MY NAME IS SHIBANI BHATIJA & THEN THERE WAS RIZVAN KHAN
Posted by Vivek on February 3, 2010 | 6 Comment
Lets work in the reverse gear here. Now there is the film, MY NAME IS KHAN, there are the actors, the director, the song, etc. But before all this, it must have been the writer, who looked around and decided, away from all the fame and noise, perhaps in solitude or perhaps amongst people, that this story and these characters, had to be created and brought to the large screen. Here we probe that mind, which earlier gave us FANAA, KANK, etc and talk with the writer of MY NAME IS KHAN (MNIK), Shibani Bhatija. Having interacted, quizzed and probed her earlier, in SF and LA and NY, the one thing she doesn’t lack, is absolute conviction in her work. She is ready to face all questions, the true hallmark of a believer in their craft. Over to Shibani:
To you as a Writer, what is My Name Is Khan all about?
My Name is Khan is all about belief. Beginning with Karan’s belief in me where he, for the first time in his career, is directing a film someone else has written. Then, Karan and my belief in a love story, that encompasses not just romantic love, or filial love, but the greater love of humanity. The belief, of the entire cast and crew, in what was always going to be an out-of-comfort zone, and an immensely challenging film. And, last but not the least, the belief of the character Rizvan Khan that there are good people who do good to others and there are bad people who do bad and that is the only difference between human beings.
What made you take up this story, as the one that had to be told?
Every aspect of this story encompasses my own framework of beliefs. I believe that human beings can rise above the ordinary. I believe that love that has the power to literally move mountains and I believe that discrimination, for caste, creed, color, gender, religion or disability, is a scourge that we must actively work towards removing.
Your earlier collaboration with Karan, was not exactly a mushy story KANK but certainly a space that Dharma had been in, however, this time both of you collaborated on something “out of their box,” what was that experience like?
As clichéd as it might sound, the God’s honest truth is that the experience of working with Karan has always been wonderful. He has great respect for writing, is open, decisive, generous, demanding and approaches everything he does with passion and wit. But above all he never rests on his laurels and constantly strives to stretch himself. This is what has prompted him to take on something as demanding as My Name is Khan and I am so glad he chose me create the stage on which he can showcase his immense growth as a filmmaker. Not just that, he gave me complete freedom to tell Rizvan’s story from my heart and provided every support possible, including his own invaluable inputs, to make sure it was the best it could be.
Multiple geographies have been used in this story, some where you have spent a lot of time yourself, was that a conscious decision, to use locations in the Bay Area, etc,or was that more a product of the story flowing and deciding for itself, what location comes next?
Once the setting of the United States was settled upon. I was very keen to use San Francisco as a starting point. Yes, it is my favorite city and I have studied and lived there, but more so it was perfect for the quirky Rizvan and his quirky love story with Mandira. In San Francisco the love story of a man with Asperger’s and a single mom seems entirely natural. After that choice we moved into spaces the story demanded.
A lot of the “wronged Muslim and the good Muslim vs the bad Muslim,” films have come out in the recent past, how is this one going to differentiate itself?
Firstly, religion is not at the core of this film, humanity is and secondly, I would ask how many World War 2 films have come out in the recent past? How do they differentiate themselves? Different stories. Just because a character is of a religion or of a nationality it does not make his story the story of other characters and films before him.
What does the future hold in terms of project post MNIK?
I have worked on a couple of scripts for Viacom (Studio 18) that like Rizvan, are on a journey. The search for a director Both are very different from My Name is Khan.
Anything else about the whole MNIK experience that you would like to talk about?
I would request people that before heading to the theater please leave at home your notions about a Karan Johar film, about Shah Rukh Khan, about the Shah Rukh-Kajol pair and about supposedly similar themes in other films. Meet Rizvan and Mandira on screen with an open heart and allow Rizvan Khan to take you on the journey that is his life.