From Indo-Chinese to Lebanese, there are many scrumptious dishes to try
When a young, hotshot director like Ayan Mukerji, compares his long-standing relationship with his favourite lead star, the sublimely talented Ranbir Kapoor, to marriage, you are initially nonplussed.
Ayan is self-confessedly high on caffeine and low on sleep but extremely focused and excited about his upcoming magnum opus Brahmastra: Part One – Shiva. A long-drawn labour of love and utmost dedication, the part fantasy-part modern film follows the story of Shiva (Ranbir Kapoor) and Isha (Alia Bhatt) as they journey into a new universe to discover the former’s divine destiny.
In the making for the past 10 years, Brahmastra, the first of an ambitious multi-lingual trilogy, reportedly made on a budget of over Rs400 crore, boasts an ensemble cast including Amitabh Bachchan, Nagarjuna and Mouni Roy, as well as a cameo from Shah Rukh Khan, besides the A-list lead pair.
A lot of the conversation around Brahmastra, however, has been focused on Ranbir and Alia’s romance that is said to have ignited on the sets of the movie. Ayan is candid enough to confess he was initially worried that the attention on the lead pair will overshadow the movie. “Well, I’ll be honest,” he says, “in the beginning it used to bother me. Sometimes people would say, if you see too much of them off screen, then what will their appeal be onscreen? And you are making a big film, so you want your film to be more exciting than anything else…”
But the duo’s complete ownership of the film and their positive attitude won him over.
All praise for Ranbir and Alia
Ranbir and Ayan, of course, share a special camaraderie, having worked together on two seminal coming-of-age movies Wake Up Sid (2009) and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013). Ayan is very matter-of-fact when he refers to the incredible working relationship he shares with his muse. “Ranbir is very talented as an artist. He’s the kind of artist that once he puts his heart into it, he can do anything. He can play all kinds of roles. He has a lot of understanding of cinema,” he says.
“In a way I got lucky that my life took me into Ranbir’s life and we formed this kind of working relationship and friendship because I am writing about characters that are close in age to me and Ranbir. So he is a very good fit to play these parts. He understands me now that we’ve worked together in a very subtle and deep way. You know how like when marriages get really old… we understand each other without even having to say very much to the other person.”
“That’s how I like to think of my relationship with Ranbir, that it is getting more mature, more deeper. Sometimes I don’t even give him enough credit for what he has contributed to the Brahmastra journey, because more than being this actor and this star, he has been this front line solider in helping us get this film done,” gushes the filmmaker.
Ayan is equally complimentary about Alia. “Though I have done three films with Ranbir, Alia came in on this first journey and matched my relationship with Ranbir by creating this vivid relationship with me. She’s a dynamite talent; she is a very passionate girl. These guys were so invested in the film’s journey and they cared so much for Brahmastra that after a point the film belongs to them as it does to me.
AN INTENSE JOURNEY
The story of Brahmastra reportedly came into Ayan’s mind while he was working on Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. Since then there have been intense years of writing, setbacks as well the discovery of a whole new cinematic universe that is novel to the Indian film industry.
“The journey to making Brahmastra has taken hard work, dedication and sacrifice,” Ayan admits.
“It’s taken 10 years of my life to get this one film made,” says the ace director who credits passion and belief with seeing him through the long period of hardwork and setbacks.
“So it’s been a huge journey, a journey worthy of this word 'Brahmastra'.”
But beyond the sheer creativity, ambition and grandiose scale of the project, Ayan is very clear about his agenda for making Brahmastra. “It has to blow people’s minds - it has to be that one film that brings everything to a stop, and you go in and watch it and say, ok, now that was something.”
Not a tall order for an industry, which has thrived on formulaic stereotypical fare for long. Baahubali (2015) may have broken the mould and given rise to a brave new cinematic world, but Bollywood hasn’t dipped its creative fingers into this genre too often.
Ayan compares his Brahmastra journey to that of K Asif who took years to make a masterpiece like Mughla-E-Azam or James Cameron who took 12 years after Titanic to make Avatar.
He admits movies like Brahmastra have never been attempted in Bollywood before - “the scale, the VFX, story telling, creating a trilogy, creating a universe of cinema, we’ve not done this in India yet” - as if to justify the time it has taken to bring it to the audience.
The journey has been a learning experience in more ways than one which the filmmaker is confident will make the sequels that much easier.
ALL EYES ON THE FILM
Ayan is certainly no stranger to hit movies. Remind him about Wake Up Sid, that became a cult movie for an entire generation which he made when he was a mere 26, and he quickly interrupts us. “Maybe it is something about the way I look,” he smiles, “but let me tell you, Karan Johar was that age when he made Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998). Aditya Chopra was that age when he made Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995). This is the norm in our industry that filmmakers have broken out in their mid-20s. I was not the first to do that.”
Unlike many filmmakers, Ayan is also keen to have the spotlight on the movie and not so much on himself or his craft.
“I always want to keep the focus on the film because I feel the film is bigger than how I get perceived or what I look like as a director. The film has to succeed with what it is promising its audience, and everybody who is associated with it will get credit.”
‘Technology is the future'
While admitting that Indian filmmakers don’t usually experiment or try in the blockbuster genre things beyond what’s worked, Ayan is hopeful that people will feel the power of imagination when they see Brahmastra.
The film boasts extensive special effects and visual wizardry and post its release Ayan hopes “they will start a lot more filmmaking using technology and bigger budget because technology is the future for big scale filmmaking.”
Entertainment is a big aspect of a movie like Brahmastra he avers, adding, “we want excellence in filmmaking and we want to give people a great ride.”
“But in the end entertainment is emotion, it is about putting you through an experience that makes you feel something and I hope the experience Brahmastra gives you is unlike anything you have had before." Admitting that at times viewers just want to experience familiar things, he is hopeful that “people will embrace the new with this film and enjoy this new rollercoaster of emotions Brahmastra is going to put them through.”
From Indo-Chinese to Lebanese, there are many scrumptious dishes to try
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