Faiza Ahmad Khans docu on Malegaons film industry wins European award
There’s a quiet satisfaction as Faiza Ahmad Khan reflects on the award thats propelled her into the ranks of Indias serious documentary makers. The 20-something directors debut short,Supermen of Malegaon,was picked as the best documentary at the Asiatica Film Mediale in Rome in December.
Malegaon,296 kilometres from Mumbai,has two major identitiesthe poverty in its by-lanes and the popularity of its films. Malegaons film industry is called Mollywood,from which emerge spoofs of Big Brothers hits. Karan Arjun,Shaan and Lagaan,remade with local setting and dialect,were Huos Full,and Malegaon ke Sholay in 1998 had drawn enough crowd to make news even in Bollywood.
Khans film begins with the incessant grinding of power looms,the towns chief source of employment. I had only heard of Malegaon when the blasts took place in 2006, says Khan. The more she probed,the more fascinating the people seemed. The film has a clip of
Malegaons barbers who specialise in Sanjay Dutt or SRK-style makeovers (Rs 101 and Rs 151 respectively),and Khan says,People who belong to the Mithun Fan Club will sport the Mithun hairdo,talk like him and dress like him. If a film has Amitabh and Mithun plays at the cinema hall,the two groups sit separately and shout each other down in the voice oftheir favourite star.
Khan,who had completed her Social Communication Media course at Sophias,was assisting director Manish Jha on Anwar when she chanced upon Malegaon again. And this time Shaikh Nasir,the director of Malegaon Ke Sholay,was planning his magnum opus,a remake of Superman.
Khans film follows Nasir and his team as they script,conceptualise and improvise for Malegaon ka Superman. Khan puts Nasirs film in the context of the towns squalor,communal tensions and lack of basic amenities so that the reel life appears as a natural corollary,an escape from reality.
Nasir ropes in local hero Shafique Bachchan Ansari to play Superman. Ansari,who also works in the power loom,dons his superman gear that includes an M monogram in place of the familiar S,red shorts and a pair of rubber slippers over knee-length red socks. They made these films for almost no money and innovated to overcome financial and technical constraints. I knew that this was an idea that had the potential to be turned into an interesting docu. Getting it right was the tricky part, says Khan. Even as Nasir and his team struggled to get things togetherthey couldnt afford Chroma software and substituted it with a grey-market KaromaKhan remained a passive observer. We made a conscious decision to stay out of their film-making process even when we knew we could help them.
After more than two months of shooting,Khan was left with 230 hours of footage. We had to edit it to a 52-minute film in a month, she says. The litmus test was screening it at Malegaon: I was quite nervous. But thankfully,they liked what they saw, she says.