Be it an unsettling yet earthy Sonbai or a gallant,larger than life Mangal Pandey,Ketan Mehtas tryst with characters have broken grounds in Indian cinema. With Rang Rasiya,he is back to his favourite haunt the chequered canvas of passion. In conversation with Piyasree Dasgupta
Was the idea of doing something on Raja Ravi Varma in your mind for a long time?
I first saw Ravi Varma prints when I was a student at the Poona film institute and was fascinated by their colourful exuberance. Later I read a novel by the great Marathi writer Ranjit Desai called Raja Ravi Varma. Thats when the idea of making the film on this colourful,controversial character materialized. It got further strengthened by the terror tactics of the extra constitutional morality brigade trying to dictate what is art and control creative freedom.
Mangal Pandey,both as a character and a film,had rubbed purists the wrong way. Raja Ravi Varma too has his share of controversies and purist wrath associated with him
Im attracted to people who have broken new ground,accepted new challenges.
The film,I suppose demanded the inclusion of nudity. Did you have apprehensions about how the Indian audience is going to relate to it,especially if you try and market the film as a mainstream one?
I believe that the Indian culture and civilization is the most liberal and liberated in the world. The current season of narrow mindedness is a distortion. It leads to perversion. It is time to liberate our minds. The censor board has passed the film. In fact,the board members congratulated me for making a beautiful and relevant film.
What kind of research went into the film? Often,sections of people dont agree with certain historical facts. How do you take a call as to what to film and what not…
Sufficient research is needed for a historical film. All books and articles,his paintings and prints were researched,locations visited and subject experts consulted. For me a film/character is a vehicle to communicate ideas. Since the film is based on a novel, there is much greater freedom in adapting it for cinema.
Recently,period films have not done well at the box office. Werent you apprehensive…
Box office is not necessarily the only criterion for making a film,relevance of the subject,creative urge to express certain ideas are also valid reasons. If you only go by what is currently successful,nothing new will ever emerge.
Why did you choose Randeep Hooda and Nandana Sen for the lead pair?
They are both wonderful actors. I was looking for people who did not have a baggage of pre- perceived personas. After interacting with them,I was certain that though relatively new,they were fantastic actors. They have given brilliant performances.
You have worked with both Shah Rukh Khan and Amir Khan. How would you rate them…
Both are special in their own ways but both are extremely bright,very hard working and totally committed to their craft.
What projects will you be working on in near future?
There are a couple of projects in development. A science fiction film,a surreal comedy. Ive also been working on Rani of Jhansi.