Rakesh and Rajesh Roshan talk about Bollywood, family, and Kites

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The Roshans take both family and film making very seriously. Brothers Rakesh and Rajesh Roshan have worked together since the 1970s, Rajesh’s musical talents providing the soundtrack for hits from Inkaar (1977) to Krrish (2006). Rakesh’s son Hrithik joined the family business with Kaho Na Pyaar Hai (2000) and the rest is history. The brothers sat down at a roundtable discussion to talk about Kites and Bollyspice was there to capture it for you! Rakesh is still movie star handsome at 60 years old and his piercing hazel eyes reveal a mind constantly at work. You don’t get ahead in Bollywood by being unsure of yourself and Rakesh is supremely confident in his choices and is unafraid to share his opinions. Soft-spoken Rajesh, on the other hand, is the yin to Rakesh’s yang. The music director is mostly content to let his brother answer the questions, unless the topic ventures into the state of Bollywood music.

Rakesh began by speaking about how he ended up deciding on Anurag Basu as a director for Kites. “It so happened that I saw Anurag’s Gangster and I thought that he is one youngster who knows what film making is all about. So I called him to the office, praised his work, and told him that I would like Hrithik to work with him. He said, ‘I make only small films, so with Hrithik I have to have a big canvas film – a story where he has a very good character’.” It just so happened that Rakesh was working on just such a big canvas idea and offered it to Anurag, who was blown away by Rakesh’s generosity.

“‘I’ve made about 16 films and today we have to make a good film for Hrithik. Either I direct or you direct – same thing’.” Rakesh told Anurag. He continues, “See in India mostly we give breaks to new actors and actresses but we never think of giving a break to a new director or a camera man I always do that.” And it was a big gamble. “To get [Anurag] a big budget film is like uplifting somebody when otherwise they’ll be stuck in that [art house] circuit only. You need guts to suppress your ego and give the budget to somebody else. It’s not an easy thing.”

The novelty of having two different versions of the film was very much on everyone’s mind and Rakesh spoke to it. “International version is the same film, but some sequences are cut differently. We had about 4-5 songs in the Hindi version, but that has been removed and that’s all. Otherwise the film is the same – same cuts same everything.” Even brother Rajesh’s songs are sacrificed for the film’s success. Family ties may count for a lot but in the end, the filmmaker is in charge.

Rakesh continues, “We are the first persons to be doing this [the two versions] because I wanted to go global. I thought China has made it, Korea has made it, but India is still lagging behind. I thought that after making so many films, I wanted to move ahead. I thought, ‘Let me make a global film.’ Now, how do I make a global film because we have an Indian diaspora also here and then we have the global market, so I thought of making a film in two versions. We have to go step by step. I can’t lose the Indian audience. I have to keep them in mind also because they are a big chunk of the audience all over the world.”

He elaborates on the international version, “Maybe it has two-three more scenes that we don’t have in the Indian version and we have two-three more scenes than the English version. These are explanatory scenes – it’s a very modern film.”

But then what is it about Kites that Rakesh thought would reach a global audience? “I thought because once we are going global, the only story that will appeal to a global market is a love story. Everybody goes through that phase of love.” And he thinks it might shine a new light on Indian film for Western viewers. Rakesh explains, “They will not find the film to be Indian. Most of the people staying abroad feel that India is all snakes and we want to show the people that no, India is not that. Even after seeing Slumdog [Millionaire] they ask me, ‘Are there so many slums? Where do you stay in India?’ So that perspective – that thing – I wanted to remove.”

Rajesh has been quietly listening the entire time and finally speaks up when the subject turns to the soundtrack. Talking about how he likes remixes he says, “At times I am [in favor], but at times I feel that there isn’t any necessity for a remix.”

Feeling that his brother was, perhaps, a little hesitant to explain, Rakesh jumps in, “See this was the call taken from the music company. They said, ‘We wanted to make remixes’. I said, ‘He will not make the remixes – we have made the original ones and we cannot turn that into a remix. So if you want to do it, you do it and if it’s good then we’ll keep it in’.”

Turning to the topic of contemporary soundtracks in general, Rajesh perks up a bit. “With the time we have all become slightly modern – everybody of us. Change has to come. It has been coming over the years, but that doesn’t mean that we are losing the soul in our Indian music. For instance, Rahman’s music has scored very high marks with Slumdog Millionaire. My style was different in Kites, a little on the slower side, more soulful you can call it.”

Rakesh explains his process towards soundtracks, “What I do is that I inspire him with the story and the situation and we leave it to him because he knows that I like melody and I know that he is the king of melody. The question that we ask is nowadays us what songs are coming. The filmmakers they want those kinds of songs – it’s not the fault of the music directors. The filmmakers that come with the CD of an English song and give it to the music director and say we want something like this. They are not inspiring the music director in any way – they are degrading the music director.”

Rajesh is nodding in agreement. “That’s rightly said, yes. But still they manage to make nice music. And you feel like listening to it in your car for a while – maybe for a short while – but you do feel like listening to Indian music. You cannot stay without it.”

It’s no wonder that Rajesh loves working with his brother. “What I’m thinking he’s thinking, so it’s like sitting in the same boat and there are three powers to it. They’re [Rakesh and Hrithik] the main engine but I’m right behind them.” And would he like to branch out to work with more directors? “I wish there were some more people, my doors are open who would come to me like that – where our ideas match. Otherwise I’ve lost interest now. See I’m thinking of something and you’re thinking of something else. How can you shoot a song like that? So, slowly you start losing interest in films.”

And speaking of family connections, Rakesh gets in a final word about working with his son Hrithik. “It’s not difficult at all! It’s very easy because he is one actor who just gives himself to the director, so if you call him in the morning at 6 o’clock he is there at 6 o’clock. And his inputs – because he does also one film at a time – his inputs are also very, very valuable. He also keeps thinking about the film, about his character. Sometimes we miss something because we have to look over so many other aspects as a director. We’re looking at the locations, we’re looking at the cars, we’re looking at so many other aspects, but Hrithik comes and he’s well prepared with his character. He gives us a chance to improve ourselves as a director.”

Is it all business for the Roshan khandan? “When we are at home and we are at the breakfast table or having lunch then we are like father and son and discuss only homely things, but the moment we are on the sets then he is an actor for me and I am a director for him. So, there I don’t see him as my son. He is with me all the time, right from the word go when we select a story and start setting out the scripting, he’s there. He’s there. He’s in the skin of the character.”

The Roshans have turned a family passion into a family business and from Kaho Na Pyaar Hai to Krrish, audiences have celebrated with them. Only time will tell if Kites will be as successful as those other hits but with Rakesh and Rajesh working hard behind-the-scenes and Hrithik in front of the camera, it’s hard to see where they could go wrong. Kites releases May 21st and the international version is released in the US on May 28th.

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