By Subhash K Jha
MUMBAI: Ravi Rai, elder brother of Raanjhanaa director Aanand Rai, changed the way we look at the home-viewing medium.
His serials, notably Sailaab, Thoda Hai Thode Ki Zaroorat Hai and Sparsh, were path-breakers in Indian television.
For the past ten years, Ravi has been a recluse, trying to rediscover his bearings on the large screen,
Ravi is finally ready with his feature film, an autobiographical film on male-bonding oddly entitled Maya Vanilla and Strawberries.
When I catch up with him on Sunday morning, Ravi is calm and contained.
“Where have I been? I’ve been trying to find a centre to my life. When I was doing television there was scope for much innovation. That is why we could do something as path-breaking as Sailaab. But now I feel Indian television has reached point of stagnancy. Everyone is doing the same thing. Big revenue is involved and no one is willing to risks. If I ever do television again, it would have to be something that would make my audience think about the quality of our life.”
Cinema, feels Ravi, is going through a ferociously fertile phase. “Movies are talking about sperms (Vicky Donor) and sex. In the recent release Sixteen the attitude of the youngsters is, ‘I want to f…k, so what?’ I think our cinema has discovered a new freedom. And it’s still trying to find out what to do with that freedom. Meanwhile, a director like my brother Aanand is able to express himself exactly the way he wants to in his cinema.”
Ravi is very proud and happy about his brother’s success.
The two brothers are very close to one another. “We live five minutes’ distance away from one another and we work out of the same office. I always knew he had it in him.When Aanand made Tanu Weds Manu, I was thrilled. His female protagonist Kangna Ranaut was unlike any heroine I had seen. She drank and she was frank. She was foul-mouthed and fearless. Ussko jo dil mein aata who bolti aur karti. This is the kind of freedom I wanted my female characters to have in my television serials. Now hopefully I’ll find a similar freedom in my movies.”
Ravi’s feature film, which is ready for release, is based on his own life. “Every student and youngster has his own Chashme Buddoor to recount. In my younger days I too had my bum chums in Delhi. They continue to be my friends to this day. They are Raju Kher (Anupam Kher’s brother) and Deepak Sinha.”
In Maaya Vanilla & Strawberries, Namit Das and Aman Uppal play Ravi’s pals while Ali Faizal (the young guitar-playing actor from Fukrey) plays Ravi Rai.
Says Ravi, “It’s an autobiographical film. Ali Fazal plays my character. I first wanted to make a vigilante film entitled Sorry Mr Gandhi, I Have To Kill Them. It’s about 50 youngsters getting together to kill 5 of the most corrupt politicians of the country. It’s a very controversial subject. I’ll come to that after Maaya Vanilla & Strawberries.”
After the success of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Ravi Rai too is ready with a script based on a sport. His script for Main Manjula Parmar is the story of a girl from the interiors of Rajasthan who becomes a basketball champion and represents India at the Asian Games .
Says Ravi, “With these films, I hope to break the mould in the same way that I did on television. The good thing is, my brother Aanand’s success gives me a certain freedom. He can ask distributors to see my films and they will. That’s it. After that I’m on my own.”