This is one of those “I’m not a news source and can’t report the actual facts, but I can give interesting discussion around them” kind of posts. I don’t know who’s in or out of the film right now, not for sure. I don’t know the details of the filming schedule or anything like that. But I can delve a little deeper into what has been reported.
Let’s start way back. This film is put together by Siddharth Roy Kapur, ex-head of UTV/Disney who drove Disney out of production in India by greenlighting Fitoor and Jagga Jasoos, two massive horrific and very very predictable flops. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Siddharth is a bad producer, it is possible he was just skimming as much off the top as he could from the international corporation and didn’t care about making a profit. However, it means his track record is not great when he opened his own independent production house.
Clearly he has the faith of the industry behind him, since he also took over from Mahesh Bhatt as chair of the Film and Television Producers Guild of India. But still, it’s risky. Would you want to work with someone who produced Katti Batti, Phantom, Fitoor, Mohenjo Daro, and Jagga Jasoos? It’s quite the track record of bad decisions!
(Pretty song, bad movie)
And the producer is the biggest name involved in this package. Well, besides the subject of the film, Rakesh Sharma. The director, Mahesh Mathai, has two films to his credit, one from 1999 and one from 2007. Both of them were foreign funded and foreign style. Bhopal Express was a serious drama about the Bhopal disaster funded by the same producer as Buena Vista Social Club. Broken Thread is a relationship drama starring people named stuff like “Linus Roache” which was filmed in India but is otherwise not Indian. I’m not saying he is a bad director, just a very inexperienced one. With no idea of how to handle a big budget, big stars, big release.
If this had been an Aamir film, this is the kind of director he likes. One he can control, essentially. He likes taking the lead on every aspect of his film, the deal would have been between him and Siddharth, with the director carried along for the ride.
But now Aamir is out, originally because of “creative differences” now rumored to be because he wants to start work on his Mahabharat. But that’s the same thing, right? I mean, the Mahabharat plan had been there for 10 years. He could put it off another year if he really wanted to do this movie. But something happened and now he wants to do Mahabharat instead. I don’t think huge angry fight, I think something about the project made him start thinking he needed to back out.
For instance, it could have been that there are now 3 other space movies in the works. Sushant Singh Rajput’s Chanda Mama Door Ke and Rani Mukherjee’s Hichki. Meaning this film will now run the risk of comparisons, especially if it comes out last. Maybe Aamir was already making those comparisons and found his film coming up lacking. I suspect Hichki would be the one that would fall into that category, another true story, another great actor in the lead role, but with a slightly more experienced director and much more experienced producer (Maneesh Sharma) and infinitely more capable production house (Yash Raj) backing it. Or maybe Aamir was looking at the production of those films and seeing how very very hard it is to make a space film with the limitations of the Indian film industry. Which is what he would see from the troubled history of Chanda Mama Door Ke, constantly cutting corners and making compromises because of budget, technology, and so on.
(also, check out this announcement! Smooth, professional, and clear. Not like the messy rumors swirling around this film)
Or it could be that this production itself seemed a bit shakey. I start seeing stories about it back in June, that Aamir gave the go ahead then. And then aaaaallllllllll the way in October, there are rumors that Priyanka has been signed opposite him. And then in December, suddenly Aamir is out. But all of this is just “rumor”. The headlines say “confirmed”, but I didn’t see anything on their official twitter accounts, there was no press conference, this is more of a “confirmed rumor” than anything else. I know Aamir is picky and spends a lot of time in pre-production, but I just checked my own archives and there was a rumor about Aamir and Amitabh working together on September 3rd, and on September 7th, Aamir released a statement confirming everything and announcing Thugs. If “rumor” means they are taking meetings and planning and haven’t officially committed, but word is getting out because they are seen together, than the “rumor” period should be very short. If it is a decent project, well-prepared and ready to go, like Thugs clearly was. The “rumor” lasting a full 6 months in this case makes me think either it was a total lie from the start, or this is a very rough project and Aamir spent 6 months considering whether he could ever pull it into shape before giving it up.
So now the “rumor” is that Shahrukh is in. I am not officially reporting that Shahrukh is in, I am reporting that there is a rumor that he is. Because that’s the exact rumor that the same team that brought you “Aamir has totally signed with us!” and “Priyanka has too even though there is no evidence to that effect and she hasn’t even come to India to meet us!” would try to float. This is also the same team that brought you “Rekha’s in Fitoor! Oh wait, no she isn’t. But Sushant Singh Rajput is! Oh wait, no he isn’t, I’m just casting my brother.”
I hope it’s just a rumor because everything I am seeing tells me that this would be a bad Shahrukh role. Rakesh Sharma was an Indian air force officer who was sent to space by the Russians. And then came back (an important qualifier when talking of Russian space travel). His trip to space was when he was 35, a bit of a reach for Aamir and Shahrukh at this point, but not impossible. The problem is, how do you build a story around it? Is it going to be a flashback to everything that brought him there? In which case your hero has to age back quite a bit. Or is it going to focus on just the actual trip to space? Be more of a process thing? In which case, Shahrukh is not the best actor for it.
(Also, if anyone, he looks like a young Ajay Devgan, right?)
Shahrukh is a method actor. He wants to find the emotions in a moment, that is what he lives on. This film doesn’t seem like something that would let him do that. It’s not a character that I see him making an immediate connection with. I already put up my post on biopics I think he should make, and with a story like that of a fellow artist like MF Hussain, I think he would be marvellous playing that. Maybe even a soldier who survives a terrific ordeal where he has lots of emotional scenes while surviving. But this, I don’t see the emotion in this. Not without ruining the film. The trip to space was uneventful, I don’t want them to change that and insert drama to it. And I don’t want to come for a space film and end up with some movie about a marriage falling apart or whatever in the middle of which is a trip to space. It could be a great story and a great movie for a young actor who can disappear into the role, or for Aamir who loves to completely change everything about himself. But for Shahrukh, I don’t see him really being used well in this sort of a thing, I don’t want to see Shahrukh as the centerpiece of a lot of discussions about logistics and politics, or being the blank heroic slate around which the plot revolves.
Plus, the director/producer team do not look like something he would like. Shahrukh likes strong directors and strong producers. Not saying he won’t override them and take control, but he likes that discussion. They may not be famous directors, but they are experienced and have a clear vision of what they want, whether they are Rohit Shetty or Rahul Dholakia. And for producers, Shahrukh likes to produce himself, or with one of his old friends or directly with the director. I don’t see him being too enthused about sharing power with Siddharth Roy Kapoor.
Speaking of directors, here’s the thing I find really interesting, Rakesh Sharma’s own son is a director! Kapil Sharma. A steadily working assistant director. Most recently listed on Ghajini and Teen Paati. But that’s from imdb, which isn’t the best at tracking Indian credentials, he probably worked on other things as well that just aren’t there. Presumably Aamir met him if he worked on Ghajini, maybe that is the connection and why Aamir was briefly considering this project?
To sum up, this is a project that may or may not ever get off the ground. Which may or may not star Aamir, or Shahrukh, or any other actor in the world. Heck, let’s start a rumor right here that Ajay is considering it! Because he looks right and I think he would be great in a controlled internal heroic performance. Oh, and also a project which may or may not be yet another terrible massive flop in the end. I think that depends on whether Siddharth can sucker another multinational into footing the bill so he is out clean.