The Barfi! director talks about the response to his latest film and also his forthcoming films
After treating Hindi-viewing audiences to Barfi!, director Anurag Basu plans to cook up an English version of the movie for non-Hindi audiences. He says Barfi! is his most personal film ever, and is confident that a movie with only a few dialogues could strike a chord with the viewers all across.
Barfi!, starring Ranbir Kapoor as a deaf and mute boy, Priyanka Chopra as an autistic girl, and Ileana D’Cruz in the role of a Bengali girl, has tugged at the heartstrings of the audiences with its simplicity and heartwarming narrative. What’s next? “Ranbir and I are committed to make the Kishore Kumar biopic together. That will take some time. So in the meanwhile, I am making a small film,” Anurag said. Excerpts from the interview.
How do you plan to take Barfi! ahead of the non-Hindi audience?
Well, I’ve to confess we’re toying with the idea of putting out an English version of the film. I can’t say much about that right now. Let’s see. The film has been to the Pusan and Marrakesh film festivals. The only reason it wasn’t at the Toronto International Film Festival is because we were too busy releasing the film worldwide to take it to Toronto. But those sections of non-Indian viewers who have seen Barfi! say it has the potential to break through the language barrier.
You had a frightening brush with mortality when you fell ill with cancer. Is that what gave you the strength to celebrate life so vigorously in Barfi!?
Yes, I think so. After my illness, I wrote other darker films namely Gangster and Life…In a Metro. But I think Barfi! is my coming-of-age film. It’s not a perfect film. But this is my most personal film.
Did you ever fear Ranbir’s deaf-and-mute act would fall flat?
I think we give too much importance to words in our cinema. Surely there has to be a difference between radio plays and cinema! I’d have had even less dialogues. But since there was a complicated crime involved in the storytelling, I had to offer explanations through voiceovers by Ileana D’Cruz and Saurabh Shukla. But not for a minute did I feel handicapped because Ranbir had no dialogues. In my earlier films too, I’ve experimented with a lot of silences.
Priyanka Chopra as the autistic girl is flawless. Did you have to work hard on stripping her glamour?
It’s so ironical that we Indian filmmakers get complimented when our actors give credible performances. Isn’t that a given for any film? I think my actors trusted me with what I had in mind. Priyanka shed her vanity completely.
You earlier made some unoriginal films like Saaya, Kucch To Hai and Tumsa Nahin Dekha?
I don’t know why Kuchh To Hai and Tumsa Nahin Dekha are credited to me. The former I gave up, and the latter I fell ill and left.
Today, are you the most original voice in Hindi cinema?
I am not going to change my priorities after Barfi!. And to say I am the most original is not correct. The credit for doing an original get-happy film goes to Rajkumar Hirani long before I made Barfi!.
We saw a lot of Kamal Haasan and Sridevi from Sadma in Ranbir and Priyanka.
Sadma was never a reference point. But I love that film. It’s one of my favourites. So maybe subconsciously I was influenced. In Sadma, Sridevi was like a 10-year old child. Priyanka is not a child in my film.
But you can’t deny the influence of Charlie Chaplin on Ranbir’s performance, can you?
I won’t even try to deny it. Even before Ranbir started, I told him to watch Chaplin’s silent films. There’s a definite influence of Chaplin in Ranbir’s character.
Ranbir and I are committed to make the Kishore Kumar biopic together. That will take some time. So in the meanwhile, I am making a small film.
No film of yours can be small after Barfi!, can it be?
Not in idea and thought. But in budget. It would be a positive, happy film. But you can’t slot me as a happy filmmaker. I consciously try to make different films each time.
One critic asks, if Barfi! is Anurag Basu’s then who directed Kites?
Ha ha. I am proud of Kites too. And I am not being diplomatic. It wasn’t so bad. It’s my film. I don’t disown it. True, it was made in the democratic spirit and the producer Rakesh Roshan was also present during the shooting. But I called the shots. ‘Kites’ is as much my film as Barfi!.
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