Films | Artist Interviews | HABIB FAIZAL – A MAVERICK FILMZAADA!


Posted by Vivek on May 17, 2012 | No Comments

His films are the perfect blend of entertainment in a real world depiction with attention to the minutest details. His dialogues resonate with the topical spoken word of current day India. When Habib Faisal directs, the world watches the drama unfold, with as much enthusiasm as a child unwrapping a gift. He is indeed one of India’s finest filmmaker.We talk to this most unassuming bundle house of talent:

On the choice of name and story, Ishaqzaade ?
What I find is that in recent times, the visual and storytelling concept of love in India, has been through Western eyes. And I am not being judgmental . We have taken for granted that here in India, people will fall in love and their love will be accepted very easily. The reality is that it is not always the case. Also I did not want to show borrowed complications of a Western origin, for an Indian love story.  It is just that I wanted to present the concept of a story about barriers to love in a free society, from an Indian perspective. Why is that in India it is still not OK for two people  who are in love, to not be able to spend time with each other in an open manner, such that they are found more in places like Bandstand in Mumbai or the Qutab Minar in Delhi and then too be bothered by cops. I find that very strange, it is almost like saying to be in love,  is a bad thing. Hence the characters in my film are the Nawaab’s of Ishq,  love. There is no word as such called Ishaqzaade, but you do have words such as Shehzaade or a Nawaabzaade, so it is in the same vein. A small town love story of two people who fight for their most fundamental right, the right to fall in love.

You have this unique ability, as you did in Do Dooni Chaar, Band Baaja, etc, to transport us into that world, right to the minutest details, where does that come from?
I don’t think I am the only one who does that. Filmmakers such as Anurag Kashyap, Shimit Amin, in Kahaani, Sujoy, takes you into Kolkatta in all its details, Dibanker takes you into Delhi too. Abhinav Kashyap too did that in Dabang, yes larger than life, but he did convince us that Salmaan Khan is Chulbul Pandey.

But what about the attention to the minutest details?
These are great times to be in. Most of us directors, writers, editors, are trying to be honest to the script and the space of the script. Earlier it was like, we lived in two realities. The film reality which we took as a fact and the actual reality, of which we are in denial. For the longest time, be it our towns, villages, we would look at  a film to show how it should be depicted. In the last 4-5 years, directors have started going to the actual places and observing real people and real instances. How people speak, what they do, it may sound mundane, but therein lies the flavor of the script. Also if the Director initiates it then the Production Designer and the DOP will follow suit. Most of the directors are telling a story with an experiential quality in them. Within that realm of real space we find enough entertaining stuff. We find enough entertainment in the guy saying “Bread Pakode ki Kasam.” For entertainment it does not have to be cinemascope all the time. Scale would be cinemascope but real people can inhabit those screens. Then if you are setting out to do that, you are anal. I remember during Do Dhooni Chaar, I was very particular about the kind of scooter Rishi Kapoor’s character would be on. Bajaj at one time started with a new range called Chetak, which had sharper edges. I did not want a sharper edge scooter since it took away from the character’s rotundity that “Gol Matol” scooter. I wanted a model called Priya. I was very anal about that and I had my poor Production Designer scan the length and breadth of Delhi to find a Priya and three of them were needed, since all were in a very bad shape.  Similarly in Ishaqzaade, I did not want Arjun Kapoor’s character to drive a Bullet, cause that is the perception of a small town bike. It just had to be a Yezdi, again based on my experience of small towns like Lucknow. When these things excite you then it becomes a part of your production design and the way you write. To create that world where the audience suspends their disbelief and enters my world, excites me as a director. That is also a cinematic challenge, otherwise you can just write a novel.

How much has your NDTV Camera person background contributed to this?
Immensely. It has given me the opportunity to travel the length and breadth of the country, to witness people, emotions, events unfold, from a visual perspective. That opportunity has been invaluable. You really get to see India. Be it in a place like Kaargil or anywhere else, you don’t get to witness these events if you are not a camera person of a news channel. To visually capture the humans, is something else. A story unfolds right in front of your eyes and you have to get the essence of it.  The wanting to recreate the places, is a direct result of my NDTV experience. Those 5 years were an immense learning experience not only about image making and editing, but also about the country, its people and its politics.

On your days in South Illinois University in the US and how that contributed to where you are?
All of my Universities, whether it is my Eng Literature Hons degree from Delhi University or my MFA, have contributed to my learning. I remember getting admitted to Southern Illinois University, where I was getting a decent assistance ship and thinking that after a semester I would transfer to Chicago or NYU, because these were bigger schools. But that first semester in this small Mid West college convinced me that, this was the place where I would learn the most and also because, it was so grounded, as were the people.  It was about exposing me to different people and experiences. I had fellow students not only from the US, but also from Brazil, Canada, China, Korea, etc. Also I was exposed to so much of cinema that it all gives me a sense, now of where I am in 2012 with Ishaqzaade, in relation to all the great stuff that has happened in world cinema. Sub consciously all of that is resurfacing in the person that you become. One interesting thing that happened was there was this instructor, Mike was his name, he was a farmer in the evening and a lecturer during the day. One of the most grounded people who encouraged us to cut our own film and this was such an eye opener to me. My whole perception of the US was changing to become something much more valuable than what I had imagined. He was an expert in Russian cinema and this guy would drive the tractor every evening to till the land. That whole approach he brought to the classroom, a very cottage industry approach to the process of film making. He would encourage us to process our own film. All this so that the process becomes completely demystified for us.

End of the road for Television?
Not at all. Television is still very exciting for me. There are a lot of stories that are very television centric and can actually be better told in television. There are some issues and subjects that when handled on Television create a wider debate. There are still a lot of issues in that there are stories, perhaps less cinematic but bigger in their ideas, they get played out very well on Television.

You have now won over the middle class, real story telling. Now as Habib becomes bigger in Bollywood are you going to lose that to the big and larger than life cinema?
Actually it has just so happened that my last few films are in these spaces, but I want to make all kinds of films and not meaning those that insult the intelligence of the audience, but those that if they need a bigger scale, I can go for it. It would be the story that would determine the expanse and I want to tell all kinds of stories. I hope that people don’t pigeon hole me. I believe that I am several different holes and I hope the audience is accepting of my moving from one hole to another.  To be pigeonholed would be the death of any writer, cinematographer, even they would suffocate. Imagine the Coen brothers making the same kind of film, time after time.

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