In this interview with indianexpress.com, veteran filmmaker Sooraj Barjatya, whose production venture Hum Chaar will hit screens on February 15, talks about the legacy of Rajshri Productions and telling contemporary stories with a Rajshri touch.
Q. Hum Aapke Hain Koun has completed 25 years and it still has an audience.
It is a big thing for me. It is going to be 25 years since Hum Aapke Hain Koun released, and today a parent is wanting the child to see the film. There can’t be a greater gratification for us. There are so many good films being made today, and still people watch this one every time it is on TV.
Q. Your characters have always had some kind of innocence in them. With the changing times, there is a dearth of innocence in film characters today.
Our characters are as simple and as innocent as all of us. But, I think the way our society is going, with family bonding breaking up, it is a very big issue today. I understand that everyone cannot live together the way they used to or the way we saw in our films at Rajshri. But I think we should at least be able to trust each other. Today’s youth finds it difficult to trust one another. In our society, ‘hum’ (we) is being replaced by ‘mein’ (me). Hence, I personally feel more and more responsible to show that it is okay to trust someone. There must be someone you can trust. Otherwise everywhere some kind of distrust is building up, and it is unfortunate. So, for me it has become even more important to showcase these values in my films more than ever.
Q. Why have you taken such a long break from direction after Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo (2015)?
No no, I am very much directing. In fact, I am working on a film with Salman. But before that I have two projects, one is Hum Chaar, and then we are launching my son Avnish. He is working towards becoming a director, so we have been writing and working on that for a year. This year is going to be his launch. Once I get his script done, I will start writing my film with Salman.
Q. Why did you decide to produce Hum Chaar with new faces and crew?
Since a while, I was thinking that we should make a film where we tell a more contemporary story with a Rajshri touch. When I saw Piku and Badhai Ho, I was thinking how I want to make something like this. I know my style is different. I am aware of it. So, when I met Abhishek Dixit, the director of Hum Chaar, he told me that today family is no longer about extended families and relatives, it could also be friends. Today, with the kind of lives people are living, how many times can one celebrate their birthdays and anniversaries with family. It is the friends who have become family now. These friends have become closer than extended families. They also don’t judge like the relatives do.
I realised what Abhishek was saying was true, and we started working on this film. Keeping the Rajshri audience intact, he has made a contemporary film without my ‘chhaap’ (influence) on it.
About casting fresh faces for Hum Chaar, in our production house, we have launched the maximum number of new faces. Whether it is Rakhiji, Jaya Bachchanji, Mithoonji, Raj Babbarji, Naseeruddin Shahji, Salman or Madhuri, they were all new faces.
This is an experimental release. We are releasing it in very few cinemas. In some cities, it is going to be only one theatre, one show. We want to grow slowly with this one. There have been times that too many prints are running, and shows aren’t running. They are out of theaters even before families come to know about the film. We have done this before during the release of Dulhan Wohi Jo Piya Man Bhaaye, Chitchor, etc. We want to try it out again.
Q. What do Rajshri Films stand for today?
Hum Chaar is our first step towards a new Rajshri. I go for so many social gatherings and I have realised how we cannot make a film about everyone living together. It is such a dated concept. It is a fact because joint families are out. Even to expect that everyone will be an adarsh son or daughter or even for a mother-in-law to be an adarsh ‘saas’ is wrong. One cannot expect anyone to be perfect. Everybody is an individual today and they celebrate their individualities.
Also, I think Rajshri films were never about living together or being ‘sanskaari’. We have been about believing that if and when required, someone has your back. It is about the bonds and connections. It is about at least spending festivities with family. Connecting with family is a must.
Q. Rajshri films always have good bahu/daughter/mother/bhabhi. Also, while the male characters have successful careers, female characters don’t.
No, now that has changed, it will change further. For instance, if we talk about Nisha in Hum Aapke Hain Koun, it was 25 years ago. Those were the times when we used to have ladies special shows in theaters at 3 pm. Today, there wouldn’t be any lady at the 3 o’clock show as everyone is working.
If Hum Aapke Hain Koun was to be made today, there would be many changes. Nisha would need to have a career, maybe she would be a computer engineer or a software consultant, as we had already planted a hint that she was learning computers.
Q. Would you consider remaking or reviving any of your films, or maybe make a sequel?
No, not really. Maybe not right now. Unless and until I can redo it differently and better it, it is not correct to remake a film today. Today’s audience is very intelligent. I am not sure if they would like us remaking our films in a different way. They are watching these films even now. On television and digital platforms, our Rajshri films are very popular. And I am grateful for that. I wouldn’t want to ruin it for them.
Q. You are reuniting with Salman Khan for a film. Tell us more.
It is really too early for me to talk about it as I am still putting it down on paper. But it is going to be with Salman and I am going to put in a lot of my personal experiences into it. It is going to be a family drama, and it will be one of my most satisfying films.
Q. You have worked with Alok Nath. There have been many sexual misconduct allegations against him that surfaced in the wake of #MeToo movement. Were you aware of any of those? How did you react to this?
It is difficult for me to comment on this. But all I can say is that I have worked with him in four films out of the six films I have made. And for me, it has been a great experience working with him because he is such a great actor. I can also say that nothing like this has ever happened on my sets. This is very unfortunate and shocking for me to know this, but I don’t want to say anything more on this.