Rakeysh Mehra has moved on
He has reason to be excited. Yet, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, director of Rang De Basanti, isn’t quite basking in the glow of the glory and adulation that the smash hit has fetched him. That seems to be against his natural grain.
“I began working on my next idea even as RDB was in post-production,” says the director who currently has the entire nation eating off the palm of his hand. “I could not have continued to live with the film forever. The only way I could have kept my sanity was by moving on,” he adds.
“Rang De Basanti took a lot out of all of us,” says Mehra. “The high that it gave us had to stop somewhere.” It stopped when the idea of Bhairavi, a musical film on which Mehra will collaborate with Chennai composer AR Rahman, crystallised. He is currently working on the screenplay and hopes to set the film rolling before the end of the year.
The runaway success of the film has, of course, meant a lot the advertising filmmaker whose big screen debut – the Amitabh Bachchan-Manoj Bajpai-Nandita Das starrer,
– had turned out to be a bit of a false start. “I now have the respect of the industry especially that of the veterans, people who have been in the business for decades.
Aks, says Mehra, was a great learning experience. “It taught me what not to do when one makes a feature film. I jumped into Aks in too much of a hurry,” he says. “It was a great idea. I should have taken at least a year before letting it go on the floors. I had the Aks idea and I was shooting within six months.”
He admits that he felt a little low in the aftermath of Aks. “I could not figure out what went wrong,” says Mehra, half in jest. “I though I had made the best movie in the world and that it would work no matter what.”
Mehra agrees that Rang De Basanti, contrary to the common feeling, isn’t really about nationalism or patriotism in the conventional sense. It’s about looking inward and finding the inspiration to make a difference, he says. “In that sense it is a bit like Aks, which suggested that all that is good and all that is bad is within the individual. Your enemy isn’t some external force; it is within you,” Mehra adds.
The infectious energy and sense of empathy that informs Rang De Basanti stems from the fact that film’s characters and the setting are drawn from the director’s own life. “We had a similar group of friends when I was growing up in Delhi,” he recalls. “I knew a DJ-like character in real life. He was four years our senior when I joined college. He was still there when we left four years later. He was scared to leave the campus.”
The fort where the RDB buddies spend much of their time was also an integral part of Mehra’s formative years. “Jaipur had a movie theatre where we would go whenever a major premiere was held there. On the way, we would stop over at the fort,” he recalls. The angst of a generation has never been captured better on celluloid. Would the success story of RDB have been scripted had Rakeysh Mehra not dared to see the right reflection in the failure of Aks and chosen to draw inspiration from his own environs? If that drives filmmakers who rely on DVDs of foreign flicks for ideas to attempt something different, Bollywood would become a better place.