In an exclusive interview with City Express, producer-director Rajkumar Hirani, who has delivered some of the biggest hits in Indian cinema including Munnabhai MBBS (2003), 3 Idiots (2009) and PK (2014), opens up on a number of topics ranging from producing Saala Khadoos, the Hindi version of the Tamil film, Irudhi Suttru which will feature actor Madhavan as a boxing coach, to his Chennai connection. Excerpts follow...
Why did it take three years to make and release Sala Khadoos?
Actually, I don’t think there is any actual delay. For me, this is normal. You shoot, edit, re-shoot and then re-edit. You keep shooting and when you put it together, you sometimes feel that this could have been better. So, can we shoot that? Sometimes, even a small little shot can change things. We show our film to a lot of people after we shoot and to get reactions. So, I take three years to make a film. For me, this is fast. Also, this film has been shot in two languages. So, I was actually surprised as to how Sudha shot it so swiftly.
What made you decide to produce the Hindi version of the Tamil film, Irudhi Suttru?
I am not part of the Tamil film. I am producing only the Hindi version. As to the question of how I came to be a part of it, Madhavan called me at around 11.30pm and said, ‘I want to meet you’. So, I said, ‘come’ thinking that there must be an emergency. I was getting mentally prepared to help him, when he arrived at around midnight. He sat and then said, “I want to tell you a story.” I asked him, “At 12 in the night, you want to narrate a story to me?’’ He said, ‘I am excited about this script’. I could see his passion and said fine. He narrated the story in 20 minutes and I liked it. Madhavan then said he would like me to be a part of this project. He said, ‘We have producers in Tamil and we want to make it a bilingual and if you are there, it will help us do a Hindi film’. My first question was ‘Who is going to act? It is a boxing coach and you won’t look like one’. Maddy replied, ‘I won’t be like this in the film’. I found him passionate about the project. I then met director Sudha and the other members of the team who were equally passionate and decided to get involved in this project.
What can audiences expect from Irudhi Suttru? Will it have a message? Will it be about empowerment of women or boxing as a sport? Or is it just an entertainer for the masses?
When you start writing a script, you never think that there has to be a message. I don’t know why I have got associated with giving messages. I never start out to give a message. When you start a film, because it is your own story — whatever you believe comes out. It becomes a message. In this case, I have not written the script. It is Sudha’s script but what fascinated me was the unique idea that there is women’s boxing and the relationship between a coach and a student. It’s a great relationship that they share. He’s an aggressive coach and she’s a reluctant protege. It’s an entertainer but it is also a real film in the sense there is a roughness to it. It is an engaging and emotional story.
You have fans down south who keep track of all your films. Do you keep track of what happens down here in the Tamil film industry?
I do watch Tamil films. I love Tamil songs. I started my life as an editor. So, I used to be in Chennai every 15 days. We would shoot an ad and then come here to do Telecine. So, I would be here for a night or a day and when I went back, I would carry audio cassettes from here. I have a huge collection of Ilaiyaraaj’s music from that time. A R Rahman was emerging then. I first began listening to music from here. Then, I got fascinated with films. There’s a theatre called Arora in Mumbai where a lot of Tamil films are screened. I remember watching Kamal Haasan’s film Mahanadhi (1993). I watched some eight to 10 films there. But whenever I hear about a good film, I watch it. I’ve seen Pithamagan (2003) and Sethu (1999). The last film I saw was Nanban (2012), the remake of 3 Idiots in the same theatre.
Hirani’s Tamil Connect
Rajkumar Hirani says he has deep connection with Tamil Nadu. He says his dad’s sister stays in Ooty (Tamil Nadu). “I spend my vacations in Ootty usually. I travel to either Coimbatore or Banglore before going to Ooty. I have spent a lot of time in Tamil Nadu and share a bond with the State,” he said. Hirani has won 11 Filmfare awards and all movies directed by him have gone to score big at the box office.