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Aamir and I fought hard

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Kiran Rao talks about her directorial debut, Dhobi Ghat, and how Aamir Khan wasn’t meant to be part of the movie. Janhvi Patel also finds out why Kiran says that only select audiences will appreciate her movie

The intriguing promo of Dhobi Ghat has been appreciated by audiences and critics alike. The movie had its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and was also showcased at the London Film Festival. People are looking forward to the festival-favourite film that will release on January 7. Director Kiran Rao talks about her maiden venture, casting Aamir Khan, and explains why her movie will appeal only to a section of Indian audiences.
Aamir Khan was not present at the first-look of Dhobi Ghat. Why was that?
So far, you all have known me as Mrs. Aamir Khan. I want to create my own pehchaan (identity) as a film-maker, director, writer and creative person, which is why Aamir did not come for the first look. None of the cast was there.
Why does the trailer have four parts?
The first trailer is a curtain-raiser or teaser. We wanted to introduce the four characters to audiences. We worked very hard on the trailer. Dhobi Ghat is a slice-of-life film and there is no plot as such. It is about how people share relationships and how their lives change. Mumbai is the fifth character in the film. Including everything in one trailer would have been far too much information. The four-part trailer is intriguing. The music is by Gustavo Santaolalla and it has been remixed by Ram Sampat.
Why was Aamir Khan was not supposed to be part of the film?
Aamir was not meant to be in the film. I wanted to make a small film with a small crew and unknown faces. We couldn’t find anyone for one character so Aamir suggested himself. He gave an audition. He succeeded in making his plan work and I could look no further. Directing Aamir was very exciting. We fought hard and had fun as well. He is a dream actor and producer.
What should people expect from this Aamir Khan film?
There’s no amount of warning that will take away from the fact that Aamir Khan is in my film. The cautionary note is more for people who are expecting another Aamir Khan blockbuster after Ghajini and 3 Idiots. It is not in that genre at all. Dhobi Ghat is a small, slice-of-life film about characters and the city of Mumbai. It is observational, captures reality, and the different worlds of people.
There is a crowd scene with Aamir. How did you manage to shoot that?
It was very tough to shoot the crowd scene. We had planned it but it was still very difficult, like a war operation. Somehow, we managed to get it in two takes, though I would have been more than happy with just one take.
Why is Dhobi Ghat a film for select audiences?
Dhobi Ghat is 40% in English and that cuts out a large section of the audience. Giving subtitles makes no sense because people in India don’t read subtitles. The characters in the film speak English and Hindi, like a lot of Indians do. So telling them to mouth their lines in Hindi would sound strange and not stay honest to the content. The characters have a natural voice and we didn’t want to lose that essence. Besides, I think most Indians know some amount of English.
Aamir has said Dhobi Ghat is a different film. Can you please comment on that.
The film-making aesthetic is different. Whenever Aamir says it is a different film, the film works. The film will be promoted in a way to sensitise audiences towards a certain kind of cinema, to create awareness about art-house cinema. This is a film for festival audiences and for people who like Iranian cinema or world cinema.
Is the film an experiment in cinema?
Dhobi Ghat is not an experimental film. It is an emotional and identifiable film which is subtle and quiet and it does not have any dramatic sweeps. The film revolves around four people and Mumbai. Mumbai was my muse for the film, which is a tribute to
the city.
Life here excites me and that is what I wanted to explore. It is a fictional film but we have borrowed some aspects from real life as well. Dhobi Ghat is a metaphor as much as a title. To know why the film is called so, you will just have to see it. Peepli Live was also a different, festival film and it worked well.
So according to you, what are the chances for Dhobi Ghat?
Peepli Live is more mainstream than my film. Peepli Live is a satire and it was in Hindi. It was plot-driven. We felt the need to connect to more audiences during Peepli Live, including the people talked about in the movie and our distribution increased. Dhobi Ghat is for a niche audience because the film-making aesthetic is different and there is no real plot as such. The language is also different. I hope everybody likes it but at the end of the day, Dhobi Ghat is a film for select audiences.



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