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I cast my film's director and then let him do his work: Aanand L Rai on Mukkabaaz

The filmmaker said that even as a producer he is driven by passion rather than greed and thinks like a storyteller.

Vineet Kumar Singh and Zoya Hussain in a scene from Mukkabaaz


Filmmaker Aanand L Rai, who is co-producing Anurag Kashyap's directorial venture Mukkabaaz, says he does not interfere with the casting in a film as he feels he would rather cast the right director to do justice to a good story.

Mukkabaaz revolves around an aspiring boxer from a lower caste in Haryana who faces a series of obstacles in his way to succeed in a socio-political culture of casteism and cow vigilantism.

Aanand L Rai

The film holds special relevance in present times. Instead of casting an A-list star which might have made a huge difference at the box office, why did he let Kashyap cast the less known Vineet Kumar Singh?

Rai said, "Anurag is the director of the film and he wanted to project reality in a certain manner by casting his choice of actors. As a producer, I never interfere in that process because I cast the director of the film.

"I can question a director about something, but I cannot question someone's passion. The core element between Anurag and his film is the passion. Therefore, I do not like to interfere."

But as a producer, isn't he worried about the box-office prospects of his projects? "I am driven by passion, but that does not mean I am a bad businessman," Rai said. "It's just that I am not a greedy one. Even as a producer, I think like a storyteller, and box-office number comes as the fourth element in my thought process.

"Perhaps that is why the last two years worked well for me as a producer with Happy Bhag Jayegi (2016), Newton (2017) and Shubh Mangal Saavdhan (2017). The audience's reaction to a story and the impact matters to me the most."

The filmmaker also credited new-age business patterns for encouraging people to take risks as producers. "The business of cinema is changing," he said. "When we talk about making a profit from our investment as a filmmaker, it is not only coming from its theatrical release, but also from digital avenues.

"So, we better take the risk to support better stories as producers."

Asked if balancing creativity and commerce is possible in a film, Rai cited the examples of filmmakers he considers his idols: "We are a movie-making nation where the work of Bimal Roy, Basu Chatterjee and Hrishikesh Mukherjee have been celebrated. As an audience, you know the value of those films... all their films are a reflection of the society of their era.

"Their films subconsciously influenced me in my growing days and I believe that we as filmmakers should capture the time and era that we are living in.

"They started the journey and we should carry forward the legacy," said Rai, who has himself directed movies like Tanu Weds Manu (2011) and Raanjhanaa (2013).