His hilarious satire ‘Peepli (Live)’ has earned encomiums at world class platforms: Sundance International Film Festival 2010, US, and 60th Internationale Berlin Special, Berlin. Aamir Khan is hopeful that his Anusha Rizvi helmed flick will find favour with the classes and the hoi polloi alike?
His grey cells remain in perpetual overdrive. Padma Bhushan Aamir Khan, the thinking ‘Mr. Perfectionist’ Khan, deserves another award?expressly for his canny marketing brains!
Two weeks prior to the release of his prime adversary’s flick ‘Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi’, the staff of multiplexes were seen sporting the ‘Ghajini’ hair cut, menacing scar et al?shifting the focus to the Aamir Khan flick completely! Shah Rukh Khan, probably, hadn’t bargained for this.
Time and again, AK has proved his marketing genius during the promotions of his flicks be it ‘Lagaan’, ‘Taare Zameen Par’ or others, And what’s better, it’s at work now, full on, spotlighting his rustic satire ‘Peepli (Live)’ based on farmer suicides.
The scathing sweep of journalist turned director Anusha Rizvi’s saga takes relevant potshots at the political system, civil administration, highlights the apathy of the administration and spotlights the machinations of the media too.
On the ‘Bharat Bandh’ Day (July 5, 2010) Khan wasted little time in promoting his song number ‘mehengaayi daayan’ from ‘Peepli (Live)’ which coincidentally curses rising costs as the ?second wife? who eats up all the earnings of the poor! Considering the nationwide ‘bandh’ was all about rising costs, the timing couldn’t have been more appropriate.
‘Peepli (Live)’ will make it’s august presence felt in cinemas on August 13, 2010.
Excerpts from a chat with the risk taking filmmaker?
Most feel that you make fun of other stars; so this time around you’ve made fun of yourself in the promos of ‘Peepli (Live)’?
One of the important factors of the movie is its humour. There about 10 to 12 promos of ‘Peepli
(Live)’ out of which two promos have been released, one of which gives the story of the movie. In the promos that will be revealed later, one by one , more attention is given to the character and not the story. So these are a set of promos which we are calling ‘viral promos’ for lack of better name. Media plays a very important part if the film, so through the media i.e. the people who playing the role of media are interviewing different characters of the film to take their reactions. This is the first set of promos, so I thought why not start it by making a joke of myself?
What is the film taking digs at?
Since the film is a satire, it does take digs at a lot of issues like the civil society, politics, administration, and media. So basically, it taunts everyone.
During the making of the film were you confident of media support, considering that the film does take potshots at the media too?
I have full faith. I think all of us are first of all human beings first i.e. before being an actor I am a human being. The film is not judgmental, but it shows the problems that the media is facing, for e.g. you media people have to stay away from home for days, you may fall sick etc. My director Anusha (Rizvi) has been a journalist before a being film maker. She has written a wonderful script and the best part of the movie is that her approach is not negative, but it is humorous. So she is not being judgmental and I think that it is a very positive attitude. So I think you will all like the film.
What can you say about your zest for filmmaking considering the fact that you allow people to call you an ‘Idiot’?
As we were taking digs at others, I thought why not start it by taking a dig on myself. The promo that you are watching is actually a clip that was shot by Anusha during the making of the film. During the shooting, a huge crowd had gathered to watch the shooting. The film is shot near a village in Bhopal. People were selling ‘Ghajini’ wafers and biscuits and the ‘Ghajini’ spelling was also wrong! So Anusha thought why not shoot this part and show it to me? So the character of the journalist in the movie makes a dig at Aamir Khan saying that he sells biscuits here. We tried to include this clip in the movie, but it did not go well with the movie so we thought of including it in the promos.
According to you, who will be the happiest person after watching this promo?
I hope everyone gets happy and everyone likes it.
Are these journalists inspired by real life journalist?
There is no particular journalist that is shown in anyway. It is just general. This is something actually that Anusha has written. She’d given me a narration some three to four years ago. When I listened to the story at that time, I really liked it.
How would you rate Anusha Rizvi as a director?
I think Anusha is highly talented and as she has been a journalist, she’s had many experiences. Journalists go to different places, meet different people. Being a sensitive person she was able to form her collection of experiences into a story that talks about an important issue that India is facing today. Though the story is humorous, it is giving out an important message. Anusha has a written a great script. Apart from that, I was shocked when I saw the film for the very first time because it was made so well! The film is so complicated, there are so many layers to it that it is very difficult to get it onscreen. And considering the fact that this is her first film, hats off to her for pulling it off. Her energy and her attempt to be honest with what she is making is her strength and that is the reason comes up good on screen. She is not trained neither has she assisted anyone. I am really impressed with her; she has done a marvellous job. I think she will give a complex to many established directors! As a director even I was taken aback at how she shot such complicated scenes. She has really justified the faith and the trust that I had in her.
Most people feel that you’re not promoting her, and besides, you’re not allowing her to speak about her film?
Well, I’ve spoken only about her in the last five minutes. And I’ve never said any such thing! I’ve never said that she cannot speak about the movie.
Given that you’re a producer and director is there a great temptation to give in your inputs often?
As a producer I don’t get involved in certain stages like for e.g. in the shooting stage. I get involved in the promotions, release and planning of the film and also to a certain extent, in the post production.
Why is that?
