From his maiden success, Tanu Weds Manu (2011) to his upcoming Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Zero, a lot has changed for Aanand L Rai- from budget to audience’s expectations, but the filmmaker says it’s the simplicity in his storytelling that he has never traded in his only-upwards journey in Bollywood.
Rai, one of the first contemporary Hindi filmmakers to have given stories with small-town flavour a mainstream platform, has been an equally successful director and a producer.
While his last directorial venture was in 2015- Tanu Weds Manu Returns- his multiple productions in the last three years (Nil Battey Sannata, Shubh Mangal Savdhan, Mukkabaaz) have carried the same simplicity and quirk that he brings in the films he directs.
Now, the filmmaker is geared up for the release of two productions- comedy Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi and romance Manmarziyaan, and Rai says it is from his uncorrupted inner-self his stories always come from.
“The key to my films is simplicity. I haven’t changed fundamentally post Tanu Weds Manu, because I don’t want to. I fear, the day I change as a person I won’t be able to make the kind of films that I do,” Rai said in a group interview.
Zero might be the director’s biggest film by all means, but neither Shah Rukh’s stardom nor his fans’ expectations of the film has meddled with Rai’s sensibilities, he assured.
“I’ll always keep my inner self like this, the way it is now, because my stories come from there. If I changed my inner core, if I get corrupted, it’ll reflect on the stories. I have kept my simplicity intact, whether I direct or produce a film. I don’t ever want to change that. I have carried that simplicity even in Zero,” Rai said.
The fact that Rai gives prime importance to a story also reflects in his uninhibited support to new writers and directors, something which is considered a risk in the formula-obsessed industry.
This explains why he stood beside his Manmarziyaan writer, Kanika Dhillon, for two years even as the film went through multiple delays and directors to finally land in Anurag Kashyap’s hands.
“I am just on the lookout for good stories. There was never a time when I thought Manmarziyaan won’t happen because I believed in the story and stood by it. This was meant to happen. A good story never dies. And if it’s with me, it’ll never get lost. You just cannot deprive the audience of a good subject,” Rai said.
The box office report of last year and even the first half of 2018 is a testament of audience’s acceptance of content-driven cinema, with films like Newton, Bareilly ki Barfi, Mukkabaaz and Raazi making profits.
But it isn’t the audience that has suddenly woken up to better content, argues Rai, but the change is in the kind of stories that the industry has begun delivering.
“The audience hasn’t changed. They were always smart and intelligent. Today the directors are telling new stories because we are writing new ones. If the audience was not smart, how did we have Mother India, Guide, Pyaasa?” he asks.
“But then there came a phase where we become complacent. We just didn’t offer the audience anything new. But today, slowly we have picked up again. We are back to writing good stories and the audience, like always, is appreciating,” the filmmaker concluded.