Aanand L Rai (File Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Filmmaker Aanand L Rai says his “distinctly middle class soul” helps him connect with talented people from all walks of life.

Rai, who became famous as a director with his Kanpur-set “Tanu Weds Manu” films and has backed movies such as “Tumbbad”, “Manmarziyaan” and “Shubh Mangal Saavdhan” series, said if he likes the one-line idea of a story, he is up a two-hour narration.

The approach, he said, has helped him meet talented people such as writers Kanika Dhillion and Hitesh Kewalya, and actors Ayushmann Khurrana and Taapsee Pannu.

“I come from nothing and that makes me connect with a lot of people. There is no formality in meeting with people. I don’t doubt creative people. I have been lucky that my instincts about them have worked so far, whether it has to do with casting or other creative aspects of filmmaking,” Rai told PTI in an interview.

“Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan”, which tackles the romance between two men in a small town India, has done well at the box office and is one of the handful of mainstream movies to talk about the issue.

Rai said they started the project with good intentions, which is what matters the most when one is talking about an issue.

“The intention behind making this film was that it is the right time. We also evolved during this process. We have a responsibility towards the medium that we are using. It should give something to the people along with entertainment,” he said.

The filmmaker recalled how people around him thought he should not get involved with “Shubh Mangal Saavdhan”, the first in the series, as it dealt with a taboo subject like erectile dysfunction, owing to his family-friendly image.

“But the reason behind making that film and this one was to bring two generations close and talk about issues that we actually don’t. The reason was to address the communication gap and shorten that,” he added, describing why his stories are set around families.

Rai, who considers directors Sai Paranjpye, Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Raj Kapoor among his inspirations, said he will continue to set his stories in the middle class, small town India.

“I come from the middle class, I have never wanted to go away from that. I may have a bigger car and a better house now, but my heart and soul is still very middle class. This is why my stories find that milieu.

“I am not saying I am depicting the world of the ’80s when I was growing up. I am taking it further. I strongly believe that with ‘Shubh Mangal’ series, I am talking about a progressive middle class, which exists in our small towns.”

Ayushmann and Jitendra Kumar played the lead roles in the latest, which released on February 21, while Taapsee featured in “Manmarziyaan”, a script written by Kanika. Rai is reuniting with both Taapsee and Kanika for his next production, “Haseen Dillruba”.

“What I really like in the new generation of actors is that they are very confident. They are not scared. Taapsee is a strong voice. She says what she believes in. Similarly, Ayushmann, the kind of films he chooses, it takes a lot of guts.

“‘Haseen Dillruba’ is written by Kanika, who wrote ‘Manmarziyaan’ and ‘Judgementall Hai Kya’. I am enjoying joining hands with these strong personalities and thought-provoking people. Such people give you a lot of courage,” he said.

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