Filmmaker Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, who turns 55 today, on birthdays, films and the future of Hindi cinema
Natasha Coutinho (MUMBAI MIRROR; July 7, 2018)

How will you be ringing in your birthday?
My daughter Bhairavi, who is studying in the US, is back home so we will all be going to our home in Pawna, along with the dogs. We will spend the day there before returning to the city on Sunday. I try to steal as much time away from Mumbai as I can. I love animals and nature and I like being in their midst.

Any reflections on the year?
It’s been exciting so far. For the last couple of years, I’ve been developing scripts and working towards what doors they will open for us. For the longest time, I was the only director in my production house. Now, we’ve grown into a boutique studio.

And how are the 50s treating you?
The 50s is the new 18 and this is the most exciting time of my life. In the ‘kal aaj aur kal’ I’m only concerned with the ‘aaj’.

Your musical drama, Fanney Khan, is up for release with co-producers Bhushan Kumar and Anil Kapoor...
Fanney Khan is a film we have been savouring for eight years. I was looking for the right director and found him in Atul Manjrekar who started his internship with us. I’m excited and how!

Whose idea was it to fly down international choreographer, Frank Gatson Jr, for a song featuring Aishwarya?
It was the brainchild of Bharathi, my creative producer. Since she was returning to the screen after a couple of years, we wanted the audience to see a new Aishwarya. We have world class choreographers in our country too whom I love but with Frank you get a different body language. It just worked out.

What’s the status of Mere Pyare Prime Minister?
It’s ready but will open on October 2 because it’s an ode to Mahatma Gandhi. We’ll bring in his 150th birth anniversary with the film.

What changes have you noted in cinema and the industry in general during your 17–year stint?
Change is always for the better and right now, I believe we are on the brink of an absolutely glorious time. I use the phrase ‘on the brink’ because I’m not euphoric. But this is an opportunity we need to grab with both hands and break out of our existing mindset. The more Indian we get, the more global we will become. It’s all about taking desi ideas and showcasing them to the world. When I look back, I feel blessed. My first film, Aks, was with my mentor Amitabh Bachchan. It also featured amazing talents like Manoj Bajpayee, Nandita Das and Raveena Tandon. Then came Rang De Basanti, a collaboration with Aamir Khan, AR Rahman and Waheeda Rahman. And the list continues.

Any plans of a Rang De Basanti sequel?
There have been so many films inspired by Rang De Basanti. But it is not a Superman or Batman film that can be spun into a franchise. Back then, it was just my own angst that manifested on the screen with this film.