With just five films to his credit as a director, Rajkumar Hirani is considered one of the finest filmmakers in the country. This time around, the multi-talented writer-director-editor-producer with a 100 per cent track record has stepped out of his comfort zone to bring audiences a biographical film, Sanju. As he basks in the success of his latest release, he tells us about his journey as a director, his experience working with stars, and much more.
Whom do you rely on when you lose perspective with respect to a film?
You have to create an environment that contains people who have a voice. They should not be scared to come and tell you that something’s not working. I encourage them to not only pinpoint the good things. I have Abhijaat and Vinod around. Vinod is very objective, and he has a fresh approach. He is very upfront, and he will tell you things to your face. There are enough people around to abuse me.
You have worked with big stars, and with them comes a certain baggage. How has your experience been so far?
I have no qualms about working with newcomers; I just want to work with great actors. It is not about the stardom. Aamir comes with many years of experience and a great understanding of the medium. Cinema is not like theatre, it’s technical. And it’s always good to work with somebody who understands that.
How have you maintained that fine balance between art and commerce?
You can’t predict how a film will turn out. You don’t make a film with commerce in mind. If you want to make a film, you must make it only for yourself. You have to go with your gut, and if it connects with people, it will make money. Follow your heart and it has to resonate.
You have a 100 per cent track record; none of your films have bombed. Does that add any pressure?
That’s what I call blind faith, and that does add pressure. Nobody has a 100 per cent track record. People do fail, but I tell myself that my sanity is in giving every project my best shot. After that, if I fail, I won’t have any regrets. But if I don’t work hard, I will carry that guilt. That’s why there is great joy in making your first film, you have nothing to lose.
Sanju doesn’t seem like a typical Hirani film...
This happens every time! When I made 3 Idiots, they said, “It’s nice, but Munna Bhai was more fun.” When I made PK, they said, “It’s nice, but 3 Idiots was better.” This always happens. People always like the past more.
How do you deal with criticism?
It doesn’t bog me down as such, but if someone points something out that I think is correct, I’m like, “Oh yes! I didn’t think about that.” Constructive criticism doesn’t bog me down. Because it’s easy to criticise. You feel superior by doing that.
Unfortunately, theatres are slowly becoming obsolete, with everything going digital. Does this shift create a sense of fear?
The platform for watching films may change, and revenue models may change, but people will not stop watching films. Films will keep getting made. But if cinema halls go away, that would be a very sad thing. Cinema is primarily made for theatres; that experience is beautiful. I find it very strange to watch a movie on a phone.
It’s more difficult than ever to stay relevant these days. What do you do to stay relevant at 55?
Now you’re making me feel very old! I don’t do anything consciously. You pick from the experiences you’ve had in life. My advice would be to remain grounded and not to be aloof. Stay as normal as possible. Most often, people distance themselves from others after they taste success. But once you do that, you’re dead.