Making a statement

new-age filmmaker

Making a statement

The young man came to Mumbai, graduated from the St Xavier’s Institute of Communication and assisted Gurudev Bhalla on Sharaarat, the 2002 Abhishek Bachchan film, before moving to assist Vishal Bhardwaj in his first film as director, Makdee.

Abhishek says, “After working with Vishal, I did not feel the need to assist anyone else just to get a broader view of filmmaking styles. Vishal’s not just a mentor but a friend. We share a common ideology in filmmaking and I have also assisted him in Maqbool and Omkara. Through him, I grasped the importance of writing in any film director’s career. I began writing and would show him my drafts. He made me the co-writer of his films Blue Umbrella and Kaminey. And then I told him that I would like to turn director with the new story that I had written, Ishqiya.”

Abhishek cannot slot Ishqiya into any one genre. “I have made a statement though this film that I would like people to watch and know. This will explain the reason why my film looks fresh, for the story has ended up with an interesting cast of three principal and seven supporting characters,” says the young director.

“My film is entertaining, not heavy or boring. It has roots in something I identify with — the language I have used in the dialogues is common in those regions though it is hardly heard in Hindi cinema. Naseeruddin Shah is an older man who loves Vidya Balan, a widow. His younger friend, Arshad Warsi, lusts after her. My heroes are criminals and Vidya too has shades of grey,” adds Abhishek.

Love for an older man, lust for the younger. Is he trying to give a different connotation to Love Aaj Kal? Laughs the filmmaker, “Not at all. You will know why both my heroes cannot be of the same age when you watch the film.”

The unusual casting just happened because Abhishek does not write scripts keeping actors in mind. “Naseer-saab seemed just right, and I knew him through Maqbool and Omkara,” he recounts. “Vidya was Vishal’s suggestion. When I went to meet her and actually saw her in person, I knew that physically she fitted the character perfectly. She loved my narration and agreed to the role. As for Arshad, I had him in mind somewhere, but I had wanted a younger hero of about 21. But I finally decided to meet him and he got the core vibe of the character in the first five minutes!”

With Vishal also as his music composer and producer, how does he look at songs? Gulzar has for example openly expressed his disappointment at Naseeruddin Shah not lip-syncing the song ‘Dil to baccha hai ji’. Says Abhishek candidly, “I have grown up on Hindi cinema and my favourite film is the first one I watched after coming to Mumbai — Satya, which remains an inspiration. But my sensibilities in filmmaking are influenced also by world cinema. I cannot use music in the unique way our cinema does because that would mean going away from my flow of my language for five minutes and then returning. But we have shot ‘Ibn-e-batuta’ as a promo song, and that does have lip-sync.”

Abhishek is tuned in to the cinema of Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee, Vishal Bhardwaj and their ilk. But what about the growing disconnect with the audiences? “Films are forms of expression. The market angle is different and depends on many aspects. To me, it should not influence the films I want to make. Yes, the budgets should be right to make every kind of film viable,” he responds.

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