Interview: Rahul Bose
Posted by Vivek on August 28, 2008 | No Comments
Rahul, your cinema can neither be classified as Arthouse, not pure commercial Bollywood, it is somewhere in between? Popular, yet not totally commercial? Is that a conscious decision?
My definition of an Arthouse film is something that is not formulic. It’s one where you don’t know what’s coming next. In that respect Mr & Mrs Iyer is not Arthouse, you know what the ride is about, what’s left is the exposition of that ride. That becomes a different matter altogether, does the exposition have a realistic, naturalistic sensibility, at what level are you arching the exposition. Then you look at films like Pather Panchali or Joyshanker and you don’t know what is coming next. That’s my definition of an Arthouse movie. Now there are very bad Arthouse films and very good Commercial films, with Arthouse sensibilities.
Now to answer your question there are very few Arthouse movies being made in this country. I’m extremely proud to say that “Everybody Say’s I’m Fine,” is one of them. As far as I am concerned as an actor I would always give the unfamiliar the first choice. Hence if you look at my career a Jhanker Beats has never been repeated. It has been done to prove a point to myself and to the public at large that I can do this. I can do it, I’ve put my flag there and I’m going to move on.Similarly my work on the Trilogy, that is Chameli, White Noise and Mr & Mrs Iyer, are movies where the male has a lesser role to play than the female, in terms of the outward presence of the character. For me they were extremely important because not many men would do those roles.
There is a certain chauvinism that comes with the profession and it is true, men do control the box office and woman don’t. Again it was a decision that came, for example, White Noise, it was an interesting female character that you don’t get to see at all in Indian cinema. Maybe you saw someone like this in Mahesh Bhatt’s Arth and then she you did not see her again. It is important to put this out there, to show that a woman can be an alcoholic, neurotic, aggressive, talented bitch, but that does not mean she is a slut or a whore. So for that I was willing to play the foil. So your question paints my career in two broad strokes, which it isn’t, neither is your’s nor is Pooja’s. But if I had more Arthouse offered to me, I would do it. I have worked with several first time filmmakers, so that would not stop me. The other thing I want to say is the near death of English Arthouse cinema in this country.
Till five years ago when I made Everybody Says I’m Fine, two to two and a half crores could be raised for a movie that was an Arthouse film. After that it was proved that with some very clever pruning of budgets, altering economies of scale and the changing scenario of the industry where actors reduced their prices, you could do a Jhanker Beats for two and a half crores, you could do an Ankahee, whether it flops or is a hit is different, for two crores, Chameli was done for three crores, where I felt, if I had to make an Arthouse film, why not make it in Hindi, where my audience is at least a 100 million as opposed to doing it in English, where my audience is 20 million people. So it has now reduced the budget for an English language movie to the 1 crore space. But if you can make a Jhanker Beats, which is an entertaining, interesting, contemporary film for this cost, why would you even bother to enter the English Arthouse realm. Which are the Arthouse films we have seen recently, Maqbool, Hazaroon Khwaishein, that’s it.
I’m trying to visualize you growing up in South Bombay, going to Cathedral and John Cannon school, probably hanging out in Bombay Gymkhana, guesstimating since that was the world I came from, does it surprise you to that you are now part of the Hindi Film world, which to the world you came from, is night and day?
Of course, not that I had anything against it but I’m not in that world. None of my friends are from the film industry, I think it’s been two years since I met anyone from the film industry. I live in Peddar Road, my life has always been in South Bombay, you are damn right about that. I only engage in that world to act in it and get out of it. And yet, admittedly, it is a world that is entirely different from mine. Whether it is Bandra or Hollywood, I mean I find Hollywood just equally suffocating and equally illusory. The whole notion of not spending your life being connected is a very unpalatable notion to me. There is an absence of connection in any big film industry anywhere in the world, when you are in the eye of that storm, whether it’s Hong Kong, whether it is Italy, whether it is Hollywood, whether it is Bombay, because by it’s very nature when you are in the center of that world, because it is a world where necessarily dreams are being created about 22 hours a day and there is very little connectivity and that connectivity for me is the bone and fiber of my existence. Even as an actor if I don’t feel connected to life, to the shopkeeper on the street or to someone I am placing an order at a restaurant, it’s not the common touch. It’s the ability to do something on impulse. It’s a rootedness. It’s your upbringing, it comes from the fact that I have driven across this country, have seen more of this country than most people have, not only seen but experienced. That rootedness is too late to remove from me. The featherbed of the film industry, to say it makes me uncomfortable is a vast understatement.
So you have a theater background, do you think that has influenced you in the kind of films you choose? How would you say it’s impacted you?
I think my background in theater has shaped my experience as much as watching ten films a week has, as I was growing up as much as being aware of Amrita Sher Gill’s work has, as much as watching Ray’s work has, it’s just been a contributing factor to the palate of aesthetics that keeps evolving and developing and growing in all our lives. It’s been an eye opener for me from reading Shakespeare to performing. Apart from that it honed my craft tremendously, this includes the various directors workshops. It’s a tremendous discipline to derive certain rigor from as an actor, which then translates into an ease, it’s like yoga, the whole idea of relaxation comes from the stage. As a medium it has ceased to excite me of late, but I know I will go back to it at some point. So it does have some impact on the choices of films I do, but not directly and not in some kind of consciousness.
Can we see some more directorial projects coming from you?
Obtained the rights for a novel and am in the process of writing the screenplay and I would like to make this film in March of next year. It is extremely different from Everybody Says I’m Fine.
You were a good bad guy in Takshak, how come no more negative roles?
Not been offered stuff that’s been worth looking but now at last I have done something, it’s an English film called The Whisperers, it’s a two man psychological thriller with Manoj Bajpai. This is a script I have written in English, it’s due for release, it’s ready. Rajiv Virani has made it. I think it’s a film that is going to wake a few people up.
What is the perfect role for Rahul Bose?
I don’t think any actor is going to give you a straight answer on that. It’s not something I spend any time thinking about. In fact the preoccupation with one’s future is quite boring. Even the past, put the strainer of the present into the past and the stuff that remains and the stuff that is important is…if something passes through the prism is gone. It’s extremely uncommon nowadays for people to live in the present. There is a pre occupation with, at the very least, a short term future. I’m extremely pre occupied with living in the present. Struggling to do that all the time because it’s the only reality that I know. More importantly it’s the only thing I’m going to be judged, not by my lofty words about the future.
If something from mainstream Hollywood was offered to you, would you consider that? Not necessarily Arthouse Hollywood, but mainstream Hollywood?
I don’t think a Mission Impossible 111 is going to be offered to me in this lifetime!!. But to do something which is a very serious action flick is the one genre I have left untried. I have just finished a romantic comedy, which released recently, called Pyar Ke Side Effects.
What else defines Rahul Bose?
My Rugby and my social activism. I have played and continue to play Rugby for India and my social activism involves, among other things, work done for the Tsunami relief in places such as the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in south east India.