Debarati Sen (BOMBAY TIMES; June 16, 2017)

Rahul Bose is multi-faceted --an actor since the age of six, an advertising professional, a national-level rugby player, a marathoner, motivational speaker, a social activist and the founder of an NGO, who also writes, produces and directs movies. After two years, Rahul was recently seen in the biopic, Poorna, which was also directed by him. In an exclusive interview to BT, the actor-filmmaker-social activist talks about making biopics, how women-centric films are inevitable today and why he has preferred to stay away from the camera. Excerpts...

After Dil Dhadakne Do in 2015, it took you two years to make an outing as an actor. Are you taking on less roles because of the paucity of good scripts, or have you become more choosy?
I haven't been offered good roles. As an actor, the 13 years post Everybody Says I'm Fine (2001) were great career-wise. I did a lot of good films, starting with Mr and Mrs Iyer, Chameli, Jhankaar Beats, Pyaar Ke Side Effects and Shaurya. After Dil Dhadakne Do (2015), the roles began to dry up.

At one point, you were known primarily for Hinglish films, do you think such groundbreaking genres in Bollywood couldn't sustain themselves?
It's true; I have witnessed a lot of trends come and go. The Hinglish film movement began with English August, Split Wide Open, Bombay Boys and died with Everybody Says I'm Fine. Then there was a phase where a lot of English films were getting made in Hindi. Then followed slick, urban, low-budget movies like Jhankaar Beats, Pyaar Ke Side Effects, Chameli and Mumbai Matinee. Those films were soon replaced by political films and then, stories from rural UP-Bihar became the flavour.

Currently, we are seeing a lot of women-centric films in Bollywood...
Yes, society is speaking up. Whatever happens in society, it happens in films, too. Jo bhi ek wave dikhta hai samaj mein, hum wohi banate hain parde par. While political unrest leads to political films, terrorism inspires stories on the global menace. We faithfully replicate society's trends. And right now, women-centric films are in. Actually, it is not a trend; it is a reflection of the fact that the issue of women's rights and gender justice has begun to affect everyone. We recognise that if we don't do something, our kids will be unsafe. This will continue to be a burning issue for the next 10 years. It will get much tougher before it gets easier.

Is that the reason you chose to make a film on a tribal girl's triumph? Poorna is a biopic on Poorna Malavath, the youngest girl ever to climb Mt Everest...
In Poorna, humne dikhaya hai ki ladkiyan kuch bhi kar sakti hai because Poorna ne aisa kaha tha, shikhar se utarne ke baad. But the truth is that bahut kam ladkiyan kuch kar sakti hain, given their circumstances and the restrictions imposed by society. For most girls, living life on their terms and proving themselves is a tough battle even today. So, jo ek ehsaaas hai ki ladkiyan kuch bhi kar sakti hain, aur yeh jo ek hakikat hai, in dono ko paas laane ke liye hum aise films baanate hain.

Talking about turning director, do you see it as a natural progression for an actor or was it a deliberate move to try something different?
Of course, it's a deliberate move. Kabiliyat ki baat hai, interest ki baat hai, bhookh ki baat hai and definitely mental growth ki baat hai. There are many actors who want to remain actors all their lives. Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep are happy being just actors - fantastic actors at that. However, once you are done being an actor, you'd want to try something creatively different. If you are an original creator, you will automatically become a director.

As someone with a sports background, do you find it easier to make biopics on sportspersons? Also, can we expect more films in this genre from you, considering the fact that it is also an ongoing trend in Bollywood?
Biopics are easier, but they are also tougher. It works both ways. Since it is about somebody who is living, you have to make sure that you stay true to the story; yet, you have to dramatize it as a film. It is a very thin line, and it's not easy. With fiction, you can do and say whatever you want, but not in biopics. Every little detail has to be taken care of. But yes, the skeleton is ready and you just have to add flesh and blood to it.

Your career spans two decades. How would you describe Hindi film industry at the current stage?
Bollywood is like a 400-metre track. Jo hawa hai, aapke paas aata hai aur phir nikal jata hai. If it passes you and you start chasing it, you will never succeed. But if you stand firmly in your spot, it will return to you sooner or later.