A Minute With: Rajkumar Hirani

(Reuters) Karan Johar calls him a legend and a genius, the only filmmaker in the country who is capable of achieving the perfect blend of commercial and meaningful cinema. But a laughing Rajkumar Hirani shrugs it all off. The 52-year-old, who is as big a brand as some of Bollywood’s A-list actors, is also one of the highest paid in the industry.

From dealing with the relevance of Gandhism to the state of India’s education system, Hirani has managed to turn social themes into blockbuster movies. His upcoming film “PK” is probably the most anticipated movie release this year, and features Aamir Khan in outlandish costumes, wiggling ears and a robotic walk.

In an interview to India Insight, Hirani spoke about making films based on social issues, why he says his writers are paid well, and the Sanjay Dutt biopic he is working on – almost everything but “PK”.

Q: You are on a promotional tour for “PK”. Isn’t this the first time you are travelling for this purpose?

A: For “3 Idiots”, we didn’t travel, but Aamir did a whole trip around India. This is the first time we are travelling. We haven’t done much in terms of publicity, if you notice. We have not really gone all-out to promote the film. I feel sometimes you do excess. Sometimes you don’t really need to push. Going to television shows etc doesn’t really increase the desire to watch the film. What prompts people to watch the film is content.

Q: Aamir Khan said earlier this year that “PK” wouldn’t need much publicity because the visual element in the film would be so strong that it would lead to a lot of curiosity about the film.

A: When you make a film you make a film. You don’t think about how it will be marketed. But the visual element of “PK” was completely determined by the script. What happened was that, as we kept shooting we realized that there were various looks of Aamir that were emerging, and we thought this could be the campaign. We played with the poster campaign. Eventually you are striving to grab attention in this whole clutter of madness. You are also striving to be true to the film. People should not say that we have done one thing in the film and depicted something else in the poster.

Q: So what is “PK” about?

A: We haven’t really been talking about the film. I don’t know how to describe it well, but Aamir describes it as a high-concept film. “Lage Raho Munna Bhai” for example, was a high-concept film. I haven’t seen a film like this which has a fictional character interacting with a historical figure. Then you are talking about concepts like non-violence etc. in an entertaining way.

As for “3 Idiots”, which people liked much more than my earlier films, to me it wasn’t a new concept. It was a student film, which has been done 10,000 times. It was the same thing, packaged in a different way, maybe. “PK”, again, is a different story. We are trying to shake some pre-conceived notions, trying to look at things differently.

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