Producer Aanand L Rai has a busy year ahead. Two of the films he’s backed will premiere at international festivals – Manmarziyaan at the Toronto Film Festival and Tumbbad at Venice. His most ambitious project, the Shahrukh Khan-starrer Zerowill release this December. He also has Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi coming out on August 24. He spoke about how he decides which films to back and why he never looks at his bank books.

Edited excerpts:

Anupama Chopra: You’re producing films, putting your might behind small films with big ideas and you’ve got Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi coming up, Manmarziyaan is going to release. You’ve got Tumbbad at the Venice film festival, Manmarziyaan is going to the Toronto film festival. As a producer, you’ve been so successful. How do you decide what to put your might behind?

Aanand L Rai: It’s been very simple for me. First of all, I feel that whatever has happened in the last five years, even I’m surprised (by it). But at the same time, falling in love with stories is getting stronger day by day. And falling in love with the makers also. When I’m working with Anurag (Kashyap) now, I always feel that it was necessary for us to come together. There was something I wanted to learn from him. There was something within me that I could give to him. So now I’ve started enjoying this. I don’t treat myself as a producer. I feel that if I have achieved this much with my films, this is my duty to get attached to a film.

AC: To enable others?

ALR: I’m in this position for this only. This is my purpose. And the best part is that I still don’t know those bank books that they have given me – what the returns are.

AC: You’re not checking?

ALR: No I’m not checking. The day I check, I won’t be able to do Newton. I won’t be able to do Nil Battey Sannata.  I don’t want to check, I’m happy. Trust me, I’m very happy. Again what is coming to the rescue is that middle-class boy who’s very happy with ek sabzi, ek dal, do roti. I’m comfortable. I don’t need much. I don’t understand expensive cars. What is very important for me is going home and getting a good sleep. I’m thankful to a film like Newton or Mukkabaaz, Manmarziyaan. I can’t make them. I’m part of them and I’m fortunate.

AC: So if you like the story, you’re on board? You don’t look at other things?

ALR: I don’t. I really don’t and I always feel that this is a director’s medium. Make stories, don’t make set-ups – that’s the crux of it. Enjoy the stories, don’t get into that race of getting a star. Get an actor.

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