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Playing the big brother

ANUJ KUMAR
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Cinema As Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra backs fresh talent with ‘Teen Thay Bhai,' he talks about the changing Bollywood and his ambitious project on Milkha Singh. ANUJ KUMAR

Step by step Rakeysh Mehra in New Delhi. Photo: Sandeep Saxena
Step by step Rakeysh Mehra in New Delhi. Photo: Sandeep Saxena

W ith ‘Teen Thay Bhai,' Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra is the latest to become big brother to young directors. With only three films in the resume, isn't it too early or is the perennially insecure Bollywood really changing?

“I believe the country is changing and that is reflecting in the creative field as well. With Hollywood films having simultaneous release in India, these days you can't expect the audience to be living in the dark. They are so much exposed to different kinds of cinema it is very difficult for a director to retain that mystique for long. So last year when we decided to expand our production company, we decided to back fresh talent which has something new to say. Mrigdeep Singh Lamba came up with this script of three brothers, who can't see eye-to-eye and are expected to spend a night together in a cabin as it is a condition laid out in the will of their grandfather if they aspire to inherit his fortune. They are expected to do it for three years in a row and the film unfolds on the night of the third year. Lamba was passionate about it and we decided to back him,” says Mehra, who became the benchmark for every young director after ‘Rang De Basanti.'

Mehra says the film has in-your-face kind of humour but it will also make interesting comments about the human behaviour as the night passes and one gets to see some flashbacks. Shot in freezing cold in a cabin in Gulmarg, the film has Om Puri, Shreyas Talpade and Deepak Dobriyal as three brothers with Ragini Khanna making her big screen debut.

Humour and music

“The subject and the budget demanded capable actors. Though I believe the film has the capacity to engage a bigger audience, we will start with a limited release and then see how things go. Apart from humour, music is the highlight of the film. Ranjit Barot has composed the music and Bhupinder Singh has sung a couple of songs.”

His much awaited biopic on legendary athlete Milkha Singh will go on floors in September and Mehra is excited about the project. He says the recent great performances by our athletes in Commonwealth Games and Asian Games won't take away the sheen from the project.

“It is a story of human spirit, the making of an athlete, who fought against all possible odds. He came from Multan, saw his parents butchered in front of his eyes during the Partition, turned to stealing, redeemed himself, had a beautiful romantic life, joined the Army and excelled in his chosen sport. It covers the period of his life from 1947 to 1960. It is a touching story that needs to be told. Today, our athletes complain about lack of facilities, the man didn't even have shoes.”

It can't be made on a shoe string budget. “Yes, it has the elements to be made on a large scale but I will still go with a medium budget because we are introducing a kind of new genre and can't expect the financiers to understand the nuances. However, sometimes treatment makes smaller budget look much bigger. Like ‘Teen Thay Bhai' is a five-six crore budget film but it will appear like a Rs. 20-30 crore film because of the way it is shot in snow-covered Gulmarg.”

Still, his decision to go with a new face to play the Flying Sikh must have an impact on the budget and the overall perception of the project.

“Yes, even as we speak I have just come out from the auditions. It was a crucial decision, I could have easily gone with a star and the project would have automatically got airs but in that case I would have done injustice to the subject. I don't want the audience to come with a certain image of an actor in mind.”

True, he has suffered in ‘Delhi 6,' where he erred on the side of popular? Mehra says he has yet to come up with an informed critique of the film and Abhishek Bachchan delivered his best performance but he did realise something was amiss.

“I was heart broken. I turned into a recluse but slowly I realised that it was a great story but was not told in the best way. So I turned to the original idea where we had a tragic ending in mind. I also worked on the beginning and sent the film to international festivals and got a tremendous response. Variety magazine has called it ‘un-Bollywoodish.'” Will he re-release it in India? “Let's see if I get an opening, why not.”

Meanwhile, he has plans for a big budget 3D venture on the lines of ‘The Lord of The Rings' and a film on a family of musicians called ‘Bhairavi,' where he is planning to cast the Bachchans. “It will talk about different streams of music but for now, I am taking one step at a time.”


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