After the debacle of his last film Mirzya at the box office, producer-director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra is back with his next. Mere Pyare Prime Minister is about a boy who wants to meet the Prime Minister and tell him about his troubled life. The film was the only Asian film to be showcased at the Rome Film Festival recently.
Mehra says, “My film is about a rape survivor—about how we look at a rape survivor. We victimise them. The entire male gaze needs to be changed. The young boy stays in a slum where there are refrigerators, ACs, washing machines, dish antennas, but there is no safety. His mother is a single parent and gets raped. There’s a beautiful love story in the film. It’s a very inspiring and uplifting film. The boy tries to meet the Prime Minister so he can find some security for his mother.”
The film stars National Award-winning actor Anjali Patil, who plays the character of the mother, and Om Kanojiya as the little child, Kanhu. Om, himself, comes from a rehabilitated slum and was sensitive to the story. Even earlier, Mehra has spoken about the Indian judicial system in his films, be it Delhi-6 or Rang De Basanti. “My films are an extension of my life. For example, I studied in an Air Force school and a lot of MIG crashes happened around the area. So it stayed on my mind and I made it the theme in Rang De Basanti. The characters were based on my friends.
I once watched a documentary that said ‘coffins are flying tricolours’ and that thought troubled me. Later, I heard the Defence Minister explain the crashes saying that pilots were not trained properly and this angered me. I wanted to talk about this `2,000-crore corruption story. The trigger mechanisms were not right and there were technical errors in the plane. I wanted to tell how Bhagat Singh fought against the British at an age at which we are busy making money.”
Ruing the failure of Mirzya, Mehra says the thought of the film came as he wanted to make a musical after watching the play Mirza Sahib. Sixty percent of the film was silent and unfortunately, it didn’t work with the audience. “It was an experiment that failed but I also learnt a lot. Likewise, partition troubled me because I was in Delhi and saw a refugee colony and heard a lot of stories. When I read Milkha Singh’s autobiography I could identify with his aspirations as at some point in my life I was also keen on sports. The pain of Milkha’s sister played by Divya Dutta touched my heart.”
When asked to comment on politically-motivated films that has become a trend nowadays, Mehra says, “I cannot really talk about other people’s cinema. You make films based on what you have seen and what you think. It’s their thought and they have made it as they have conceived it.” Talking further about his own films, he reveals that he is now attempting a love story titled Toofan written by Anjum Rajabali.
The director, who has quite a few big films under his belt, confesses that filmmaking has always been a challenge for him. “This art form has risks and investments. And investment on returns is a very big challenge. ”
We ask Mehra what would he have been if not a filmmaker. Pat comes the reply, “I would have been a chef. I cook every day and make breakfast for my children at home. On a serious note, if indeed some day I quit filmmaking, maybe I will do something related to it.” Besides cooking, what else is he passionate about? “Oh, I love travelling. I have been to Ladakh a few times. I want to see a lot more of India. I also love deep sea diving and often indulge in it.”
Mehra is himself a die-hard film buff. “I watch a lot of films. They make me cry and laugh. I am a huge fan of the late V Shantaram and Do Ankhen Barah Haath will always remain a favourite. In fact, I have paid an ode to him in my recent film where we used his song ‘Arre jaa re hatt natkhat’ from the film Navrang. We bought the rights from HMV and used the original score rather than remixing it.” Finally, one genre of cinema he avoids? “I can’t watch horror films. I appreciate the craft of horror filmmaking, but I can’t sit through one,” he smiles.