During a quick visit to the city for The Hindu Lit For Life, actor Rahul Bose spoke candidly on Vishwaroopam, the sequel and his plans for the year. Excerpts from the interview.
How does it feel for an arthouse superstar to be part of a film that’s already grossed over Rs. 100 crore?
Quite a rush. A thrill. I can’t claim to have contributed even Re. 1 to the box-office collections because it’s a Kamal Haasan film. But it feels like one of those random thrills that you can do without in your life but when they happen, they just feel... sort of weird and kind of cool.
When you were first approached, did you know you would be sharing almost equal amount of screen time with Kamal Haasan?
Sure. Why would I say yes to it otherwise? I can’t do a film for just working with a superstar; I still have to do something in it.
When you were playing a one-eyed terrorist in the film, was the disability used as some kind of a metaphor for him being able to see only one side or were you just playing a Bond villain type?
It was just a villain kind of thing; (thinks hard) I have watched Vishwaroop and I don’t think there’s any second layer to be searched for in that movie.
How satisfying has it been doing a film that has no second layer then?
It was an interesting character, but let’s face it, I wouldn’t say that you are hamming... but there’s a very thin line between a naturalistic actor and being a villain in an action film. You have to play it a certain way for it to play in an action film. If you are going to play an internal introspective (character)... and hoping that your menace will come through subliminally, you are sadly mistaken. The genre is very “hit the audience on the head with a hammer”. So in that respect, it is less satisfying than doing arthouse cinema. It’s as much work, but less satisfying; but the thrills are to do wirework, computer graphics and green screen work, to do guns... it’s just a momentary thrill.
But again, it wasn’t entirely a Bond villain type, there was a human side to him.
That’s in the writing. Credit goes to Mr. Haasan.
So are you part of Vishwaroopam 2?
I haven’t spoken to Mr. Haasan for six months. I am not in touch with him at all. So I have no clue.
Let’s talk about your arthouse films. What are you excited about next?
After Midnight’s Children... I am making Moth Smoke, I am directing it in the fall of this year. It’s a book written by Mohsin Hamid, Pakistani writer. I have started the production part of the prep. So, in fact, I won’t be in a film for a year. I am not doing anything. Unless I get something quickly now. I am free till about June.
You’ve been the superstar of Indian English cinema for a long time now. Why hasn’t that kind of cinema taken off?
Indian English cinema is dead. Economics. Audience. It has to be made within Rs. 65 lakh to Rs. 1 crore. You can’t make a film with that money.
So you are not making Moth Smoke in English?
I am. But I am not somebody who follows sense. I am making it. But that’s because the film is in English. It’s about upscale, upper-class Pakistanis in Lahore.
After being part of a Rs. 100-crore film, don’t you want your stories to reach out to more people?
No. If it means compromising on the story, absolutely not. If it means compromising on the language, absolutely not. We’ve seen a whole decade of cinema coming out of Hindi cinema, which should have been in English. People studying in posh boarding schools... they should be talking in English. I might do it as an actor, but as a director, absolutely never. I am least interested in increasing my fame. Sequel to Jhankaar Beats, sequel to Pyaar Ke Side Effects... of course, Farhan and Vidya are doing that... You do sequels because you want to consolidate your audience, I am least interested in doing that. I would rather consolidate in the next thrill, in the next challenge, in the next failure.
Financially, are you able to afford those risks?
I have never bothered about money because I have always had it.
As long as the commercial roles keep coming, the ones you do for money?
I don’t think I have done anything for money for a long, long, long, long, long time. Vishwaroop I did because it was a combination of reasons. The action-film genre, the role and working with one of the finest actor-directors in the country contributed to me saying yes. This is my 20th year in cinema. It’s not that I’ve been offered only beautiful, luminous roles in arthouse movies. A career is defined more by what you say no to than what you say yes to.