The Strokes Behind Rangeela by RGV
In my college I used to hang out with a guy called Ramesh who was a kind of a street goonda. Those days there used to be a lot of hobnobbing between students and goonda elements. Ramesh was a very feared guy in the locality and me and my friends used to be in awe of him. We used to spend endless hours with him in an Irani hotel.
He developed a huge crush on one of the college girls which slowly turned into intense love. But he always used to look at her from far and never used to go near to her or talk to her in spite of our encouragement. I used to think it pretty ironical that such a tough guy becomes so tender when it comes to her.
He always used to wear some dirty chappals and one day he came wearing a brand new pair of Nike shoes. They looked so funny on him and everyone laughed. He was hurt and I could see that it was his attempt to smarten himself to impress the girl.
The girl started seeing this very good looking guy who was also rich and one of the very few guys who had his own car. All of us chamchas of Ramesh sat in Irani café and started goading him to go and beat up that guy and get him out of the way. Ramesh turned around and with a choked voice said that she deserved the best and the other guy was better suited for her than him in every which way. Rangeela took birth at that moment in that Irani café. The Nike shoes incident of Ramesh would appear as Munna wearing the yellow dress later in the film.
I used to hear stories of a how Sridevi’s mother used to be a junior artiste and how she used to to go from studio to studio to make her daughter a star. I kind of combined bother her and her daughter into one and created the character of Mili.
Jackie Shroff’s character I took from the Countess character in “The Sound of Music”. I was amazed at the dignity with which her character was treated resisting from the temptation of depicting her as a vamp. Once I finished the story I wanted to make it in Telugu with Sridevi and Nagarjuna and was planning to ask Rajnikant to do guest appearance. Both Sridevi and Nagarjuna did not like the story and they preferred another story I had which was made into a film called “Govinda Govinda”. Primarily I think they were not hot on the subject, not so much because of the subject itself but it was more because they thought I will be better in action films because of my Shiva background. So I kind of forgot about the subject for a few years.
Meanwhile at some point I came to Mumbai to sign Madhuri Dixit for a role opposite Nagarjuna for my film “Antham” (Drohi). Madhuri’s dates were not available and Boney Kapoor suggested to me that there is this new girl called Urmila in a film called “Narasimha”. I didn’t think much of her but because there was no time and no one else available I signed her. Neither the film nor she worked. A few months later Mani Ratnam and me wanted to work together and we wrote a script called “Gayam” in which Revathi was the main lead and for a supporting role Mani suggested Urmila not because he thought much about her but for that role he thought she would be fine.
I was planning to shoot a song with Urmila for Gaayam in Vizag when a choreographer called Suchitra missed her train from Vizag. So instead of canceling the shoot I asked Urmila if she could dance on the music by herself to which she did. Seeing her dance to that song completely by herself I was mesmerized and I decided to make Rangeela with her that moment.
I loved Aamir in Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak and also Raakh. I off and on used to meet him in Mumbai. He loved my first film Shiva and we were planning to work together and I went to meet him with the Rangeela script which he immediately liked.
I happened to see Mani ratnam’s Roja songs which really blew me away and for the first time in my career I wanted to shoot songs as beautiful as possible. So I went about seeing all the great Hollywood musicals in the course of which I made an observation that my mother was not flinching in the song sequences of “Singing in the rain” where there was so much exposure of the girls bodies. She was otherwise conservative and used to look down upon the Sarkaylo Khatiya David Dhawan-Karishma kind of songs. Then I realized that the way the heroines used to expose at that time was in an atmosphere where they were made to feel dirty and crass with the use of lyrics and movements and that hardness use to come on their faces whereas girls from “Singing in the rain” were exposing with a sense of pride and with a feeling of joy. In both cases my mother was connecting to the feeling and not to the bodies. This is what I told Urmila and I said ‘if you feel beautiful you will come across beautiful and if you feel that you doing something vulgar you will come across like that’.
I wanted to shoot the songs very glamourosly and “Hai Rama” extremely erotic with lust inJackie’s and Urmila’s eyes rather than romance. I thought animals don’t hide behind closed walls or look for a dark place to make love. When they are in the mood for that they do it in broad daylight anywhere, any place and except their feelings for each other everything else around them vanishes. You see that aspect in the sequence in “Hai Rama’ when Urmila and Jackie are circling each other in the Kuldhara ruins with intense lust in their eyes.
Somewhere half way through the film Aamir started having doubts on the script and definitely with a lot of valid reasons. He said if Munna is an extrovert, sells tickets in black and has such a flamboyant personality why would he delay telling Mili that he loves her. He felt that just for the convenience of the screenplay I was delaying that aspect. Put that way he was absolutely right, but I thought nobody felt it when I was narrating the story including aamir which means the emotional dram must be carrying it forward whereas now since Aamir had the time to think he sees it as a problem.
He also felt if Mili is a nice girl, Munna is a nice guy and Jackie is also a nice guy there was absolutely no drama anymore and the whole film is resting on just that one line of Munna not telling Mili till the end.
He told me that as no two people can have the same vision and since I am the Director he would go along with my vision inspite of his disagreement with me. Contraray to popular perception, Aamir is absolutely non-interfering compared to any actor I worked with or I have heard of. He is a very intelligent man with a tremendous sincerity and a superb reasoning power. But since most people don’t have his sincerity including myself the guilt in us would make us say that he interferes even though I never said that.
When the film released and was declared a big hit Aamir hugged me and said that he was glad I proved to be right. But that is not necessarily true. Maybe the film would have been a much bigger hit if I incorporated all his suggestions. Also in my heart I know that if the film didn’t work it would have been precisely for the same reasons Aamir feared.
Anyway the famous controversy between me and aamir happened 6 to 7 months after Rangeela released. Khalid Mohammed was doing an interview with me in which I was giving an explanation that the audience can rarely understand the difference between a character and an actor. I cited the scene in Rangeela when Aamir takes Urmila to restaurant. Now the waiter being a Five Star Hotel steward is more higher in social status than Munna but being a waiter he has no choice but to serve him. But on a human being level he can barely hide his disgust hearing Munna’s lines. So I told Khalid that the lines are being delivered by Aamir but the look on the waiter’s face is what is making the audience laugh. So it calls for more complex acting on the waiter’s part compared to Aamir in that particular scene. Khalid who apparently had a personal axe to grind with Aamir went ahead and printed this article which read like as if I said “The waiter was better than Aamir”. By the time the article came out I was off on a Telugu film shoot in interior Andhra Pradesh. Aamir tried to contact me and those days there were no cell phones. The fact that I was not getting in touch with him and him not knowing where I was, he thought I was avoiding him and as the media was hounding him to react he went ahead and reacted and the media blew up the thing into a full scale war. The moment I realized what happened I met Aamir and explained it to him. He wanted me to give a statement in print against Khalid that I was misquoted to which I said I can’t because all those things I did say, it’s just that it’s too technical for a layman at that time to understand and I should not have spoken to a man like Khalid about that and that was a mistake.
Some cold vibes still remained with good reason till years later we met at a party and had a long chat and since then we are cordial. So whatever happened between me and Aamir was completely 100% my fault and I am saying this now here because I was not trusting any journalist to put it across in the correct perspective.
And before some minds out there jump to this conclusion that this is an effort on my part to patch up with him in order to do a film with him I want to categorically state here that I will never ever do a film with him and the reasons for that are:
(a). I am not as sincere or as committed as him.
(b). I don’t have his patience.
(c). Above all I truly think he is a far better filmmaker than me.