Exclusive Amit Rai part 1: The father in Akshay Kumar turned OMG 2 into a reality
Bouquets congratulating writer director Amit Rai for the unprecedented success of OMG 2 has just got interrupted by the recent TIFF triumph for Dear Jassi (as writer) for Amit Rai. Filmmaker Amit Rai who does not has a favourite genre but is fascinated by stories that convey emotions - the pain, suffering, joy to every human. His previous award-winning Road To Sangam was on the same line and with OMG 2 the thinking filmmaker has gone further in narrating a cinema that entertains, enlightens and asks questions.
With praises pouring from all places, Amit is calm and composed sitting in his cabin at the office of Optimystix in Mumbai and answering calls on phone. The air is full of positivity as we greet each other. The writer director who considers Bimal Roy as his Guru and has watched Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto around one hundred times till now begins an exclusively candid conversation with Vishal Verma for Cineblues over black coffee (for Amit ) and Juice (for Vishal ) on OMG 2 in this three-part series.
Here in the first part Amit Rai opens up on for the need of sex education, the problems faced during the narration of OMG 2, what made Akshay Kumar say yes to OMG 2, his reaction on those section of people calling OMG 2 a sex comedy sold in the name of God, waht is modernity and the best moment of modernity/feminisim in mainstream Hindi cinema.
How did the Idea pop up?
The template of OMG is there already. Films on similar themes of God coming on earth have been seen in Sanjeev Kumar starrer Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi (1977), Jitendra starrer Lok Parlok (1979) etc. One day I found my 12-year-old son fiddling with my cell phone. He managed to get access to my email id. Initially I was thrilled to find out that my son is smart enough to open emails of others. But immediately a serious thought made me ponder on the fact that if my twelve-year-old son can answer by posing as a 24-year-old, he can have access to other things as well which are not suitable for him at this age.
Yes, adult sites do ask whether you are above 18 but there is no cross checking whether the person who has responded by clicking yes is actually 18 or not.
So, there are strong chances of adolescent kids getting misled by lack of knowledge. Curiosity at this age is natural and when it comes to sex and changes in hormones a proper guidance is needed. Adult sites, pop ups etc are not the correct source, they are misleading. So as a father I thought why not a father son story. A story where the son does something which the father initially considers to be improper but gradually the enlightenment happens.
So, what were the reactions when you narrated the basic idea/story to people?
When I shared the idea about a son who gets caught masturbating in the school's toilet and his father fights for him. Reactions like ‘ aare usko toh maarna chahiye’ ( that boy should be beaten), what the hell was he doing, many people were uncomfortable with the thought.
The basic story is about a boy whose video of masturbating in the school's toilet gets viral and his father files a case which opens up the bigger window of sex education.
People were not able to get the crux of the story and found it inappropriate.
How did you give narration of OMG 2 to potential film producers/production houses?
I always enact while I give narration. Even for the shortest character I take some style or something and explain the part. So, for me the movie was running in front of my eyes but whenever I came around those moments like ling sakhat hove hai (the male private part gets bigger) people used to feel uncomfortable and they wanted that portion to be finished asap. I had a hunch that this discomfort will bring humour.
Like the scene in which the group of women whisper, “ dekho toh chehro kitno such gayo hai, ek hi din mein puro pani nikal gayo hai” you know what has happened.
Akshay Kumar was not the first one you approached for OMG 2 and it was an instant yes. Before coming to Akshay Kumar, you must have approached other banners/production houses etc, what was their feedback regarding OMG 2
I went to many production houses, nobody bluntly said no, the mindset of Akshay Kumar and other producers/production houses was different.
What made Akshay Kumar say Yes to OMG 2?
In my opinion, the father inside the producer Akshay Kumar turned my dream OMG 2 into a reality, Akshay thought as a father and not as a mere producer. He himself is a father of two children and a very good father. I think a word from his children that ‘we are proud of you’ is more than any crores for Akshay Kumar. Likewise, Yami Gautam also did the film as she realised the importance and she said that I am doing this film for the film and not for me.
