As the countdown begins for the release of Rajkumar Hirani's 3 Idiots, Harshikaa Udasi engages the filmmaker in a chat
With the release of his third movie “3 Idiots”, Rajkumar Hirani (who likes to be called Raju) is definitely feeling the heat. Work is eating away into his nights; he is running around promoting his film and his lunch happens close to evening. Still, when we meet he smiles: “ Aal eej well” (‘all is well') taking a cue from his own film's song. Is it a cool way to market his film or his own life mantra? “That's the way I live life. It's a more positive way to take life's ups and downs. If you convince yourself that all's well, you get the energy to deal with whatever's not well!” he assures.
The director of “Munnabhai MBBS” and “Lage Raho Munnabhai” has it in him to convince you about ideas you may look at cynically. In “Munnabhai MBBS”, he created magic with the ‘ jadoo ki jhappi' (bear hug) concept, and in “Lage Raho…” it was Gandhism in the times of hate and violence that triggered off the ‘get well soon' style of protests across the country. With “3 Idiots”, the man is now set to take on people's insane pursuit for success. “We are trying to say that instead of pursuing success, how about trying to chase excellence? Once you achieve excellence, the rest of the blocks automatically fall in place, but our education system, family, and peer pressures prohibit us from doing this.”
“3 Idiots” stars Aamir Khan, R. Madhavan, Sharman Joshi and Kareena Kapoor. It tells the story of two friends who find the third friend they had lost. The film is set in IIT, and deals with life in the engineering institute and the career prospects. Why the name “3 Idiots”? “I had registered several names including just ‘Idiots' but even that title was booked, and I wanted idiots to be part of the name; it draws you to the film!” he laughs. “It is essentially about non-conformists or out-of-the-box thinkers. The initial response to such people, is always one of scorn as they speak against convention.”
Raju is known for being meticulous in his casting, and takes up to two years to complete his films. Unit hands confirm that there was long deliberation even for the small-but-vital sweeper's role in “Munnabhai MBBS”. So we assume there must be some reason to cast 30-plus and 40-plus actors in the roles of engineering students. “I actually started by auditioning countrywide theatre actors for six whole months. Then I realised that an actor is an actor, and the basic qualification is to slip into any role. There is a certain suspension of disbelief when it comes to a good story unfolding on the screen. When I was making ‘Lage Raho…', I was plagued by doubt about whether audiences will be able to forget that Munnabhai had already married Gracy Singh in the first film, and whether the Vidya Balan angle would be accepted. But everything worked out beautifully,” he explains.
Raju loves making films, and enjoys the process of building it brick by brick. “I love working with people who are passionate about their work. These people never care about how much time it takes to do a certain thing, as they want every job to be par excellence. I would hate it if I were asked to churn out films as in a factory,” says the director who has till date made films only with producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra.
This time Raju has to contend with the marketing concepts of Aamir Khan, who has been given the tag ‘Marketing Monster' by the rest of the cast and crew. “He's handling that bit of the film. If it were left to Vidhu and me, we would have made the film, gone to sleep, and expected the crowds to find their way to the theatres,” he laughs. It is obvious that this being his only release to end the year, the actor is putting all of his marketing muscle behind “3 Idiots”.
Even though the filmmaker is apprehensive (as always!) about audience reaction, he has the initial euphoric response of a 1,000-strong test audience to make him feel good. As he ends on an all-is-well note he adds with a glint in his eye: “I have to practise what I preach.”
Raju gets candid...
“Amazing dedication. The dedication of all actors increased because of him. In Bengaluru, he was the one who suggested we stay in the IIM hostel — we were to stay in a hotel. It just changed the whole experience of working in a film about hostelites.”
“He frankly asked me to audition him for the role to be certain he can pull it off. Very good to work with.”
“He was the first ‘Idiot' I cast. I had promised him in the loo of a multiplex that I would cast him in my movie! I enjoy his work.”
“He is an L.A.-based actor to watch out for. He plays the fourth idiot, and the antagonist in the film.”