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Rajat Kapoor, the award-winning director of Raghu Romeo, has an office that has seen better days. The iron beams on the ceiling look rusted, the paint on the walls is peeling off, the bookcase sags and the chair and table looks rickety. A theatre actor in Delhi, he is a graduate of the Film and Television Institute of Pune, and came to Mumbai in 1988 to make his mark in films. He has been a model, acted in films like Monsoon Wedding and Dil Chahta Hai and made two short films, which won National Awards and a feature film that was never shown. He achieved success with Raghu Romeo, which was part funded by the National Film Development Corporation and through donations he asked on the Internet. It was shown at Locarno and other film festivals at Rotterdam, Stockholm, Oslo, San Fransisco, Toronto, Barcelona, Shanghai and Florence.
He has just finished shooting Mixed Doubles, which stars Konkona Sen, Koel Purie, Ranvir Shorey and Kapoor himself.
Excerpts from the interview:
What is the film all about?
It is the story of a couple who have been married for ten years and have a eight-year-old child. And the husband is looking to find a spark in the marriage again in the bedroom. That is the main issue. He tries various ways of making it work. And he wants to take his wife along. The theme of the movie is marriage and how to liven it up. It is an adult, contemporary film about sexuality.
Where did you get the idea from?
Last year there was a programme on Zee TV where couples, who were into wife swapping, were interviewed. I know some couples where the wife knows that the husband is having an affair. She is not happy about it but there is nothing she can do. She cannot walk out because of emotional and financial dependence. Once the basic needs are meet--food, clothing and shelter--we look to upgrade the rest. Whether it is our sexual or our emotional lives. In our urban life, where the joint family system no longer exists, suddenly you are in a two-bedroom room house in the suburbs, just the two of you and then sex is very exciting. But after a couple of years, it gets very boring. Then you want to upgrade that. That is part of our lives now.
Are you taking a moral stand?
No. I don’t think anybody should be judgemental about it. I think we attach too much morality to sex. Sex is beyond that. Morality should be about other issues. We cheat each other, we lie to each other, we look at the poverty around and not react—that is a moral issue. Who is sleeping with who is not a moral issue.
Tell us something more about the film?
Let me tell you a joke: Mr and Mrs Santa Singh go to a village for a holiday. They go past a diary where a cow and a bull are at it. Mrs Santa Singh asked the farmer, “This buffalo, how many times does he want to do it?” “At least three to four times a day,” said the farmer. “Four times. Tell that to my husband,” Mrs Santa Singh said. Santa Singh is very angry. So he asks the farmer, “Does the bull want the same cow all the time?” “No, it never goes back to the same cow,” said the farmer. This is the story of man. This is a biological thing. The difference between man and woman is that while man feels too much intimacy kills sexual desire, a woman feels more and more comfortable with a man she has known for years. These are biological reasons. Now how you deal with it, is where the success of a marriage or a relationship is based.
Do open relationships exist?
Open relationships exist and it should be allowed to exist, with more freedom and without moral policing. We are all hypocrites. We want to do everything that is taboo but we want to take a moral stand at the same time. We have not been able to accept our sexuality. What we need are education and more tolerance. I think we are an intolerant society. Think of this: homosexuality is illegal in our country. Which century are we living in? And we want to be an open society? What sort of an open society is this? We should be tolerant of other people’s religions and practices. But where is the tolerance? We have a Censor Board, which passes the film and then if anybody raises a protest, they can stop the film.
Is it tough to make it in Bollywood?
If you are an independent filmmaker it is impossible to make it. Bollywood does not have space for any other ideas except its own. I have been struggling for years. After Raghu Romeo, there has been a turnaround. Luckily, I have been modelling and acting and able to make the home fires burn. The first ten years I had no money, no jobs, but that is the choice you make. Film-making is a passion, otherwise why would anyone do it, whether it is David Dhawan or Sanjay Leela Bhansali or Mani Ratnam.