A Minute With: Rajat Kapoor on ‘Ankhon Dekhi’
Over the past decade, film-maker Rajat Kapoor has found a niche for himself in Bollywood, writing and directing movies that rely more on unusual plots than glamorous movie stars.
His latest film, “Ankhon Dekhi”, has actor Sanjay Mishra playing a man who refuses to believe anything that he hasn’t experienced himself. The film opens in Indian cinemas on Friday.
Kapoor, 53, spoke to Reuters about “Ankhon Dekhi” and why he doesn’t work with Bollywood movie stars.
How did the film come about?
The idea was very simple. It was that a man decides ‘I will not believe anything I have not experienced’. It is the journey of a man who one day decides that the only truth is the truth of his experience. It happens to us all the time. If you have heard about a particular dish, or a person before you have tasted it or met them, your idea of them has already been coloured. But when you experience it for yourself, you might find it is not as you had thought it would be. “Ankhon Dekhi” doesn’t mean just trusting your eyes, but your experience.
How do you make a film based on such an ambiguous premise?
This was the starting point. For two-three years, the idea was hanging in my head. I have always wanted to make a film on a joint family. Then it became a story of this family and how it comes apart thanks to the lead character Bauji’s madness and obsession. I grew up in a joint family and it’s been a great desire to make a film in that setting. For me, it’s nostalgia. My father’s family had six brothers and two sisters. So we had uncles, aunts, cousins, everyone. All of “Ankhon Dekhi” has at least 20 people in each frame.
You found a producer for this film in a very unusual way.
It was very unusual. I went to the regular producers and the studios and got no response. So one day I finally wrote on Twitter that I was very frustrated with producers, and that I had had enough and I was moving on to make a play. Someone called Manish Mundra wrote back and said “Sir, I am a huge fan, and I will produce your film”. He’s been an angel for me. I didn’t know him at all – he lives in Dubai, but I sent him the script and he loved it.
Does it hurt that your films are appreciated, but seldom get prime time screenings in cinemas?
The simple answer is that these are not mainstream films with stars, so that is why they don’t get that. It hurts, yes. If “Ankhon Dekhi” hadn’t even got a release, it would hurt. It works on word of mouth, but for that it has to have some shows.
As a film-maker, how do you make sure your film is a success?
You make it in very less money. This is made in a total of 9 crore rupees (about $1.5 million). What else can you do? As a film-maker, I can only make a film cheap, but to ensure a good release, you cannot do anything. Tomorrow, if Hollywood says we are releasing “Spider-Man 4” in that week, what can you do?
Are your ever tempted to cast a bigger name, so that your film enjoys a bigger billing at the box office?
That’s true. But I have tried to stay away from that. The reason is that mostly they don’t fit into the worlds that I write. Nobody could have done this role, except maybe Amitabh Bachchan could have done Bauji. But Sanjay Mishra is a better choice, besides the fact that Mr Bachchan may not want to do this kind of work.
What has he done to make you think that he wants to do this kind of work? People always ask me why I don’t work with stars, but it’s not like Shah Rukh Khan is falling over himself asking me to make a film for him. You see the films he is working on — “Don”, “Om Shanti Om”, “Happy New Year”. Why would he make a film with me? Also, I want complete independence and creative control on the films I make, and that would be compromised if I have stars in my film. There are stars who take final right, there are producers who take final right. That doesn’t work for me. Also, it’s a social milieu that I am making in my films and our stars are far away from that reality.
But you have people like Anurag Kashyap who are also making films in that milieu and still casting stars.
Ranbir (Kapoor in “Bombay Velvet”) is the only one who will submit to a larger vision, so Anurag might just pull it off. He’s a good choice. Having worked with a star, he will still make his own film. Let’s see, time will tell.