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'Welcome to the world of our Raavan'

Last updated on: April 26, 2010 14:23 IST
Image: Mujhe behne de -- live at Raavan's music launch
Video: Reuben NV Patcy N in Mumbai

The music for Mani Ratnam's much awaited movie of the year, Raavan, was released [read the review here] on April 26 at the Yash Raj Studios in Mumbai.

Kicking off the release was its lead actress, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.

While the Bachchan bahu compered the show, her husband and co-star Abhishek, and music composer A R Rahman, performed.

Mani Ratnam's bi-lingual is titled Raavan in Hindi and Raavanan in Tamil. It is dubbed in Telugu as Villain. The Hindi version stars Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan (as Beera) and Vikram in the lead roles. The Tamil and Telugu versions are minus Abhishek.

Aishwarya, looking gorgeous in a cream coloured sari with red embroidery, introduced the film, the director and her character, Ragini. Later, she asked her co-stars to describe their experiences during shooting for the film.

Over to Aishwarya:

Aishwarya: Welcome to the world of our Raavan. When you hear the name Raavan, you immediately think of 10 heads but, believe me, there were more than a hundred minds working on creating this very special piece of work.

[Applause from the audience]

Mani first gave me a sneak peak of Raavan when we were shooting for the song Nanna re from Guru. There I was dancing in the rain in full abandonment, not knowing that Mani was probably working on an idea of how Ragini would be in his movie -- that's the name of the character I play in Raavan.

It was a role that I could not say no to. I was immediately hooked to the idea of Raavan. But then, that's the magic of Mani. When he is narrating an idea to you, he draws you into his world and you feel like you are actually seeing the movie.

'I was dragged, pulled, pushed, tied, blindfolded and dunked in water'

Image: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan

[Aishwarya, on shooting for Raavan]

Aishwarya: This role is everything an actor could hope for. It is new and powerful. Powerful because Ragini is a unique woman -- really strong, a woman we all will be able to relate to instantly even in this day and age. It's the most challenging role of my career as I was dealing with a film in two languages -- Hindi and Tamil -- simultaneously.

Mani would do one take in Hindi and the next in Tamil. And if he liked something in Tamil, we would go right back to Hindi and do it again. It was extremely challenging.

There was also a sense of discovery -- discovering new locations.

There was also the physical discovery. We discovered muscles in our body that we didn't know existed.

Our wake up call started at five. We would trek to the location and by the time we got there, we were all dirty, wet and cold, and ready for the first call of action from Mani. His favourite line was 'Keep it real.'

And it was real. We shot amidst snakes, rabbits and leeches in cold water and near a waterfall. I was dragged, pulled, pushed, tied, blindfolded and dunked in water. I was drowning and screaming for help, but Mani loved it because he felt it was real. Then he would say, 'Now one more time in Tamil.'

This has been an incredibly original experience, bruises notwithstanding. And if I had to do it all again, I would.

If I close my eyes, I swear I can hear the rain, the waterfall... I can feel the mist and hear the heartbeat of the forest in Raavan.

'I just perfected the art of being blind, blind and blind'

Image: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Vikram

[Aishwarya calls Vikram onstage. Huge applause as Vikram joins Aishwarya]

Aishwarya: Here he is, for the first time in a Hindi movie, a superstar and National award-winner, and someone whom Abhishek and I refer to as Keny sir on the sets. I wasn't the only one who had to switch between Hindi and Tamil. It was more challenging for him, as he is speaking Hindi for the first time in a movie. Why don't you tell us about your experience?

Vikram: [in broken Hindi and a heavy south Indian accent] I had a simple formula. Jab Tamil dialogue haath main hota hai toh Hindi main bare main nahi sochta, aur jab Hindi dialogues haath main hota hai -- kuch bhi nahi sochta [When I got the Tamil dialogues, I forgot about the Hindi verison, and when I had the Hindi dialogues, I forgot everything].

[Lots of laughter and applause]

Vikram: I just perfected the art of being blind, blind and blind.

Aishwarya: Romba nalla [Very nice, in Tamil]

Vikram: Wow, she picked up Tamil too.

Aishwarya: It is just a few words that I could say apart from my dialogues. I know exactly what Vikram is saying. Learning a new language is a challenge because it keeps our faculties switched on. What do you think?

Vikram: It was really interesting and challenging. But I really loved it. The easiest past was the song where you were dancing and I was acting the cool dude and giving you those killer looks. That was easy.

Aishwarya: So what was the part that you enjoyed?

Vikram: At the risk of sounding predictable, I would say working with Mani sir. It's my dream to work with him. Plus I got the chance to work in both the versions. Of course, there is the fun factor also and no prizes for guessing who -- AB [Abhishek Bachchan]. I have never met a wittier, more charming and supporting co-star. I have never worked with anyone like that. Thanks AB, if you are listening. He is really a livewire!

