Mumbai, June 22 -- The director of 2015's biggest hit so far, Tanu Weds Manu Returns (TWMR), film-maker Aanand L Rai insists he wants to focus on the simplest way of storytelling. Here, he talks about his style, inspirations, women-centric films, and more.
How do you ensure that your films connect with the audience?
I think it's my trust in simplicity. If you are honest as a storyteller, you don't have to play smart. Another thing that I have analysed is that a director has to indulge, and if you are in sync with your audience, then it's okay. But if you indulge on your own and audiences are lost, then it doesn't work. So, just believe in the script, understand the story, and find the easiest way to tell it.
Some feel that you play on middle-class sensibilities very well. Do you agree?
I totally agree. As a director, I had decided that I will only tell stories in which I can see myself. I belong to a middleclass family. I am the son of a teacher, born and brought up in Delhi. I know that world. In a way, that has given a new perspective to my storytelling.
Did you always want to make a sequel to Tanu Weds Manu (TWM; 2011)?
When I was finishing TWM, there was no sequel in my mind. But as soon as I was through with the release of TWM, I knew that I had another story to tell. It was never like, "Oh, because part one has worked, let me make part two and cash in on the brand." What I knew was that the story had a potential. But before I made the sequel, I needed to go somewhere to come back to this. And that's why I made Raanjhanaa (2013), before starting work on TWMR.
How has life changed since the success of Tanu Weds Manu Returns (TWMR)?
People are giving me offers, and there is also a lot of pressure to accept them, but I am not taking any. At one point, there were no offers. Now, there are too many. But I have seen this world; I know everything will settle down. I will start my next journey with the same nervousness and excitement.
Is it true that Salman Khan is doing your next film?
As a director, it is your job to keep meeting actors. Salman bhai is one of the most fantastic human beings I have ever met. I shared something with him, and he loved it. Then, I got into TWMR. Now that I am back, I will start working on that script. I never said he is doing it, and he never said he isn't doing it.
Suddenly, there is a lot of talk about women-centric films in Bollywood. You have always had strong female characters in your films...
I don't know why we are talking about this so much. Women-centric films were always around - from Mother India (1957) and Chandni (1989) to Chandni Bar (2001) and Fashion (2008). Yashji (Chopra; late film-maker) always had powerful parts for women in his films. With movies like Piku and TWMR, the tradition is only continuing.
You don't mingle much with industry people...
I really enjoy meeting industry people, but I'm really not a party person. You won't see me at many get togethers. I stay close to my family and friends.
In an interview, you said that when you were working in TV, you were so unhappy that you felt something was dying inside you...
I have a phobia of anything in excess. In TV, I had a good start, and I enjoyed doing my thing as a director and producer. Then, everything became routine, and, creatively, nothing was happening as such. I had lost that feeling of excitement by the end. I knew it won't take me anywhere. It will only keep providing me with bigger apartments. But I have to sleep in one bedroom. So I decided to stop at a threebedroom apartment, and start my search for happiness instead. I asked my family that for the next five years, there might not be a bigger home to move into, or a new car, and they said that's fine. Then this life happened. But it hasn't been easy. I thought it would take five years, but it took 10 to get here.
Wasn't it scary to leave your cushy TV job, and start off with a failure (he made his debut in 2007 with Strangers)?
I knew everything takes time. I was always hard-working, so I knew I wasn't going to lose. But at the same time, that search and restlessness to get connected took me around three to four years to discover that these are my stories and this is my world.
Do you think you have found your zone now?
As a film-maker, you are always on the lookout. For me, it happened organically. In hindsight, what I was doing initially was proving to people that I know the craft. Then, in three-four years, I realised that you don't have to prove anything. The only thing that's important is that you have to tell the audience your story.