Rajkumar Hirani : Ace Filmmaker on Technology Trends in Cinema
Rajkumar Hirani was born in Nagpur. His parents wanted him to be a chartered accountant, but he was more keen on theatre and films.
In his college days he was involved with Hindi theatre and later did an editing course from Film & Television Institute of India, Pune. Hirani worked in advertising for many years before shifting to films as an editor and gradually established himself as a director and producer of films.
After doing fairly well in the advertisement industry he took a break from advertisement and started working with Vidhu Vinod Chopra. He worked on promos and trailers for 1942: A Love Story and later edited promotions for Kareeb in 1998. He also edited the film Mission Kashmir in 2000.
In 2003, Hirani made his directorial debut with the comedy film Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. starring Sanjay Dutt, Arshad Warsi, Boman Irani, Gracy Singh, Jimmy Sheirgill, and Sunil Dutt. In 2006, Hirani directed the second installment of the Munna Bhai franchise, titled Lage Raho Munna Bhai, which retained some of the original cast, including Sanjay Dutt, Warsi, and Boman Irani, and added Vidya Balan as the female lead in place of Gracy Singh. The feature received critical acclaim and proved to be Hirani's highest-grossing release to that point, thus attaining a blockbuster status and becoming the third highest-grossing film of that year.
Hirani's next directorial venture was the coming-of-age comedy-drama 3 Idiots (2009), which starred Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor Khan, R. Madhavan, Sharman Joshi, and Boman Irani. 3 Idiots received positive reviews from critics, and proved to be the highest-grossing Bollywood film up until then, earnings in global ticket sales.
Hirani won his third National Film Award for Best Popular Film Award for Wholesome Entertainment, Filmfare Best Film and Best Director Award, and Filmfare Best Screenplay and Best Story Award, for his direction. The film established Hirani as one of Hindi cinema's most prominent filmmakers.
In 2014, Hirani directed PK. He also directed Sanju in 2018. Both movies turned out to be major box office hits. In his illustrious career Rajkumar Hirani has won innumerable awards. In an interview to Broadcast & Film, Rajkumar Hirani gives his take on the technology trends in cinema.
Q.You were one of the first editors to use Avid non-linear editing. Please tell us how was the experience of using non-linear based editing compared to the analogue editing
Nonlinear editing is actually bliss. When you compare the experience of editing on Steenbeck, it was so much of physical labour. If you wanted to add two frames to a shot you had to find the right can. Take out the roll and open the roll. And then add the two frames which you want to add. It could take minutes or hours sometimes to find the two frames if it was not catalogued properly. Non-linear editing made life so much easier. You could have so many versions of the edit. You could see the dissolves, wipes, optical effects in non-linear. In analogue it used to take days to see the optical effects. For editors non-linear editing is bliss. I remember when Avid was introduced there was so much resistance, that people used to say it did not have the feel of a film. I used to tell them to keep a strip of the film in your neck, feel the film there, but edit on Avid.
Q Tell us about the first major milestone in your remarkable career.
It’s always your first film which is very special to you. Anybody who wants to make a film and comes to this city with the dream of making a film and when that film is done, that is the happiest moment. At that moment you never worry about how the film is going to fare or how much of business it will do. You are happy that the film is completed and your family and friends have seen the film and loved the film. So Munnabhai MMBS which was my first film will always be my first milestone.
Q Film technology has undergone major changes, right from the Kodak & Fuji film to digital cameras now used for shooting. Your take on these changing trends?
Technology you cannot stop. You may like it or dislike it. Newer technologies will keep coming. It’s best to adapt to new technologies. We can always debate that film is better or digital is better. The reality is digital is here to stay. Digital has its advantages and disadvantages. With film you had a ten minute roll and you were doing a great take and at times film runs out. With digital you can take more shots and takes. Also in projection with digital there is no worry about whether the print will start having scratches. Digital projection stays the same even after many screenings. Digital has changed post-production in editing and sound recording. It has made things easier. Quality has improved. On the shooting front there could be differences. Some people feel 35mm looks better. Even I sometimes feel that 35 mm is better. I guess digital is here to stay and we have to accept it.
Q VFX is a major highlight in films nowadays. How do you look at VFX in Indian films? Would you look at making a VFX film?
I don’t think one should make a film to say that I will make a VFX film. Films are about storytelling. And whatever story you want to tell, you have tell it through your film. If that story needs VFX then you have to use it. The advantage today is you can think of anything and you can achieve it through VFX. With VFX nowadays one can dream of anything and achieve it. As far as doing some kind of a super hero film or a completely VFX driven film, I have not thought of it. My mind doesn’t function like that. I think of a story. Unless I think of a story which comes to me and if there are characters which require VFX and if it’s engaging and if it’s got drama then I would love to do it. VFX has improved our lives and there is so much we can do. But somewhere down the line we have lost the discipline in the film shoot. Lot of things that have been left in the frame, we have a tendency to say that we will correct it in the VFX. Earlier that discipline of taking a perfect shot during the shoot is somewhere lost now.
Q.You have a very successful track record as a filmmaker. What is the major highlight that we can expect from you in the future?
I am working on a couple of scripts. Scripts are the most important part of any film making; they are the foundation of film making. So once the script is ready, I will then see how it shapes out.