Blazing new trails

Blazing new trails

A vibrant coffee shop buzzing with activity in a mall seemed to be an apt setting for a chat with young director Saad Khan. Khan's most recent film, Humble Politician Nograj, a political satire, has been a talking point on various platforms. "We did this film for absolute entertainment purposes, and not to vindicate anybody. Which is why I think the Censor Board watched it, even politicians watched it... they never felt bad about it because I think nobody is going to come and say 'I am like that Nograj,'" he quips.

Not voice, but sound

The film is a mix of Kannada and English. The others - Another Kind of Black, On My Mind (both short films), Love & She and Station - have been in English and Hindi. Was he exploring languages in which he could express himself the best? "For me, films are one language. I am exploring as many different genres as possible, that's the challenge. It doesn't matter if it is a Malayalam or Tamil film, because I understand sound. Acting is about sound, not about voice," he says.

Khan has worked as an associate director with film-maker Ashutosh Gowariker before he began directing his own films. Interestingly, the most important point he picked up from his time with Gowariker was not technique, but something that is perhaps far more important for any team leader: "Respect. Mr Gowariker is a very respectful human being. He respects everyone and treats everyone on the sets equally. A director's job is communication-oriented. He has to talk with the spot-boy, the editor, the director of photography and others to communicate his ideas clearly. The moment you compartmentalise and start communicating with the crew in a different manner, it takes away from the humanity of being a film-maker. When you treat people around you well, everything goes well," he states.

After getting a BE in Mechanical Engineering, Khan completed his Masters degree in film-making from New York University. He couldn't find a job because of the economic recession at the time, and instead bagged a scholarship to do another degree in communication from Louisiana. You might assume that he had grown up watching many film classics before turning into a film-maker himself.

His disarmingly honest answer takes you completely by surprise. "In those two years, I realised that my batch-mates knew much more about all-time great films than I did. I had grown up watching Zee Cinema and Hindi films. I hadn't seen a single Satyajit Ray film till I was 21. So, I saw three films every day for one year and slept for just three hours a day. And that's become a recurring part of my lifestyle even now. Because the moment that you think that you're perfect, or that you have done a hit film, that's the end of you."

Journey is what matters

Blazing new trails and stepping into uncharted territories motivates him as a director. "What drives me is a challenge. Sometimes, it's not knowing anything about the subject when I start something and I carve my way through the process to end up knowing all about it. When you finish the movie, you might not have answered all the questions... but it's the journey that is exciting."

Khan runs a film production company as well as a comedy group called 'The Improv'. So, who is the real Saad Khan? "I have often been accused of having a multiple personality disorder. The real me is a very serious person who is very ambitious. It's scary because the ambitions are so limitless. I am also a family person. I make my minutes very accountable. I don't leave anything to chance and hope. I haven't taken a vacation for years."

As we prepare to leave, Khan reveals another very personal factor that drove him to seek new heights. "I had a very difficult time in school because I was bullied. But I am so glad it happened because otherwise, I would not have classmates who come up and take pictures with me - and they don't realise it's the same guy! I don't need them to know because it helped in a big way," he says.

His mind is already buzzing with the subject for his next project. "It's not going to be a comedy, not noir, not drama. But I am petrified about my next film. Not that I am scared of failure, but because I don't want to become complacent."

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