Clash To Be Averted?

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Animal and Sunny Deol’s  long-awaited Gadar 2

Sunny Deol, John Abraham  Ranbir  Kapoor  and the Covid Vaccine are all set to clash at the boxoffice this  Independence Day .

While the  Ranbir Kapoor starrer Animal and Sunny Deol’s  long-awaited Gadar sequel  are  both scheduled  for release  on August  11, John Abraham’s  Tariq  releases three days later on August 15.On the same day  Vivek(The Kashmir Files) also  releases  The Covid Vaccine.

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It looks  like  a crowded weekend, with one too many releases for audiences to  choose from.

Apparently  intense discussions are on among the  producers of the four  big films to see how the clutter can be  resolved.

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A  source close to the  development says, “Gadar 2 is the  right fit for the Independence Day weekend. But the producers of Animal  are in no mood to move  from August 13 . John  who is  a co-producer  on Tariq  and Vivek  Agnihotri with his Covid Vaccine  are also adamant  on coming on   August 15.The  Independence Day weekend is  a long  weekend. So let’s see…”

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