Simply because I am trusting the director. The reason I am working with a particular director is because I trust him or her. I would like the director to express what he or she feels through the film and that is important to me. I want to have the point of view of the director there, not mine.
This film has got an A certificate from the Censor Board, what’s your take on it?
There is no such adult scene in the movie, but in some places the language that is used is not appropriate for children to watch. I think it is perfectly right, because I also don’t want children to see this.
Do you think that Bollywood has started to take new risks with movies like ‘LSD’ and now ‘Peepli (Live)’?
I don’t about that, but I’ve been trying to do that since the last 20 yrs.
There are no stars in the film, how confident are you that the story is going to work?
I think the story is the hero of the film and in the first promo itself we have given you the plot of the film. That helps you decide whether this is a plot that interests you or not. So I think that the story is strong, it will attract audiences and I think people would want to know more about this.
Since the film is about a small town, are you going to employ a specific strategy for them, given your marketing genius image?
No, it will be marketed for everyone.
The film does take potshots at the goings on in the democracy?
India is one of the largest democracies and there are many good things about our democracy. At the same time, some things are not so good about it. Since the film is a satire, the song also reflects that in ‘rang rangeela prajatantra’.
How would you describe the music of ‘Peepli (Live)’?
The music, interestingly, is a motley of different artistes and performers. The main track of the film ‘desh mera rangrez hai babu’ is by the music group ‘Indian Ocean’ and there is another song which was not in the film originally due to a lack of space, but the village group was singing this song one night. Anusha liked it and thought of including it in the film. At this time she was not even sure where to place it in the movie so she told Raghuji (Yadav) about it and Raghuji being a good singer and a harmonium player, spontaneously made this song by changing a few words here and there and also shot this song on the spot. Normally, we record the song in the studio and then we playback and shoot, but here the shooting and the audio is live. It is wonderful song and is one of their folk tunes (sings it sportingly)
Any other song number that you really like?
There is also a song sung and composed by Habibji’s daughter Nageenji ‘chola mati ke ram, ekar ka bharosa.’ There is also a fourth song that is not in the movie, but it comes during the rolling titles at the end, and it reflects the film in a different way. It is a poem by Noon Meem Rashid and the group ‘Indian Ocean’ has composed the song number ‘zindagi se darte ho.’ So there is no one composer but different composers have come together. Even the background score is by a fifth person named Mathias who is a French composer.
The reporter in the film is from India, so did you take any special care while selecting a name for the character?
While selecting a name, I just told Anusha that as the location and channel name in the film is fictitious and we are not targeting any some specific people or group, she must name the characters accordingly, which she did.
Most of your films from ‘Lagaan’ till date have a tight budget, how do you plan it?
I try to take into consideration the scope of the film and make the film practically so that no one is at loss. But sometimes it is not possible. In the case of ‘Peepli (Live)’ we have gone slightly over budget. But sometimes it is a exception as we are creative people and want to work better. Normally, my films are never over budgeted for e.g. for ‘Lagaan’ we had a budget of Rs.12-15crore, but it took us Rs. 25 crore at that time. Ten years back even ‘Taare Zameen Par’ also had a budget of Rs. 8-10 crores, but it took us Rs. 15 crore, so we go over budget sometimes.
What was budget for this film?
For this film we had a budget of Rs 5-6 crore, but it took us Rs. 10-12 crore to do it.
Do you think that producers should concentrate more on the budget of the film, more so in today’s times?
Yes, actually the whole film industry should think on this topic so that we make the film in an economical manner. So according to me the most important role here is played by the person who is at a higher and better position i.e. the filmmaker, stars or famous directors. These are the people who are responsible for controlling the budget, because there should be no cut in the wages of workers.
Are you hinting that stars should take a pay cut?
I am not saying that they should take a pay cut, but they should be aware of the potential of the film and be reasonable with that. According to me, the budget is the most important part in film making. If we take the business point of view then the financier, distributor or sub distributor should not face any loss.
Raghuvir Yadav is the only known face in the film, surely it must not have been easy to sell the film?
Well, I didn’t have this problem. Fortunately, people in the market trust me.
Will you be working in Danny Boyle and Anurag Kashyap’s next film ‘Bombay Velvet’?
Actually, I have not yet signed any film. I have no idea of what my next film will be. I have got various offers, but right now I am too busy with ‘Peepli (‘Live’) But yes, this film has been offered to me, but I am busy with ‘Peepli (Live)’. So till then I will not sign any films.
Have you managed to catch up with anybody on Twitter?
Actually, I don’t know much about Twitter. It is because of Amitji (Bachchan) that I started it.
Will you promote your film through Twitter?
No, I’ll not, because I’d like to promote the film by using the promos. My interaction with others would be a space that I’ll use on a personal level, which is my blog. I’ve been doing for yrs now.
How will you follow up on Twitter?
Actually, I tweeted for the first time quite recently. And Amitabhji (Bachchan) is responsible for me starting to tweet. He said that I should join Twitter. In fact, I was having dinner with him when he tweeted that I’m asking Aamir to join in. As a result I have started now. There are so many modes of communication today. But right now, I am so engrossed in ‘Peepli (Live)’ that I don’t know whether I’ll be able to tweet regularly or not. I have heard that people tweet every 10 minutes! I’ll not be able to do that, because I get lost in whatever I am doing in the present moment. Actually, I am very weak technically. I have learnt to tweet with a lot of difficulty.