Anand Rai took a risk when he left the complacent world of television to direct a movie, but it paid off. His movie, 'Strangers', was not only showcased at the Osian Film Festival, but also appreciated. The movie is now ready for a December release, and he tells us more about it.
Q. Tell us about 'Strangers'.
A. It is the story of two strangers, who meet on a train, and, through their conversation, leads the film into the thriller zone. The rest of the film is about the strange deal that they have struck, and how it moves forward.
Q. How excited are you about the fact that your first film has been showcased at the Osian Film Festival?
A. Very excited. I am kicked because not only was it screened at the festival, it also received accolades. I was not nervous about my first film because neither did I have to live up to expectations, nor was I burdened with previous failure. This was a situation that worked to my advantage. When you watch the film, you will notice that the narration is unique. It is more than just a thriller.
Q. Any reason for this switch from small screen to the big screen? And what is the difference, according to you?
A. I wanted a break from television, therefore the switch. I was tired, physically, and movies rejuvenated me. I switched for some freshness. This medium allowed me to do something new. Both media require creativity and a sense of fashion. The narrative style is what differs between the two. A television story can go on and on, but in a movie, you have two to two-and-a-half hours to put your point across.
Q. Why do you think that television will not allow you to have your say, especially now that it is such a strong medium?
A. While it is true that television has a huge viewership, the same audience has higher expectations from a film. Television is like a member of the family, whose sins are forgiven, and the same does not apply to a movie. I think we can show a lot more on the big screen than the small one.
Q. Why Jimmy Shergill and KK Menon?
A. This is the story of two men, both as different as chalk and cheese. One is talkative, the other is reserved. The one who is reserved says a lot with his silence, while the one who talks a lot gives very little of himself away. Both are around the same age. KK was perfect for the reserved one, and Jimmy fit the role of the talkative one like a glove. KK understands the language of silence. Jimmy has done some great films, but he wanted to do something he has never done before. I caught on to that desire, and casting him was a clever move.
Q. How satisfied are you with your first creation?
A. It took me two years to finish this movie, and I changed with time. I tried to understand the industry, and this led to some growth. I was creatively satisfied. However, I have a lot to learn about marketing a movie. It was important to stick to the budget, and release it within the stipulated time frame, and I did that. I am happy.
Q. Besides the male cast, Nandana and Sonali are talented actors. Do you think your movie does justice to that talent?
A. That is a good question. Our films are hero-centric, and our heroines, not matter how talented, become wallpaper. In my movie, both the heroines are as important as their male counterparts. If they were not as talented as they are, then the movie would not have moved forward. The movie is not about four songs and two item numbers. I needed brilliant actors to understand the depth of the story, and therefore I chose these two.
Q. Why did you choose this film as your debut? If you wanted to make a mark, you could have followed the trend of comedy films.
A. I am not telling you that this is not a thriller film. It is the industry norm that you specify the genre your movie falls in. The thriller genre was the closest to this movie. As far as marketing strategy goes, you cannot put in all the elements into one movie. Again, we had to make something that would attract the audience. And the audience wants something new. I cannot fool the audience by giving it the same old stuff, and nobody would watch my movie if I do that. I realized this story was different; therefore I went ahead with it.
Q. This movie is not too long. How do you think the audience will take that?
A. Usually, a movie is two and a half hours long. The audience usually gets bored, although it can also watch a movie that is three and a half hours long. I don't think the length of a movie is important. I tell the story within the time limit that it requires. In the movie, 'Anand', Hrishikesh Mukherjee tells us that life does not have to be long, but big. Similarly, a film should be big, not long.
Q. What are the other films that you are working on?
A. There is a lot of work, but there is some time. Right now, I am excited about the release of my first film.
-Rajnee Gupta (SAMPURN)