Anand L Rai tells us what to expect from his upcoming film Raanjhanaa

Anand L Rai, director of Tanu Weds Manu, who has the knack of creating realistic characters and staying faithful to the world his stories are set in, is gearing up for another rooted film set in Benaras. But Raanjhanaa curiously stars Dhanush, hailed as the South sensation thanks to the Kolaveri rage.

We caught up with Anand during his trip to Chennai (he was here for the final mix of the film) and quizzed him about what to expect from Raanjhanaa. Excerpts from the interview.

Interesting choice of lead in Dhanush for the role of a Benarasi.

I wanted Dhanush because I knew it would be honest to the script and the character I had written. I knew he was talented and conditioned to that kind of a world because I had seen him in Aadukalam, long before the Kolaveri craze. I knew that language would be a problem but after meeting him, I knew we could face the problem together and solve it. Dhanush never makes it sound like a big problem. He works very hard. He visited Benaras a few times to understand the world. He said that once you understand the culture, you will automatically pick up the language. So he ate the food, absorbed everything around him, observed the local lifestyle, and language soon became a part of his body language. Also, we created a back story for his accent: A hundred years ago, his forefathers had come to Benaras as a country pujari from the South. So despite his roots, the character is a Benarasi at heart and soul.

You do seem to prefer actors from the South. Madhavan in Tanu Weds Manu. And now Dhanush.

I guess the simplicity of the characters I write gels very well with the uncomplicated personas of actors from the South. Not that there are no such actors in the North. It’s just that these actors suited the values my characters stood for — simple, middle class, grounded and rooted boys next door. Not heroes.

This boy chases girl premise has been a staple of Tamil films but we haven't seen it too often in Hindi cinema.

Raanjhanaa is not about boy chasing girl, it’s a very personal story for me about the current generation. I am 40 and so I have seen the generation before me and am familiar with the generation after me. I think the current generation in their early twenties is a superbly straight forward, confident generation but I have a feeling that they are okay getting in and out of relationships and heartbreaks. They move on so easily, by the weekend. I have a feeling that it is because they are scared of getting their heart broken, scared of betrayal and these negative thoughts stop them from falling in love completely. Raanjhanaa is a love story with a lot of love in it. It understands that even hurt and pain are beautiful emotions that come with love and help you grow. I thought I should give a nostalgic feel to love and romance and I am curious how the youth will react to it in two weeks.

Yet you have chosen to set this story about the current generation in a small town and not in a big city.

My characters take to these colours of the small town beautifully. There is a certain attitude about towns such as Lucknow and Benaras. So even if I am telling you today's story, I am bringing that attitude to the story. Raanjhanaa, like Tanu Weds Manu, is the story of a middle class boy next door who falls madly in love. There is a certain purity to it. That’s who we are. Raanjhanaa is a popular nick for people who are full of intense love, it comes from Raanjha from the classic love story of Heer Raanjha.

Finally, how did you manage to get A. R. Rahman to do your music and how was the experience?

Sometimes you are blessed. God is kind to you. I told him the story, he loved it. All I told him was that I don’t need a hit number or a catchy song. I need somebody who can contribute to the storytelling. Rahman as a composer understands storytelling. I wanted a slightly nostalgic feel to the music but with a contemporary mood and he did the rest.