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“Festivals are stepping stones for new directors”

I was not very happy with the kind of films I was doing. So I took a break and wondered if I should do something different. After Woodstock Villa, I thought I would do some more research. While researching a script, I read the story of lawyer Shahid Azmi in the newspaper and I knew I had my next film.

I started making the film in 2010. When I approached a few producers, they wanted to know who I would cast as Azmi – whether Ranbir Kapoor would suit the role. They were thinking about the returns from the film but I didn’t want to work with such producers. I wanted someone who would believe in the script and offer his creative inputs. Someone who would place his faith in me and not manipulate the script. I wanted to complete the script before deciding on the casting. After I was done with the script, I looked for new faces and found my star. Bohra Brothers put their money on my project and agreed to produce the film along with Anurag Kashyap.

I heard my film received a standing ovation when it was screened at MAMI on Friday. I was not present as I usually avoid screenings of my own films. When people came out of the auditorium, they told me that they felt an emotional connect.

We wanted to keep Shahid for festivals and it was shown at the Toronto Film Festival. Then it was selected for MAMI and I think the MFF is the best place to showcase our film as you have your own people and others who come to your country to watch your film.

Although MAMI still has a long way to go compared to other international festivals, it has grown over the years. It is important for any festival to attract the best filmmakers from around the world and MAMI has done that this year. The  MFF is also a very good platform for new directors, especially independent directors who are looking for distributors.

A festival like MFF gives you a chance to meet all kinds of filmmakers from all over the world. You learn how and what kind of research went into it, on a social, cultural and political level. The MFF is a great opportunity for all kinds of filmmakers or movie-lovers, who understand cinema.

With Shahid, I feel as if my career has just begun. Such festivals are a stepping stone.

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