Cinema

Man on a mission

14dfrRahul Bose   | Photo Credit: 14dfrRahul Bose

After every decade we have a new wave in the industry. One can recall that in 2002-03 it was Rahul Bose. He was christened the next big thing, the flag bearer of alternative cinema. Rahul says like fashion, it is a cycle. “After going urbane, our mainstream films are now turning the gaze towards the rural side but this doesn’t mean cities have gone out of fashion forever. Like most things these days, the duration of a cycle has become shorter. I have been in the industry for more than two decades. Many star materials who started with me have been reduced to almost obscurity. The advisable thing is to remain standing in the same place and chances are that the circle will come back to you. I mean don’t remain static, keep doing your own thing and keep faith in your talent. ”

Perhaps, he is right as he has a busy 2014 ahead. The four acting projects he has in hand include a multi-starrer with Zoya Akhtar, the sequel to Aparna Sen’s “Mr and Mrs Iyer”, a Bengali film “Shesher Kabita” and a love story, “Jeene Do”. “Of the four, I am most excited about ‘Jeene Do’. It is not a romantic comedy. It is a love story that will make your heart ache.” He is unforthcoming about his long-awaited second directorial venture. “The one thing that I can say is, the country hasn’t seen this genre. It may be rejected or accepted by the audience but it is going to be a novel attempt.”

And then there is the sequel to Kamal Haasan’s “Vishwaroopam”, where he plays the terror mastermind Omar. The film’s politics has been questioned but Rahul sees no reason in analysing it as a film that justifies U.S. decision to attack Afghanistan. “See, we tend to forget that it is an action thriller. It is a conflict between a hero who knows his religion and country well and a villain who is misinterpreting religion to spread terror. And we know for a fact that such people exist. The point is do both the characters convey their point of view convincingly. If they do there should not be any problem.” What he has a problem with is when in the name of bold a Catholic Christian girl is shown in a short skirt with a glass in her hand or when after marriage a modern female character suddenly gets into salwar kameez without any intrinsic logic. “Did we question when the Tamil Brahmin in ‘Mr And Mrs Iyer’ hesitates to drink water from the glass of a Muslim boy? Did we say how can a Tamil Brahmin be so conservative in this day and age? We didn’t because the larger message of the film explained the behaviour. But in an action thriller there is no larger message.”

In that sense should “Rambo” also be justified? “No, I don’t think you can compare the two in terms of pushing an agenda and the sequel will clear it further.” But we have to keep in mind we are not in the ’80s and the film is coming from India and not Hollywood. “Then it is for Kamal to explain,” Rahul doesn’t want to pursue the argument further.

The foundation of an activist

Rahul is one of the few actors who took social service from lip service to hand holding, to making a constructive intervention in policy making. “There is a difference in being socially aware and socially active,” says Rahul as one asks him to talk about the catalyst that pushed him towards social work. It is not easy and doesn't happen overnight, he concedes.

“I became socially aware when the riots broke out in Mumbai in 1992 where Muslims were targeted and the Sri Krishna Commission’s report was ignored. But I couldn’t do anything at that time. I became socially active during the Gujarat riots in 2002 and really got to the ground in 2004 when the tsunami ravaged the shores in South India. I made 23 sorties in 30 days to the Andamans. Like any other profession, you need to struggle on the ground to get a hang of things.”

He was associated with a couple of NGOs like Akshara and Oxfam, and when he learnt the ropes he decided to start The Foundation. “But unlike other sectors, social service can’t be run with the mindset of a CEO. You have to believe in equality and consensus. You can’t just pass orders. You need to imbibe the idea of India, which is about being compassionate, secular and democratic.”

Often celebrities are perceived as exploiting the cause for their advantage. “Nobody has questioned my integrity or intention. I am not boasting. I have neither heard it first hand nor second hand,” avers Rahul. “Perhaps my track record shows that I don’t indulge in the obvious,” he muses. “The cinema I do is not mainstream. If I had to pick a popular sport I would have been playing cricket and not rugby.”

The cause he raises is not starry either. “I am not doing it to raise my brand value. I want to equip children from disadvantaged backgrounds, regions or communities with the education and life skills needed to compete on a level playing field with their more fortunate counterparts. That’s why we support the education of the kids from the Andamans, Kashmir and the North East for 16 years in schools and colleges of repute.”

These days many celebrities have started drawing a distinction between the government and the head of the state when it comes to engaging in activities of charity. “I may not be in a political party but I am a deeply political person. There are politicians in the country whom I won’t like to touch even with a bargepole. When I was selecting my team of 16 people I was very particular about their idea of India.”

Rahul insists that activism is not coming at the cost of his acting career. “I have four films in hand. I am about to finish writing my next film and am working on a plan to raise Indian rugby to international standards. But despite the tight schedule I give 365 days to the Foundation and know the shoe sizes of the children I support,” he says, underlining he is careful that the transition of the kids is smooth.

He denies that the he is going to join the Aam Aadmi Party. “Corruption is not just financial. There is moral and ethical corruption as well. And the events of the last few days suggest that we should wait and watch,” he concludes with the apprehension of being trolled. “We thought social media will provide the freedom to debate and dialogue but now it seems it has given many the freedom to hate.”

Of guns and poetry

Rahul says the sixteen personalities donating their memorabilia for The Foundation’s annual auction in Mumbai this year espouse the idea of India. The proceeds from the auction on February 22 will be used to fund the work of the organisation. “The personalities uphold Indian ethos and are working towards making India a more inspirational, productive and inclusive place,” says Rahul. Abhinav Bindra has donated his second gun with which he shot in the Beijing Olympics for the auction. “The first one is in the Olympic museum in Lausanne,” says Rahul. Then Zakir Hussain has donated tabla set of his father Allah Rakha Khan. “He played on them for 15 years and then he gave them to Zakir who played on them for 13 years. One can donate such items only when he or she is committed to the cause.” Similarly, Shabana Azmi has donated the gold medal she won at FTII and Javed Akhtar has parted with the handwritten poetry of his father and grandfather. “Every item is precious for me but the contributions of Abhinav and Zakir really stand out.”


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Printable version | Oct 24, 2021 6:53:37 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/man-on-a-mission/article5685453.ece

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