Bollywood Buzz

No one was ready to produce Bhaag Milkha: Mehra

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag has won its race at the box office but director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra says he struggled for three years to raise money for his unusual project.

Biopics are a rare genre in Bollywood and Mehra knew what he was letting himself into by making a film on one of the living legends of sports.

The director started with producing the film on his own but had to let go of 50 per cent of its rights to complete the film, which starred Farhan Akhtar as Milkha Singh.

“Raising money was a challenging task but we always believed that we were going to make it. For three years, I knocked at every door but nobody picked it up and they are all friends,” Mehra told PTI in an interview.

“In Bollywood, you can count people on your fingertips. People were not willing to take the risk because of its subject. It is still a cottage industry, very family driven. Corporates have started coming in and they are bringing a sense of professionalism but it is still individually controlled,” Mehra added.

Bollywood seems to be waking up to the magic of biopics recently. Sanjay Leela Bhansali is making a film on boxing champion Mary Kom with Priyanka Chopra, there are reports of a biopic on Hockey legend Dhyanchand while Anurag Basu has already announced plans for a film on Kishore Kumar.

Asked whether the film would spark a trend in Bollywood for more such original stories, Mehra seemed doubtful.

“It is still very difficult to make a non-formula film without producing it. I hope it opens a trend where we don’t have to follow a formula for a film to be successful. In Bollywood, your project becomes economically viable only when you pick up a star, otherwise nobody will entertain you,” Mehra said.

Released on July 12, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag earned 40 crores within a week, excluding the music and satellite rights. Mehra was happy with its business in Australia, US and UAE though he was disappointed with the UK box office collection.

But more than the Friday box office challenge, Mehra says he worries about the perpetuity of his films.

“I hope I am happy to look back at this film 20 years later. It is bad economics when you make films just for the Friday. Technology has imortalised entertainment content. I remember when RK films sold their video rights for 60 lakhs, everyone was jumping. Now, just satellite rights of a movie earn 30 crores.

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’s satellite right went for 23 crores while the music rights went for 6 and half crores. I make films for perpetuity. For me, that’s the only way. Who knows what future holds,” Mehra said.

His choice in Farhan has been hailed unanimously but Mehra said there was a time when people thought he had made a casting mistake.

“Two years ago everyone was asking me why Farhan? I have always been very fond of Farhan. I thought he was a latent volcano. There were glimpses but his acting had not gone through the litmus test. Even when he was not acting, I had offered him Sidharth’s role in Rang De Basanti. He was not ready at that time. I am happy that he played this role.”

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