In today’s time when filmmaking has turned into projects, how it feels when A listers and known faces like Akshay Kumar, Pankaj Tripathi, Yami Gautam take it as a movie and not as a project
By the grace of God, everybody was on the same page, everybody knew what we were going to create. Right from Akshay Kumar to Pankaj to Yami to Pawan to the head of various departments to the junior artiste. The court scene is shot in a crowd; we have not added anything later. People from the unit used to discuss but at the same time also considered the fact that we all have shot the scenes and said the lines without any strings attached. So, it reflected the confidence level.
We were clear on our path that we are not doing anything objectionable, defaming religion, insulting the rich Indian culture.
God knows from where people started their wild imaginations trying to malign our sincere efforts, thanks to the thinking, sensible audience that accepted OMG 2 with open arms and evaded the negativity to minimum.
The media also played a constructive role and the movie got appreciation everywhere.
There is a section who are calling OMG 2 a sex comedy being sold in the name of God, your reaction?
In India, people are more eager to give all sorts of suggestions on ‘sex’ rather than talking seriously about it. The word ‘sex’ is still a taboo.
The mentality is prejudiced and chauvinistic. A red spot on a female student’s dress is noticed and people will start giving their opinions based on all kinds of wild imaginations. People who will take this incident seriously are quite few. The sensibility on such issues is less. The majority will not realise what situation the female is going through, how will a society with such mentality progress?
How humans are born, what is the reason behind the reaction of hormones is a scientific knowledge that needs to be acquired at the right age. Suppose someone does something wild as happens with the boy in this case, people instead of understanding the mindset of the adolescent start questioning his/her morality and make it a laughing stock. Rather than highlighting the core issue and clearing the air of innocence, misleading information is spread.
If OMG 2 was a sex comedy then it wouldn’t have travelled so far.
Grand Masti (I am taking a name just for an example to put my point) is a sex comedy and the intent of the makers was clear.
Similarly, OMG 2 raises the issue of sex education and it tries it in an entertaining manner laced with humour so that the core message reaches to the maximum audience.
Have you come across any such incident in real life?
A child’s family staying at a place where I stayed suddenly left one day. They were staying for the last twenty years. It was my friend’s family and they had a daughter who was older than me. Nobody knew what the reason was. After one and a half months, we came to know that the child – the boy was caught with a girl. The girl’s family threatened that if they stayed, they would file a complaint. The girl’s age was eleven years and the boy was nine years old. The boy has given a peck to the girl on her cheek. The kids were adolescents.
Looking at this case sensitively, the kids were innocent at that age, they didn’t know. Now, when the kids have grown up, imagine what will be the scene when they asked their parents about the reason for leaving that town.
Sex is a taboo in the land which gave the world Kama Sutra and the debate has been going on for ages, The Netflix documentary Ask the Sexpert on Dr. Mahendra Watsa was also under scanner and the doctor too faced reactions. How modern we are and what is modernity, feminism?
Modernity cannot be standard and labelled. I will call my mother a modern woman, she saw OMG 2 and said that it is an important issue raised. My mother cannot write her name properly but she found OMG 2 an important film. Suppose a girl from a family says that she is in love with someone and wants to spend her life with that person and if her mother stands up and asks who the person is, what does he do for a living? that progressive, open minded thinking is modernity to me. The belief that my daughter must have chosen the right person and the trust that daughter has over her mother that she will consider her choice is modernism and that has come from the mother to the daughter. So, the mother who has been married traditionally and has been deprived of education, asking her daughter about the education of the boy she has chosen is modern to me.
Any moment/scene/film from Hindi cinema that you consider defines modernity
A scene from Vicky Donor where the mother in law and her daughter in law sit together sipping rum that’s more modern than any female in shorts partying all night and getting dropped at home by different guys or any guy having best of attire, gadgets, wheels moving around the town with different women every time. The mother in law and daughter in law from Vicky Donor after a daylong routine sit together for a drink and chat in Delhi. I found that scene from Vicky Donor really progressive and uniquely forward.
Kanti Sharan Mudgal (Pankaj Tripathi) from OMG 2 is modern. He hails from a small town but stands up for his son, he thinks that his son has not committed any sin and is the victim of misinformation and lack of education.
In the second part our exclusive interview with Amit Rai, we will talk about the divine influence felt during the shoot of OMG 2, unknown facts of Akshay Kumar during the shooting of OMG 2 and more…