A discussion on the 90s era of Bollywood will be incomplete without the mention of Rajiv Rai. The expert filmmaker delivered two of the finest films of that decade, stamp (1994) and Gupt (1997), and both are remembered for their plot, performances and of course the soundtrack. Both films recently had their respective anniversaries. While stamp completed 28 years on July 1, Gupt celebrated 25 years on July 4.
28 Years of Mohra EXCLUSIVE: “It was a risky film with new faces; I thought Suniel Shetty and Akshay Kumar fit the part” – Rajiv Rai
Bollywood Hungama exclusively spoke to Rajiv Rai about these movies. The filmmaker poured his heart out as he spoke in-depth about these films and much more.
Before stampRajiv Rai had directed Yudh (1985), Tridev (1989) and Vishwatma (1992), all of which starred big stars of that time. In stamphe cast Akshay Kumar and Suniel Shetty, who were relatively new. When asked what made him do so, he replied, “There was no calculation. I just went with the flow.”
However, he admitted that “It was a risky film with new faces,” and added, “I thought Suniel and Akshay fit the part. We also had Divya Bharti who unfortunately passed away. We introduced her in Vishwatma. She was keen to do the film but things didn’t work. Then, Raveena Tandon was signed for the film.”
Rajiv Rai said that he is fortunate that he hasn’t faced challenges while getting the casting right. He said, “The only time I got stuck in casting was during Tridev for the role played by Naseeruddin Shah. I wanted three big, popular names for the male cast. I was looking for someone who would add a little bit of a surprise and make the film look different from the usual Bollywood films. I knew Naseer was an excellent actor. So, I took a chance to see whether or not he is interested in doing the role.” Naseeruddin Shah, however, agreed to come on board immediately. The veteran actor was then also seen in Rajiv’s Vishwatma, stamp and asambhav (2004).
Rajiv Rai elaborated on his style of working and why music is paramount in his films, “For me, the subject is important and so is the music as it’s a part of the subject and entertainment. Songs were an integral part in those days, which they are not in today’s times. You have to tell your story through the songs, and you have to make sure your song is a hit. Otherwise, everybody will go out for a break during songs!”
He added, “Honestly, it’s never been about the money. I believe the reason I was kind of successful is that I never put money before the film. I always put the film before anything. My father (prominent producer Gulshan Rai) taught me very well, ‘Don’t chase money, money will chase you. Make a good film. Don’t worry about how much you’re spending. Make sure that the film works. The rest will follow.’ So, I’ve always concentrated very hard on the screenplay, editing, action, music etc.”
Rajiv Rai spoke highly of Viju Shah, who has composed music in almost all his films, “Viju Shah was my backbone, my right-hand man! I could get my music out of him. He could give me the music that I wanted. He knows exactly what I want.”
Meanwhile, Rajiv Rai had a great time celebrating the 25th anniversary of Gupt with a special screening of the film, held by Radio Nasha, in Mumbai. The star cast – Bobby Deol and Kajol – along with Viju Shah and other actors and crew members attended this occasion, which was held on July 9.
Talking about this celebration and about him having to leave India immediately after Gupt’s release, he said, “I left the country in 1997. The whole universe knows about it. I don’t want to get into details. Since I was not here, I couldn’t enjoy the kind of success I could have. But I am enjoying it now. I didn’t enjoy it then. Maybe the light above saw that he didn’t enjoy it and thought that he deserved to enjoy it. So, if I can enjoy it after 25 years, I feel it’s never too late! I feel very happy that people have recognized 25 years of Gupt. I am very grateful to the cast and crew who worked with me, and my audiences who saw the film and loved it.”
The USP of Gupt was that no one was able to guess who the killer would be. The shocker worked to the advantage of the film. Rajiv exulted, “That is what I worked very hard on. I knew that the audience was guessing. I wanted to know if I could get them to guess wrong and win them over with my suspense. It’s a test I passed back then. Will I pass my next test? I don’t know (laughs)!”
Bollywood Hungama recently broke the news that he’s making his next film, 18 years after his last film asambhav was released in theatres. So, what’s his next film all about? Rajiv Rai replied, “It is a suspense film, a murder mystery. It has 0% similarities to Guptthough. You have to guess the murderer. I have been writing it for 4-5 years. In 2016, I decided to make this film as I was bored and was not doing the work I was supposed to do.”
He continued, “This film is giving me immense happiness because, for the first time, I am not stressed about the budget. The USP of my film is that it doesn’t have much of a budget. Every film of mine had a budget. I wondered what it is that I have not done? So, I have not made a film like a man next door who has no money in his pocket and yet makes a hit film. I asked myself, can I do that? And the answer is, why not? That’s the challenge for me in this film. I have not tried to cut corners on the budget. The subject I have written doesn’t require much (of a budget). I make films for the audiences, and I don’t want them to say that I have compromised.”
However, he clarified, “It’s an experimental film and it’s also going to be an artistic film. But it’s not going to be an art cinema. I am making it as commercial as it gets. It’s a film which will look and feel like a Rajiv Rai film!”
Also Read: 28 Years of Mohra EXCLUSIVE: “When Anand Bakshi told Rajiv Rai about ‘Tu Cheez Badi Hai Mast’, we thought it’ll look cheap. However, Anand ji explained, ‘Yeh toh daaru ki bottle ke upar gaana hai’” – Shabbir Boxwala
More Pages: Gupt Box Office Collection
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