Filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani, one of the most successful directors both with the critics and the audiences, is returning after five years. While his last film '3 Idiots' ruled at the box office and with the critics, one has high hopes from his upcoming film 'PK', which is clearly the most anticipated film of the year. And why not? The film boasts of the trio of Aamir Khan, Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Hirani himself! In a heart to heart conversation, Raju, as he is fondly called, talks about 'PK', his equation with Sanjay Dutt, his work on 'Munnabhai' series and Sanjay Dutt's biopic. Excerpts.
'PK' releases this week. Are you nervous?
The more you succeed, the more you want people to love your efforts so the only film I was not nervous was 'Munnabhai MBBS'. It was my first film and I was just happy with the thought that I have made my first film and my friends and family have seen it and appreciated it. Since then I have always been nervous before the release of all my films. I remember when '3 Idiots' was about to release I thought it was a shit film and my previous film 'Lage Raho Munnabhai' was far superior. I am really nervous with 'PK'. The good thing is that the film has a unique story and I am confident that people will love it.
What prompted you to turn producer with this film?
It's a natural progression. I have produced my earlier films too, though my name did not appear in the credits. Vidhu Vinod Chopra, who has produced my earlier films, is still a part of 'PK' and is presenting it. He is not a hands-on producer â€” he used to put a certain amount in the bank and give me the cheque book.
You are one of the very few directors whose films have done well at the box office, appreciated by the audience and critics as well. Does that put a lot of pressure on you?
Of course it does. There is so much money which is at stake. I want my film to be loved and I would want people to talk and remember my films. My last film ('3 Idiots') released five years back and if I had to look at the box office success and just earn money, then, I would have made five films in the past five years. At the end of the day you don't remember 'Mother India' or 'Pyaasa' for the business it did, you remember them because they had a good story to tell.
Every director has a trademark thing and in your case, all your films have a certain kind of newness which actually bridges the gap between the classes and the masses. What can we see in 'PK'?
I cannot reveal anything about the film. As I said earlier 'PK' is a very unique story. There are no benchmarks in Hindi cinema to give you an idea about 'PK'. Abhijat (Joshi) and I have consciously decided that we will make fewer films but with every film we will give a unique twist to it. We don't really have a formula to make films we just do it with our gut feeling.
But there is a lot of curiosity around the film as not much has been revealed about it.
There are two ways of promoting a film; either you tell the story and get the audience in or you create enough intrigue around the character and create a curiosity amongst the audience so that they come and watch your film in the theatres. There are so many rumours about the film but you will only come to know about it once it releases.
There were reports that the film is similar to 'Oh My God' (2012) and you had to scrap the project. Later, there was also news that the film deals with certain societal issues and is on the lines of Aamir Khan's television show Satyamave Jayate.
I cannot reveal anything about 'PK'. The only thing I can tell you is we are tackling a unique issue relevant to our society. But I can tell you one incident which is not related to 'PK'. Abhijat and I were writing another script and it turned out to be pretty similar to 'Inception'. We spent one year writing it. We had written a story where our central character had the ability to get into other person's mind and make him a better human being. One day a friend of us came and told to watch 'Inception'. After the film ended Abhijat and I couldn't get up from the seats as one year of our hard work had gone to waste. Eventually we decided to scrap the film.
So how many drafts did you write for 'PK'?
You know my constant joke with Abhijat is that we always have a never ending script so we have to be forsaking it. On the day of film's release we realise we cannot write and make any further changes so we abandon it. You won't believe that our prints are getting ready but just last week, I realised that I could improve one line in the film and I called up Aamir (Khan) and asked him to dub for that line again.
The nude poster of 'PK' created a lot of buzz, but some people objected to it.
I want to ask a question to all the people who found it offensive. From which angle can you see nudity in poster? Are people watching through the transistor that Aamir is holding in his hands? The problem is that people don't understand the difference between nudity and vulgarity. A woman in saree, fully clad, can look more vulgar if she wants to, than a man who's completely naked. There's nothing wrong in nudity. When you see the film you'll realise the importance of the poster. To me it's not a nude poster at all. For me, it's a very interesting-looking poster which completely signifies the film. I was amused when people complained about nudity. There's no vulgar moment in the film.
Aamir's character in the film talks in Bhojpuri language. Don't you think that may not connect with the audience?
I love to play with languages in my film. Aamir is speaking Bhojpuri in 'PK', earlier you had seen Sanju speaking the bambiya language. I love the fact that as a country we have so many different milieus that it just adds to the character of any film. I also feel language gets out a lot of humour. Imagine Munnabhai using a normal language and instead of saying Vaat lag gayi he says tera toh burra haal ho gaya. You lose the humour.
You next film is going to be a biopic on Sanjay Dutt's life. What triggered you to make a film on his life?
Yes, we were supposed to start working on other projects but Sanju's (Sanjay Dutt) story caught my interest. He had returned home on a three-month parole and that's when I met him at his residence and we ended up talking for eight hours. I discovered that although I did three films with him, I only knew one per cent of that man. I called him again next day because I was very moved with whatever he told me. Abhijat and I sat with him for 25 days to know his full story. I used to edit 'PK', then reach his house in the evening and be there till 3 am in the morning every day. There's so much about him which he has never shared with anyone. I saw a film there. That's why we decided to make a biopic.
Are there any particular facets of his life that you are going to showcase in your film?
There is in no way that we are doing this to glorify him. Neither are we doing this to show him in a bad light. We will show what it is, in a very straight manner. One would be shocked to know that so much can happen to one person in a lifetime. I am still meeting his family, friends and collecting materials, researching for things about him. We have only three hours of run time. So definitely, we cannot show all phases. So we will touch some and leave some phases and characters out.
Are you also planning to make the third part in your Munnabhai series?
I want to make the third instalment in 'Munnabhai' series but that will happen only when Sanju is out of jail. As of now I don't have plans to replace him and Arshad.
How was it working with Sanjay Dutt in 'PK'?
I was hesitant of casting Sanju as it is a very small role. His name is Bhairon Singh who is an owner of a local band group in Rajasthan. I wasn't convinced with anyone and finally I decided to call up Sanju and he was so positive and told me a yes the very first moment. He also cancelled his other shootings to be a part of 'PK'. He would land up on the sets earlier than his call time. I remember the first time when Sanju walked in on the sets I made an announcement that Aamir and Sanju are working together for the first time so let's applaud them. There was a happy atmosphere on the sets. When they both stood together Aamir realized how tall Sanju was and he jokingly mentioned to me, 'Raju mereko cast kar le circuit ke role ke liye. I think I would have looked good in it.'
How involved is your family with your work?
My wife Manjeet is not very clued to the film industry but she likes to watch films. I am sure she watched more films than I do. My son Vir is 16 and still in school, but he is very much interested in filmmaking. He has also made a short film called 'Return Gift'. During his school vacation, he came for 'PK's shoot in Rajasthan and worked as a clapper boy.