Aanand L Rai to understand a world like Tumbadd and stand is now closer to the movies he makes. And this started with Tumbadd.
If you ask me whether I am greedy, I will say no immediately. And so will the other person. I will find other greedy and others will find me greedy,” says producer director Aanand L Rai. Sitting in the lounge of a single screen cinema hall after the screening of Tumbadd, a movie which he has produced which looks at one of the seven sins closely, he asks the rhetorical question. And then he goes to elaborate it further. “Ask anyone what is more important family or money and we would immediately say the former. That is what we feel but do we actually act like that?” And he illustrates it by giving his own example and says that he spends less time with his 16-year-old daughter as compared to his production. “Even if I say I am doing it to make money for my daughter but the fact is I don’t spend enough time with her. So greed is something that you never admit to. Sub consciously Tumbadd forces you to think.”
Rai admits that there is a conscious thought to resonate with the greed that can be seen in contemporary India. “But at another level these are the stories and folk lores that we have heard through our grannies and elders. These are the lessons that we need to teach the coming generation. This chapter is timeless. When I see Tumbadd, I realise that money is not important. What I really liked about the film is that one moves from one generation to the other generation and the third and where the youngest generation says, ‘I am done with greed.’ I want to see that the next generation realise that the growth is somewhere else and not just in money,” he says.
And he does see the younger generation as holding out hope even in the real world. “The younger generation is less confused as to what they want. At times we feel that they are a confused generation but my daughter is clearer about life than I was at her age. Whether it is career or life in general, even when these confused then in front. I am confused. guts to say this.
The director of movies like Tanu Weds Manu, Ranjhana, Tanu Weds Manu Returns and more says that he wanted to screen the movie for a select few not just because he wanted the scribes to write about it but also for the sake of initiating an intelligent dialogue and interaction.
The movie which was in production for six years stars Sohum Shah who was last seen in Simran in 2017 and also starred in the critically acclaimed Ship of Theseus. The fantasy horror movie directed by debutant Rahi Anil Barve is set in the period before Partition and raises questions like whether an eternal life is a gift or a curse and how much money can make a person happy and what is it really worth.
The cinematography is brilliant and one actually travels with the characters to the depths of the earth or even almost gets drenched in the incessant rain in the bleak surroundings that is a constant throughout the film. Rai admits that it was not easy for them as a team to hold up. “Tumbadd rarely happens where despite the best of vision and story, it becomes the riskiest film as the budgets go high, the cast is new, you can’t be sure of doing that well at box office. But if we all decide that this can’t be done, how can the Director of Photography create this world? He is not a magician, he needs resources which cost a lot of money.”
So at the moment Rai’s biggest challenge is get the audience to the theatre so that they can justify its making. And once they are here “they can watch a visual delight and have something to take away. You can’t come to this movie, eat popcorn and walk away.
But given that very often a large segment of the audience is coming in to be entertained rather than be faced with tough questions that the film throws up and forces them to examine their lives, would they still queue up and buy tickets?
“I don’t deny that people are coming to get entertained. If you argent’ getting entertained by this film then I am ready to stand there and apologise. It engages you as it is an entertaining film. I personally feel those two hours that you spent in the theatre, you see a plot, a movement, that takes you away from your personal life. I am not thinking of my own problems when I watch it.”
Rai also points out that the horror genre in Bollywood is jaded and outdated. “It is overdue to redefine the genre. We are still doing what we did during the last two decades so we still see old havelis which are so typical. It was new at that time,” he says and adds that Hollywood and Japanese films have a better understanding of this genre. “A movie like The Conjuring or The Ring or Nun taps the audience. Tumbadd might not be able to do the same kind of business but it is a beginning and we have understood that there is a long way to go. It is the beginning of new era of horror in India.”
Since Rai has been a successful director who switched sides to be a director, what is the perspective that both the roles offer him? “It helps to understand both sides. I became the producer because I understood what a director goes through. When I decided to produce my own films, I realise that there is this synergy and movement in the film. And then I thought that If I have understood it now, let me make life a little simpler or less difficult for other directors as I can be on the same wavelength,” he says.
Talking specifically about the film, he says, “I know a director like me cannot create a world like Tumbadd and I feel fortunate to understand and stand with it — which in turn makes me a better director and a better person.”
Coming to the contemporary world and the #MeToo movement, he says, “It was long overdue and we are moving towards a better society. These things should not be kept under wraps. We will stop talking about equality as it will be established. We will have a much better society in the next five years and even better in the next 10 years.” Amen to that.
Photo: Pankaj Kumar
Writer: Saimi Sattar
Courtesy: The Pioneer