All the tough parts and all the physical hardships made me discover another aspect of acting. And I really enjoyed that too.

[Vikram exits and Abhishek takes the stage to perform to the song Thok De Killi]

'Mani allows me to go out there and behave badly and get away with it'

Image: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Abhishek Bachchan

Aishwarya: [Enters the stage screaming after Abhishek's performance] Awesome. Raagini will hug Beera now [she hugs Abhishek]. Toh yeh hai Beera dus sar waale [So this is Beera, the 10-headed man, pointing to Abhishek].

Abhishek: Dus sar waale.

Aishwarya: Baaki ke sar kahan hai? [Where are the other heads?]

Abhishek: Baad mein dikhaonga... ghar chalo pehle. [I will show you later. Let's go home first].            

Aishwarya: So how did you feel performing this number live? I can't believe you actually went through the whole number. It is so exhausting!

Abhishek: It was fun. The good thing is you have nine other people to replace you from time to time. It is amazing what part you remember. Thankfully, I was telling Keny sir [Vikram] backstage that we did not have rain, snakes and leeches. It was too easy this time.

Aishwarya: Every day on these locations was really a challenge. The surface on which we danced was a challenge. Did you enjoy it?

Abhishek: We all had a blast. As you all know, Mani allows me to go out there and behave badly and get away with it. So it was always a lot of fun especially when you get a song like this, it's a child's dream and I believe every actor is a child.

[Looks at Aishwarya and pauses] Okay, I am a child, before she says something. But it is nice. Imagine you have a rain song which any Mani Ratnam song is not complete without. [Aishwarya laughs]. You have mud all over you which is good for your skin and complexion. When I was freezing and complaining to Keny sir, he said, 'Think of it as multani mithi [Fuller's earth]; it is good for your skin.'

So we had an awesome song by A R Rahman, great lyrics by Gulzar mamu, and Mani behind the scenes whipping us into shape. So yes, I had a blast. But you were jealous...

Aishwarya: Yes, can you imagine -- this is the one time I did not get a chance to dance. Every time there is a beat playing, I was itching to dance.

Abhishek: So now you how we feel when you get to do all the dances.

Aishwarya: Yes, they had to stand aside and just give cool looks when the girl gets to dance. So now we will talk about the dus sar that we constantly keep referring to. Those 10 heads -- in your head or within you or on the outside?

Abhishek: I think pretty much outside. A lot of people will draw parallels to a lot of things in this film. This film is not inspired by any other film or epic. But, as we all know, in whatever stories we do there is always a jhalak, a little bit from our history and our mythology that we always put into our film. And our film is no different.

As far as the 10 heads of Beera are concerned, it is more of 10 personalities. He is like a wild animal and, most importantly, he is unpredictable. So he has 10 different facets which are easily referred to dus sar. Mani is so great in Hindi [humorously]... it was the easiest way to explain to him.

Aishwarya: We have to get even with Mani [looking at the director]. See he is smiling out there.

Abhishek: Is Mani there? I am sorry, so sorry. Please take me in your next film. Don't forget, I love you, you are the best, Mani. You know how Mani directs, na?

Aishwarya: Of course, I know.

Abhishek: [imitating Mani] Yeah, yeah it is fine, just make it real.

Make it real? You are standing in 5 feet of freezing water full of mud, with a black eye patch, dancing with snakes, swimming around leeches sticking onto you. Inspite of all that, make it real

While you are trying to make it real, you become unreal; completely psychotic. I started becoming complete psycho, sorry, more of a psycho then I usually am.  

'Mani has never re-shot a scene in his life'

Image: Gulzar and A R Rahman perform

Aishwarya: Wait, wait. What I do want to ask is what do you think about the four climaxes?

Abhishek: What?

Aishwarya: Four climaxes.

Abhishek: We shot four climaxes?

Aishwarya: Which one do you think we should go with?

That is a popular notion -- everybody seems to think that there are four climaxes though Mani might have 10. We never know what he is making.

You just go over there and commit to the scenes every day. But I thought you might know. With the title role and all that, you might have an idea...

Abhishek: However much you try and cajole him, Mani has never re-shot a scene in his life. So it was really entertaining to hear about how we were re-shooting the film and how the film has got delayed and how we have four climaxes. So now there are 40 heads.

Aishwarya: Just one last question -- do you think you have nailed it? Thok ne ke liye?

Abhishek: That just sounded so wrong.

Aishwarya: That was the cue on the cue card.

[Gulzar comes on stage to recite a poem followed by A R Rahman who sings a song from the movie. After the song, the entire cast and crew come on stage]