On the sets with Akiv Ali

Film editor Akiv Ali,who is currently working on Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani,says luck and hard work are key to his success.

Written by PriyankaPereira | Published: April 26, 2013 6:01 am

These days,Akiv Ali is living in a different time zone. While most people are leaving office for the day,he enters his edit studio to start work on his upcoming film,Ayan Mukerji’s Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (YJHD). With only a month for its release and 15 days for the final product to be ready,pressure is mounting. “The last few days have been crazy. We have been working through the night as there are few distractions,” he says,while he settles down and switches on the monitors. As is his ritual,he first listens to Badtameez Dil (his playlist changes with every film he is editing) and puts himself into a cheerful mode. As he snips YJHD into shape,he is simultaneously editing Milan Luthria’s Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai Again and Punit Malhotra’s Gori Tere Pyaar Main.

In Edit Mode

The soft-spoken and composed Ali,35,gets animated when he reminisces about his 10 years in the industry. With films such as,Murder,Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai,Agneepath,The Dirty Picture and Barfi! to his credit. Ali has achieved box office success mixed with creative satisfaction. He owes his hit track record to his hard working nature. But he admits that he is a bad time manager. “I work on one film from 11:30 AM to 6 PM and then on another after that. I work for more than 12 hours each day,but if I were to only work and not waste time obsessing over scenes and songs I have already edited,I would save time,” he says.

Ali says he loves every film he works on. “I work with only those directors who I am in love with. As an editor,it is very important that you understand that you are only structuring a film and not giving birth to it,” he says.

The Accidental Choice

Ali hadn’t even thought of editing as a profession. Born and brought up in Mumbai,he completed his graduation in commerce,and was planning an MBA. But his heart wasn’t into it. Briefly,he even flirted with the idea of becoming an actor. “I was thinner and better looking then,” he says with a smile. However,it did not work out for him and he started assisting a director. “I assisted for a week and realised that it is the toughest job in the world,” he adds. That is when a friend suggested that he try editing as a profession. Through a few contacts he landed up at the edit studio of Amit Saxena,who was then editing Jism (2003). When Ali entered the studio,he remembers,he was shocked to see the two large monitors. “All my life I hadn’t used a computer. Here I was with two of them. For a moment I thought I was George Lucas from Star Wars,” he says,pointing to the monitors and explaining the editing process he was put through on the first day.

Over the years,it is evident that Ali has fallen in love with his job. “I have,” he says. “I was fortunate to have assisted Amit because he let me use the machine and improvise.” After working with Saxena for a couple of years,Ali bagged his first independent project Kaash Aap Hamare Hote,Sonu Niigaam’s debut feature.

The Foundation

To Ali’s bad luck,his first independent feature was a dud. However,Vikram Bhatt called him during the edit of Footpath (2003). “The movie was being edited by someone else who did not understand the software. I was called to explain it when Vikram asked me to stay back and continue with the edit,” he says. This was followed by several other Vishesh Films projects,where he learn a lot. He worked with Mohit Suri,Anurag Basu and Kunal Deshmukh. “The Bhatts gave me a chance to constantly innovate. I remember using a lot of jump cuts in Murder when no other editor was using it,” he says,sounding visibly excited.

Mounting Pressure

With popularity comes pressure. And Ali has experienced it in the last four years. “Earlier one edited a film from start to end. Today there is so much back and forth. The directors are keen to show their films to certain groups,take opinions and then re-shoot and re-edit,” says Ali. Also,as an editor he feels one has to constantly unlearn. “Today the audience has very little patience.

So a story needs to be told within a certain time frame,which is a challenge,” he explains.

Ali’s Showreel

Akiv Ali’s three best works:

Barfi! and Agneepath:

I consider these two films in the same league because both posed the challenge of telling a story in a given span of time.

Kites: Technically,one of my best films ever. Every cut was perfect.

The Dirty Picture: It was written like a biopic,yet the challenge was to infuse drama and energy in it.

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