Hirani: I can’t give step-motherly treatment to Saala Khadoos

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Rajkumar Hirani is mighty proud of his next venture, Saala Khadoos, which stars Madhavan and Ritika Singh. Ahead of the release of the boxing drama, SpotboyE caught up with the filmmaker-actor duo as they opened up about their film. Excerpts:    


What made you give your nod to Saala Khadoos?

Hirani: Maddy (Madhavan) called me at 11.30 at night and said he wants to come over and talk to me. So I thought it’s a personal emergency. When he came to my house, he said, “I’ve found a great story. I think you should hear it, we can make it into a film.” I was laughing when I understood that he came to me at midnight only to tell a story. Within 20 minutes of narration, I knew I had to produce it.


It’s speculated that the story is a biopic of Muhammad Ali...

Hirani: No, it’s not a biopic. Sudha (Prasad, director) really explored the world of boxing. She took several real-life stories and weaved one out of it. It’s about a boxer who couldn’t reach the Olympics and his life was destroyed. When he is brought back as a coach, he sees the same problem still exists. This time, he decides that he is not going to let it go as easy as last time.


Madhavan, didn’t you want Hirani to direct the film?

Madhavan: The film was actually written by Sudha – it’s her baby. One always wants to work with Rajuji as a director, but you can’t pluck a film from somebody who has written it.

We actually wasted a year, trying to find the right people to work on it. We were getting producers for the film, but they wanted changes that would change the soul of the film. We didn’t want that. As the last resort, I went to Rajuji. Once he heard the film, he quickly came on board.


How did you zero down on Ritika Singh for the lead?

Madhavan: Sudha wanted to cast a heroine who can be taught boxing. If we had to teach someone World Cup-level boxing from scratch, it would take us years. Main tab tak boodha ho jaoonga. So after a lot of debate, we decided to rope in a real boxer.

Of course, we had many criteria – we needed a 17-year old girl, someone whose parents would let her do a film, someone who is a boxer, who can speak both Hindi and Tamil, who can act. So it was a tall order.


Go on...

Madhavan: When I went to watch a boxing match organised by Raj Kundra, I saw Ritika’s picture. So I thought, ‘Why not give her a try?’ I told Sudha to meet her and sure enough, after she met her, she called me excitedly saying that we’ve found the right girl.


Did the Censor Board not have a problem with the word ‘saala’?

Hirani: When we sent our film to the Censors, even we were worried. But they were very clear about it. They passed ‘saala’ because it was not used in an abusive way. One of the Board members was telling me that when they beep it out otherwise, it’s because the word is often followed by some expletive.


So where do you stand with regard to the whole censorship issue? Are you in favour of the gradation system?

Hirani: CBFC is actually called Central Board of Film Certification. So there shouldn’t be any censorship, there should be certification. You can see a film and decide whether it deserves an ‘A’ rating or ‘U’ rating or ‘UA’ rating. But you should not chop off scenes. Finally, there seem to be efforts to improve the system.


Raju, you got so involved with Saala Khadoos that you put the Sanjay Dutt biopic on the backburner.

Hirani: The biopic hasn’t been put on the backburner. It is in its scripting stage, Abhijat (Joshi) is working on it. And if I take up a film, I can’t give it step-motherly treatment. My name is associated with Saala Khadoos. So I had to put in all my efforts to ensure that we make a good film, it finds a decent release. You have to give time to your film. 

Image Source: T-Series