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The Genius Of Rajkumar Hirani Lies In His Ability To Use Humour To Question Society

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Fondly known as Raju by everyone in Bollywood, Rajkumar Hirani is the current toast of the Hindi film industry. Within eight days of its release, his latest film “Sanju” has crossed over 200 crores at the box office. This video explains his filmmaking style.

Every single actor and actress, from Arjun Kapoor to Parineeti Chopra, Abhishek Bachchan to Ranveer Singh and more – want to be directed by this phenomenal man. Hirani is not just an established and acclaimed director, producer and screenwriter but he also edits most of his own films.

There is a lot more to be known about this visionary who continues to stand out in his fraternity. These include:

  • He was born in Nagpur to a Sindhi family, and his father owned a typing institute in the city.
  • His family was originally Sindhi refugees from Pakistan.
  • He dabbled in theatre in school and college – and wrote plays as well.
  • He studied in St Francis De’Sales High School, Nagpur, and graduated in commerce.
  • Munnabhai MBBS was his directorial debut, and it broke all formulaic conventions associated with Bollywood. It was a cult in itself!

In the last 15 years, Rajkumar Hirani has directed five films which include Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. (2003), Lage Raho Munnabhai (2006), 3 Idiots (2009), PK (2014) and now, the explosive biopic on the life on Sanjay Dutt (“Sanju”) which has become an instant hit.

However, not many are aware of this, but his early career didn’t work out the way he wanted it to. For many years he tried his luck at being a film editor but to no avail.

This forced him to shift to advertising where he established himself as a director and even a producer of ad films. He had once appeared in a Fevicol Ad as well a Kinetic Luna ad.  The latter was an ad campaign created by Ogilvy Mather.

 

Soon enough, he decided to quit advertising and began working with Vidhu Vinod Chopra. Some of his early works included editing the promos and trailers of “1942: A Love Story”. He even edited “Kareeb.” This led him to his next big opportunity of working on the film “Mission Kashmir.”

What differentiates Hirani from other filmmakers is his ability to create a story where he can deftly use humour to question the mindset of the audience. Raju Hirani is known as the Christopher Nolan of India – only because they both have the distinction of being critically and commercially acclaimed directors with only a handful of movies in their kitty.

An expert at understanding the psyche of the Indian moviegoer, his movies are lighthearted but revolve around significant societal issues. What is really special about Hirani is that his films don’t just do well at the box-office, but they also have a good shelf life.

In almost all of his films, there is one protagonist who is afraid to tell the female protagonist that he loves her. There is always a father who is fed up with their son or daughter, and at the same time, there is always an antagonist who undergoes a transformation by the end of the movie. In every film, there is a gigantic challenge that the protagonist has to face, which of course, they overcome in flying colours. However, there are way too many characters in his films, and their storylines always end on a positive and happy note.

He feels, “When someone says to me, ‘Our minds are preconditioned to believe things, and you gave us a different viewpoint to think,’ I feel like I’ve done something worthy.”

Every film is like the first film for him and every time it feels harder to capture the attention of the audience. But what makes his movies strike such a chord with the audience? The answer lies in his innate ability to take the uncanny elements of life and weave them together in a film and make them magical.

What do some filmmakers and writers say about him?

Karan Johar on ‘An Afternoon Film Bazaar with Rajeev Masand’
“I love the fact that he (Hirani) is the country’s biggest filmmaker and he has been making good films time after time. He is making socially-relevant blockbusters. I hope I come up with a brilliant idea for a movie with a social relevance.”

Writer-lyricist Javed Akhtar said that the reason why Rajkumar Hirani is able to make cinema that touches the heart is because he is a good human being.          “I am a huge admirer of Rajkumar Hirani. He does really good work, and now again, he has done an amazing job. I always say one thing about him that to make such kind of films you not only have to be a really good director or writer, but you have to be really good human being. He is really good human being, and that’s what works for him.

Anurag Kashyap was very impressed by Rajkumar Hirani’s film “PK” and said that the filmmaker is one of the country’s bravest directors.

To make every scene entertaining and engaging can be tough for a biopic which draws from real-life events. For “Sanju” though, it was perhaps far trickier because it dealt with problematic aspects like the actor getting addicted to drugs and being convicted for illegal possession of firearms.

A Hirani film is not helmed by Bollywood stars or opulent sets but by sheer good writing. The director has been able to entertain the audience despite the prejudice and duplicity that is ingrained within the Indian society. As of now, his latest film is a departure from his usual ‘track record’ of quintessential comedies and is actually a biopic about the troubled life of Sanjay Dutt; along with a social message. Will Hirani try something new in the future? Only time will tell.

As a Hirani fan, I hope “Sanju” has the same relevance in the years to come as “3 Idiots” which is still being avidly watched a decade after its release.

This post was first published on my blog.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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