Imran Khan turns director

His love for technology and space prompted him to direct ‘Mission Mars’, a short film

Imran Khan

He may have been the chocolate boy who impressed us in movies like ‘Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na’, ‘Delhi Belly’ and so on, but he’s all grown up now and is making a debut as a director with the short film ‘Mission Mars’ with Johnnie Walker The Journey.

He spoke to Anila Kurian about his passion for space and technology and why it interested him to pick up a project like this.

Why did you pick a topic like ‘Mission Mars’ as your debut project?

I’ve always been fascinated by space exploration and science and technology. I followed the Mangalyaan mission closely in 2013. So when Punit Malhotra came to me with the offer, I knew I would be the right person to do it. If anyone else does it, they will do it wrong. That’s my sincere belief.

What did you bring to the production that others couldn’t?

I told Punit that if someone else is making the film and you cut to the control room, the guys will be using Microsoft Excel to control the satellite and people are going to be sending faxes to Mangalyaan. I care a lot about the mission, how it was done and the science and technology behind it. I had a story to tell and that’s what I brought in.

Did you ever doubt the topic, especially because it’s your debut?

There was no conventional method that I followed. Instead, I was more of “Listen, I am here for the first time as a director, this is my creative voice. I want to make it entirely an expression of who and what I am. So like it or don’t like it, that’s secondary, but it has to be mine”. I spent a career making films that aren’t mine. I spent a smaller part in someone else’s larger vision. I’ve given my opinion to directors when I thought something wasn’t great but they went ahead with it anyway. When the movie released, it was my face on it so I was answerable to it. But here, I can say that it was my choice, my decision. If you don’t like it, that’s fine but at least I don’t have to defend anyone else’s vision.

Did you miss being in front of the camera though?

I am a director at heart. I’ve never felt like an actor at heart. Yes, I enjoyed the craft behind it but it wasn’t me. I went to film school and trained as a writer and director. I took to acting because it came my way and it’s hard to say no to wealth and stardom. I’ve only delivered what my directors wanted to the best of my ability, even at times I didn’t think it was right. Now I can change things when I see the imperfections.

What have you learnt as a director so far?

It turns out that I’m not too bad at managing people. I’ve never thought I was good at handling it but when it came down to running a set, I quite enjoyed it.

 What do you like about the short film concept as compared to a feature film?

I was working on a feature film script which I couldn’t quite crack when this came my way. Then I thought it would be a better idea to go ahead with this as since it’s going for a digital consumption, you aren’t held hostage to theatrical box office revenue.

What kind of director do you want to be — a commercial or indie cinema one?

In the recent time, we’ve started to create a difference between good and bad cinema. It’s as though someone decided that the two must be mutually exclusive. I look up to directors like Steven Spielberg and Michael Mann who are quality filmmakers but make entertaining ones too. The idea is, why can’t we hit that sweet spot?

Is it possible for Indian cinema though?

You know, we tend to look at Indian cinema and assume that there are some inherent things hold us back, which is not the case. If you talk about Indian space exploration, we are able to do as much as NASA but with less. How is that, why is that? Because someone at some point sat down and said ‘I’m going to do this’. So Indian cinema can do anything world cinema can. The question is, are we going to choose to do it or not?

So no more acting for you?

I’m not particularly excited about acting at this time because, as you say, Indian cinema does what it does. It’s not exciting enough for me.

About Mission Mars

The Mars Orbiter Mission, commonly referred to as Mangalyaan-1, was launched by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on November 5, 2013. It was India’s first interplanetary mission. It aimed to study the Martian atmosphere which helped ISRO to enter an elite group of space agencies to reach Mars.

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