He last donned the director’s hat in 2001 for Everybody Says I’m Fine! (ESIF). Fifteen years later, actor-director Rahul Bose (below) has returned to direction with the biopic of Poorna Malavath, the youngest girl in history to climb Mount Everest. Here, the 49-year-old, who was last seen in Dil Dhadakne Do (DDD; 2015), talks about his career, and more.
How was it returning to direction?
Directing is like riding a cycle; you never forget how to do it. But adjusting to the world of digital was stimulating because ESIF was shot on film. Now, there is freedom from the strangulating pressures of saving money while shooting. At the same time, the pressures of exploring different technical possibilities of the digital medium while shooting are massive now, so is the cost of post-production.
You don’t seem to be doing many films these days…
One, I haven’t been offered wonderful roles. Two, I had immersed myself in my directorial venture even before DDD released. So, I’ve been at it — from raising money for the film to the current stage it is at — for 16 months.
You never seemed eager to become a typical B-Town actor.
I don’t have the ability to become a typical Bollywood actor. I don’t have the effervescence, the dancing talent, the blinding charisma or the hair (laughs).
Your selection process for films is very different. How do you choose your work?
The same way I always have — it has to be a combination of the director, the script, my role, and my co-actors. I prefer playing roles that drive the film. I don’t have to be the lead actor. I wasn’t the lead in Thakshak (1999), but my character played a major role in driving the story. Except for DDD, I can’t really think of a film in which my character didn’t drive the story.
Going by the number of films that you take up nowadays, you seem to have slowed down…
As far as my work is concerned, first, I never think of it as work. Being an actor and a director has been a slow, continuous high for the last 23 years. There is never a day, never a moment, when I am fundamentally stressed or unhappy. All the irritations have been minor. My soul has been essentially happy about acting or directing. I see myself directing regularly for the rest of my active life, and taking up roles where I really feel I can make a difference.
What inspired you to take up such a challenging story for your next directorial venture?
It was the story itself [that inspired me]. As a film script, it could not have been written more implausibly. A 13-year-old Adivasi girl manages to step out of the house, her village and district to study; imagine! Then, in a series of amazing events, she becomes the youngest girl in history to climb Mount Everest. It is one of the most astonishing and inspiring journeys. And it happened in our backyard.
Isn’t taking up a biopic a huge challenge in itself?
The most challenging part about making this film was capturing every segment of Poorna’s journey with veracity and attention to detail, and yet making it cinematic and dramatic in the most unselfconscious way. The balance between vérité and fiction writing is a crevasse in which many directors have fallen never to emerge again, or to do so, with permanent brain damage.