Director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra believes Indian filmmakers should explore stories that are rooted in the country rather than presenting “American ideas” in local packaging.
Mehra, whose films “Rang De Basanti” and “Delhi 6” were lauded internationally, says it was the Indian connect in his stories that made them popular with the audiences abroad.
In an interview with PTI, Mehra says, “If we really want the world to see our cinema, we need to tell Indian stories. We need to show real India and not American ideas made in India. My endeavour is to change the western gaze at Indian cinema.”
The director, however, is happy that the new generation in the industry is made of people from all strata of the society and they are keen to go beyond the cliches.
“Thankfully, we are discovering stories out of the so called cliched running around the trees or a Switzerland visual. There are millions of stories to be told. Stories coming from the soil will have a social connect,” he adds.
His next directorial venture is “Mere Pyaare Prime Minister”. The movie raises the open defecation issue and sanitation problems in the country, a topic that was also the subject of Akshay Kumars latest release “Toilet: Ek Prem Katha”.
Mehras film revolves around an eight-year-old boy, Kanu and his mother, who live in a Mumbai slum.
On the depiction of Indias reality through slums, Mehra says even though for the “filmmakers have, in the longest time, tried to sell the poverty in the West”, his aim is to focus on the problem that people face daily.
“We have to stop fooling ourselves and living in la la land. If not slums and these issues, what should we tell people about… Should we make movies on item songs or actors dancing in green beautiful lands with dupattas flying in the wind?
“I am not getting too stressed about any criticism. The society is evolving and we need to recognise that. If the story is beautifully told and is inspirational, it will make a mark and do its job.”
The protagonist of the movie, Kanu, is not happy that her mother has to go out as they dont have a toilet at home and decides to write a letter to the PM requesting him to get toilets build for them.
Mehra says the idea first came to him when he got attached to an NGO in Ahmedabad called Yuva Unstoppable. The director, along with the NGO started building toilets in municipal schools. They have built toilets in around more than 800 schools since then.
The filmmaker says it is “more important to build toilets than mosques and temples” and through his film, he wants to spread the message that maintaining cleanliness is not just the governments responsibility.
“I am happy that spotlight has turned towards cleanliness and sanitation, but the way I am looking at it, it is not just the job of the government. It needs to have a larger awareness in the society and people need to share the empathy or the difficulties of their fellow citizens,” he says.
Mainly shot in Ghatkopar, the movie does not have any big stars, but Mehra says that has not affected the production quality of the movie.
“I wanted the story to be told in the best possible way. The movie is not a part of Bollywood or Hollywood. It belongs more to the category of world cinema.
“We havent compromised on the production quality. The camera team is from Poland. The sound will be done outside the country. We have used the best cameras and top-of-the-line crew from Mumbai. It has to look better than any other film made in the world.” PTI SHD BK RDSA
Written by Shubha Dubey for India Today