A few years ago, my teenage daughter commented that one of the problems with life was that it came without a soundtrack. Unlike the movies, our narratives play out without situation-appropriate, accompanying music. Ranveer Singh has solved that problem. Like other A-list stars, he travels with an entourage but what differentiates him is that one of his crew carries a boom box playing music to suit his current mood. Last week, he walked into Yash Raj Studio for a series of interviews, with Khalibali from Padmaavat blaring behind him.
The music makes for a dramatic entry, one that announces in no uncertain terms, that a force of nature has arrived. Mira Nair, also a film artist, with an outsized charismatic presence and singular drive, prefers quieter arrivals. She is a director and therefore instinctively, less flashy. But when you sit down with her and she speaks with the accumulated wisdom of 39 years of making movies, her large eyes express her formidable spirit. Her Twitter handle is Mira Pagli Nair, madness here being used I think, to denote masti and joy. Mira is pagli in the best sense of the word.
I interviewed Ranveer and Mira on two consecutive days – one in Mumbai and the other at the Jaipur Literature Festival. He spoke about the arduous process of becoming Alauddin Khilji in Padmaavat, how the role required him to eat red meat for a year and a half and forced him to confront his own capacity for darkness. She spoke about what an artist seeks the most – inspiration. Mira said that a director must be able to create an environment in which everyone blooms – even the executives.
It struck me that the two are worlds apart – she has long maintained that she can’t make a Bollywood film because the sensibility is too different while he has only ever dreamed of being a Hindi film hero. And yet, both have a similar vitality and passion for cinema. It is the oxygen that keeps them alive. I came away hoping that someday they work together. He wants to do an English film. She has said that she wants to take our stories to the world. As a greedy movie lover, I can only hope that someday, their paths cross.
Weekends like these are what keep me in love with my job. I’ve interviewed film artists for more than twenty years now and I suspect I’ll be here when Taimur Ali Khan arrives.