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|August 19, 2000||
'I can't act for nuts'
It is a casting coup of sorts.
For a first-timer to rope in a cast most directors can only dream of is no mean feat. But that's just what
Rakesh Mehra holds fort with
For a first-timer to rope in a cast most directors can only dream of is no mean feat. But that's just whatRakesh Mehra has done. The adman and music video director is now directing Amitabh Bachchan, Raveena Tandon, Nandita Das and Manoj Bajpai in Aks.
Rakesh Mehra holds fort withPriyanka Bhattacharya on his relationship with the Big B, Aks, and how he managed to pull of a coup that Indian cinema has not seen in a long time:
What caused the transition from ads to movies?
It's quite a natural transition for me. I first came to Bombay to be a film director and make movies. And now, I'm making them.
Did you always want to be a director or was it acting that lured you?
I always wanted to be a director and make films. I can't act for nuts.
One of your most remembered ad campaigns is the BPL-Amitabh ad. You also directed his music video, Eir bir phatte. How did it come about?
Well, there were five commercials in all for BPL. It was also for the first time in his career that Amitji appeared in a commercial. That created advertising history.
Meanwhile, Amitji was looking out for someone to direct the video of his music album. He had even shortlisted people from all over the world. But during the course of the commercial, we got to know each other better, and one day, as he was playing the songs for me, asked me if I wanted to direct the video. I agreed immediately and that's how it happened.
Tell us more about Aks.
I've written the story and screenplay for Aks. Actually, it just happened one day. My friend and I just sat down and wrote it. It was done in all of two nights.
Actually, I happened to be in a meeting with Abhishek Bachchan for a film, when Amitji was leaving for the airport. Before he left, I handed over a 30-page script to him, asking him to look at it. He told me he'd get back to me as soon as he was free. But before his plane landed, he called me and said simply, "Let's do it."
The story essentially follows the good-versus-bad theme, which has been done before. What makes Aks any different?
See, all stories have a good vs bad theme. What differs is the treatment. People can recite the same story in different ways. I hope that I can recite the story well.
Strange. I've been hearing this story for a while now. It's amusing. How did people bring in wolves into my movie? There is no such scene in Aks.
Both your leading ladies come from different genres of cinema. One is a successful commercial actress while the other is known for her work in parallel cinema. Was there a reason for this?
My first and foremost obligation is to my story and characters. It doesn't matter where they come from. The roles that Nandita, Raveena, Manoj and Amitji play are suited only to them and no one else. The characters are made for them and they are made for the characters.
I never consciously thought about parallel cinema and commercial cinema. It all just happened very naturally.
Why? Perhaps you say that because of the age factor. But then, the story requires it. You'll just have to watch the movie to see how they complement each other.
You've got many talented actors on board. Are you finding it difficult to cater to each of their whims and coordinate their moods and movements?
On the contrary, they are very professional. Actually, it's more like they have to put up with my inadequacies than me putting up with theirs. And I must say they're making it easy for me!
Though they are brilliant, none among your cast has had a hit in recent times. What convinced you to cast them?
These people are superb actors. On the one hand you say these people are brilliant and then you ask me why I cast them! Actually, I think this is a casting coup of sorts, which hasn't happened to Indian cinema for a long time.
What do you think of Amitabh Bachchan as an actor?
He is a complete actor. There are very few actors like him. He belongs in the same club as Al Pacino.
Do you think he has spoilt you for other actors?
I don't know. I haven't worked with very many yet, so I can't really comment on that.
Is it true that ABCL is producing a movie starring both Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan and that you will direct them?
Yes. That's on the cards. Though I can talk about it concretely only when I have the release prints in my hands.
You were supposed to have directed Abhishek Bachchan's debut film. What happened?
I was working on his launch film. But it eventually went to J P Dutta. As it turned out, it was a wise decision. Abhishek was in safer hands with J P Dutta and Refugee. He and I were both new. Whereas J P Dutta, being a senior director and more experienced, ensured that he was launched properly.
Do you think Abhishek can ever be what Amitabh Bachchan is to Indian cinema?
Absolutely, without doubt. He's this double-edged sword. On the one hand, he has a strong pedigree, what with being the son of Jaya and Amitabh Bachchan. Acting is in his genes and comes naturally to him. On the other, he is a strong individual by himself. He is his own person, and I know for a fact that his parents don't interfere in his affairs.
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