We catch up with Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra at his office while his latest film – ‘Mere Pyare Prime Minister’ releases. He’s taken a drastically different route in terms of the subject or the treatment of the film. Here, he speaks about going indie this time, the philosophy in his films amidst more…

What was the ideation point for ‘Mere Pyaare Prime Minister’?
So, I was shooting for ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ in ‘Filmcity. Even in that, there was a part on marital rape with Divya’s character. I was coming from Aarey milk colony in the morning and there were some 12-13 women with dabbas in their hand, with their sarees up. That image stayed with me for the longest time. It was embarrassing and shocking for me. Some time back, I read a research by Unicef that 50 percent of rapes happen in India when women go out to defecate. So, these were a few dots which I joined, and the story evolved like that. The storyline basically became about this kid who writes a letter to the prime minister to make a toilet. So, I took that line, but I knew I had to take a larger story. Rapes were always disturbing as a news to me. I always felt that as a society we are doing nothing. We have no clue about how to deal with a rape victim, even within the family. A brother cannot deal with a sister who has been raped. It’s a psychological trauma – a lifelong kind of a scar, because the society has made it up that way with no fault of hers. It’s just like a physical assault – if you get into a fight, you are not looked down by the society for being beaten up by someone who is more powerful. But with the rape, just because she is physically not strong, the society look down upon her.

The fact that you’re saying things from a child’s perspective – you think that’s what makes this film different and heart-wrenching?
I couldn’t have said things otherwise. It would have lost its purity if I said it any other way. The first process I went through was – what if it happened to my mother? I imagined her getting raped, only then one could feel the story. So she has been raped and she is also sort of in love with this other guy. There’s this other character, who waited for her and didn’t chase anyone else. If you are in love with someone who gets raped, then your love for her should only increase. It should not be condescending, it shouldn’t be pitiful. It should go to another level naturally without you trying hard. So, this child writes a letter to the prime minister and that’s why this title to the film.

How has this been a turn-around for you as a film-maker in every way – be it the subject, treatment and everything? Because this is such a difference from a usual Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra film!
Re-birth! It feels like a circle is over and I’m starting a new circle. It’s like starting afresh post interval. This is like re-inventing myself, see if there’s more inside me and whether I can tap into some other potential to tell stories. I’ve hated the idea of repeating myself, consciously or sub-consciously. So, no two subjects are the same in my films, though, I may take the philosophy of the subject into three films. So, what I didn’t achieve in ‘Aks’, I tried to achieve in ‘Delhi 6’ – dealing with the demon within. So finally I found the demon in ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’. Milkha had the demon within, he hated the Pakistanis and the muslims who massacred his family and how he forgets it. That’s what Milkha told me after watching the film that, ‘mere dil mein jitni nafrat thi, Pakistaniyon ke liye, yeh dekhke who pighal gayi,’ which I thought was a good thing. With ‘Mere Pyaare Prime Minister’, I wanted to push myself to see if I can do something in the indie style. There are a lot of stories to tell. Some stories require a certain mounting, so you have to go to a studio, get a required cast, resources for it. So, you wait for the universe to conspire and make it happen. But I can’t tell stories any other way than I know. I can’t just do the song-dance formula. Though things have changed dramatically. I’ve been doing that from ‘Aks’ to ‘Delhi 6’ and even ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’. But this film required a different treatment.

Even ‘Mirziya’ for that matter was stunning visually…
‘Mirziya’ was a great attempt in terms of music and all that. I wanted to make a musical with it; I couldn’t, but I will keep trying. There’s a huge learning from there. I know where I connected with the audience and where I lost connection.

So do you usually gauge flaws in your films?
Oh yes. I give myself permission to fail all the time. When I start a film, I’m like, ‘you can fail’. I try and be careful but you have to be true to yourself. It’s not necessary to make movies, so if I fail the worst case will be that I won’t be allowed to make films, which is okay. There are other things to do in life, this is not the end of it. But if I have to tell a story, I have to make a story my way. Here there was also a conscious attempt to make a film outside the studio system. I did discuss the film with a studio or two and got their reactions. But they had their own variations and actors to be brought on board. For me it was very important to go indie with ‘Mere Pyare Prime Minister’ and understand whether I can deliver. We didn’t compromise on the making – there’s Gulzar, Shankar Ehsaan Loy, a whole Polish crew shooting it. We were doing it world standard, the crew was so professional. It’s just that in front of the camera, I didn’t want to put characters whom you’ll stop believing, because the subject matter is very delicate. I didn’t want to fail there and hopefully I’ve done justice. Trade Magazine