Saturday, June 30, 2007

Feroz Khan says Akshaye is outstanding

Two things from director Feroz Khan's interview. Firstly, English version is not releasing in India which is a pity. I think it's much better than Hindi and Indian audiences won't be able to watch Akshaye's better performance. Secondly, he says Akshaye Khanna is outstanding. Coming from the best known theatre director in India who must have interacted with some very good actors, that's a great compliment.

For a society where condoning a son’s misdeeds has become the norm, Gandhi went stridently the opposite way, placing the nation over his family. For Feroz Abbas Khan, this is a facet of the man he has been familiar with, having done over 60 performances of Gandhi Viruddh Gandhi, one of his most acclaimed plays (apart from Tumhari Amrita, Saalgirah and Salesman Ramlal). But India’s foremost theatre director has tried to take the subject of Gandhi and his family beyond the stage, to try his hand at filmmaking now. Khan is optimistic that Gandhi My Father, his debut film venture, has the potential to be ‘one of the most popular ever’. Suman Tarafdar caught up with the director to understand how the film goes beyond the play.

So how is the film different from the play?

For one, the film goes beyond the play. I have gone back to sources, especially Chandulal Dalal’s book, and used others, including Neelam Parekh Gandhi’s Lost Jewel and Mini Polak’s books, and interacted with Harilal Gandhi’s daughter-in-law, who stays in Kerala, to get more material to reconstruct the era. I was also conscious of some of the slants while doing the play, especially its Hindi version, so I have tried to be more balanced in the film. The emphasis in the film is different. It is not about who was right, but a conflict of two strong personalities, and the tragedy they were both caught in. Greys dominate this film.

How satisfied are you with the film?

Oh, very. I wanted to make a film honestly. Comparatively little is known about Harilal, and we had to work hard to get the nuances and semantics right. The film has no agenda. My job was to show things as they were, as truthfully as possible. It covers the years 1906 to 1948 and was shot over 100 days, between February and July last year. The locations included Ahmedabad, Rewari, Pataudi, Bombay, Pune, Bhor, Mahabaleshwar (where Tolstoy Farm was recreated) besides court and station scenes in South Africa. The release of the film was delayed to give a gap after Lage Raho Munnabhai. However, unlike that film, which is aspirational, this is based on real life. It is better than Attenborough’s Gandhi and is simultaneously shot in two languages — English and Hindi. In India only the Hindi version will be available. The cast was excellent, and Akshaye Khanna as Harilal is outstanding. The challenge was not to do a documentary but a narrative.

No apprehensions of controversy?

Not at all. I have researched extensively, and the film sticks to what it says.

You are really comfortable in theatre. So why a shift to the big screen? How do the two mediums compare?

Two main reasons. One, this story needs a bigger audience. I already get the largest audiences in theatre. I can’t stay away from cinema due to its reach. And I love challenges — I was getting too comfortable in theatre. The two mediums are very different in some ways — in plays you create the visual through words, for example as in Tumhari Amrita. Theatre requires the element of conflict too, for the dramatic affect. In the film, I had to think through visuals. Also, the Indian audience is able to live in two to three mindspaces. The same audience that is able to enjoy a song-and-dance hoopla is also able to appreciate Black. We exist in a couple of languages, religions and colours. The subject for this film is complex and layered, yet the fundamental principle is to communicate the story effectively, simply. There was perhaps no better communicator than Gandhi, and I have strived to capture his spirit as honestly as possible.
As this is an audience that has a desire and capability to accept films subjectwise, we do expect a wide audience for the film.


Anonymous said...

Wish the English version releases in India! Who knows that Akshaye Khanna's outstanding performance in English version can attract the audience in India!

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