Asked by Aamir about this, Dutt replied that it was the challenge of doing something no else would want to attempt. This incident, according to Aamir, remains the inspiration for his daring ventures as an actor, (he was the first to take on only one film at a time over 13 years ago and be a part of what he calls “tedha” subjects) producer, in which capacity he has given off-beat, critically acclaimed but hit films like Lagaan and Taare Zameen Par. Now, he is ready with Peepli (Live), besides the under-production Dhobi Ghaat and Delhi Belly.
Peepli (Live), as the title indicates, is about a fictitious village called Peepli located in an imaginary province called Mukhya Pradesh, which is swamped by the electronic and other media, adding to that, publicity-hungry politicians, when some farmers vie with each other to commit suicide to pay off their debts only because the government offers compensation to the families of such farmers.
Realistic in nature
It’s a light take on social issues, politicians, media and civilised society at large, says Aamir. “The central premise may be farmer suicides, but my film is more about the urban-rural divide. Peepli (Live) is not a negative or dark film at all.”
Aamir also stresses that the film, like his earlier hits Sarfarosh, Dil Chahta Hai, Rang De Basanti, Fanaa and 3 Idiots besides Lagaan and Taare… is not targeted at niche audiences. “I have always made movies that appealed to me personally. I don’t think you can call my film ‘different’ cinema. 20 years into films, I still don’t know what that is! Peepli (Live) is a film for all movie buffs, and thus the marketing is also aimed towards everyone.”
He adds, “I am also happy that the film has been given an ‘adults only’ tag. Although there is no scene in my movie that can be labeled as the ‘adult’ type, the language, following the natural flavour has several expletives and abuses that are not suitable for children.” Clearly, Aamir is also a refreshing change from the pseudo-intellectual brigade that expects such stuff to be cleared for universal viewing in the name of ‘realism’.
The film has already made a splash at major international film festivals like Berlin and Sundance. “We have shot 10 to 12 promos, and they all focus more on the characters than on the actors,” says Aamir.
As for the casting, the only known actor is Raghubir Yadav, although Naseeruddin Shah is doing a cameo. “My actors are new for the big screen, but most of them are from Habib Tanvir’s Naya Theatre group and are seasoned names on stage,” says Aamir. Onkar Das plays Natha, Shalini Vatsa plays Dhaniya and Yadav is Budhia. Quips Aamir, “The casting has to be perfect for any film. Like me being the obvious choice to play a 22-year-old college student in 3 Idiots!”
The talented actor is confident that the media will not be upset with him for his digs at them in the movie. Says Aamir, “My film is not judgmental. It just presents issues in a satirical way. Anusha Rizvi, my writer-director, herself began as a journalist.”
He reveals that Anusha brought the script to him almost four years ago. “The script was so layered. When she was shooting the film, I was not around as I was busy doing 3 Idiots. I was apprehensive as Anusha is a first-time director, but I also was confident about her talent as she had shown me some of her earlier work. Hats off to her for doing such a wonderful job as Peepli (Live) wasn’t an easy film to make. I am sure she will now give a complex to a lot of existing directors!”
Aamir says that he never interferes with directors while producing films as they “need to have their perspective and freedom. I am only involved in the pre-production, a bit in the post-production and a lot in the marketing!”
He admits that his films do go a bit over-budget because creativity cannot brook compromise. “The film has cost me about 10 crores after planning for seven. As a rule, I always feel that economics must be right for the kind of film you are making and its expected audience. Most of the economics are to do with stars’ fees, and it is they who should moderate prices. We cannot expect the workers and technicians to take a cut in their pay packets.”
The actor has finally, on Amitabh Bachchan’s persuasion, joined Twitter, getting a record 49,000 followers in a mere 24 hours. Will he promote the film on it? “No, I don’t think so. I will use it for personal reasons. I prefer traditional means of promoting movies.”