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‘I never write a script with an actor in mind’

imtiaz-aliThe 10th edition of the NFDC Film Bazaar kicked off on Tuesday, with a host of interesting sessions, screenings and panel discussions. Among the screenings was Imtiaz Ali’s To Love Or Not To Love: Redefining Romance on Hindi Celluloid. Excerpts from an interview…

On turning director               

I’d been doing theatre since childhood. Still, I never thought I would be a director one day. Being from Jamshedpur, making a career in Mumbai was just not on my mind. I started out as production assistant, then began directing television shows, and films are always the next step. So that’s how film direction happened to me.

On getting a break from Sunny Deol

So I got an appointment to meet with Sunny Deol, who was shooting in Manali. The script I was approaching him with was Socha Na Tha, and in my head it was the very opposite of the kind of film Sunny Deol does. But by the time I had finished narrating the first half of the script to him, he said, ‘We are doing the film’.

On memories of childhood

Cinema is perceived very differently in small towns. I used to visit the theatre and watch whatever film was running there. I didn’t have a favourite director or actor; I just enjoyed watching movies. Those are my childhood memories of cinema. But the first film that made an impact on me was Junoon by Shyam Benegal, which I saw on television. Another one was Sholay.

On casting

I never write a script with an actor in mind. I finish writing and then the process of imagining it come to life begins. You think about the essence of the characters, and when you meet actors and see the shadows of those characters in those actors, you cast them in that role. When I wrote Highway I didn’t have anyone in mind, but then things fell into place.

nasreen-munni_imtiaz-aliOn composers

I believe a music director is also a filmmaker, so I think it should be first the people and then the nature of the movie that defines which composer should do it. And that’s why it’s one composer who composes music for my entire film, because the composer is living the film with me.

On writing his own films

It’s up to me to make the movie that I want to make. And I feel fortunate that I’m usually able to make the films that I want. I write my own films, so while writing and thinking of the scenes, I’m already editing those scenes in my head, so I know what I want on the edit table. The process of narration is very helpful. If you begin narrating your story with certain nuances intact, you can see the edit of the film take shape too. I always shoot with a particular edit in mind. It’s not always a pre-decided journey, though. I go in the direction the story takes me.

On working with SRK

It was really nice to work with Shah Rukh Khan in the film. I was looking forward to it.

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