Syed Ahmad Afzal, the director of Laal Rang and Youngistan has directed Baaraat Company and yet again there is an amalgamation of modern ideas and youth appeal that will be the highlight of the film. Afzal is one of the few young directors who had the honour of working with late veteran actor Farooq Sheikh in Youngistan, and today this brilliant director, who happens to be an independent filmmaker, talks about his films, life and Farooq Sheikh, his mentor.
Youngistan and Laal Rang, both had strong youth appeal. What about Baaraat Company?
Baarat company also has a youth appeal, you can say the film mirrors the old ideologies versus new ideologies through old Lucknow and new Lucknow. So in the film, we’ve tried to showcase how it is important to bring the best from both ideologies, the modern as well as traditional. The film is youth oriented and it shows the shades of the new generation, which is opinionated and independent. When it comes to marriage, both the worlds get involved. Voices from both the side, the modern age and the traditional should be heard. Parents should also be involved in the marriage of their children. Arranged marriages are quite normal in northern India, but now people are considering the couple’s need for space, so the two can understand and know each other. We have tried to show the new type of marriage, the love-and-arranged-marriage. Having said what we have spoken about, I have tried to make a wholesome entertainer. No section of the audience will feel alienated.
How easy or difficult is it for an independent filmmaker to make a film, promote it and release it, especially when the industry is saturated with big camps?
Being independent filmmakers, of course we are on a budget all the time, I am not a producer so can’t talk about that, but it does affect. We are always on a look out for good actors. Last two films I directed, Laal Rang and Youngistan were also budgeted but the starcast was good and we got a good response. We don’t get big stars, we prefer actors who can play their parts well. That brings less eyeballs, but more satisfaction. As an independent filmmaker I am constantly trying to innovate myself. For instance, I have started my YouTube channel, where I uploaded a film that I shot on my phone, it is called the Bicycle Girl. It has come out beautifully, it gives a feel of how a film used to be made with a sixteen camera set-up.
More filmmakers are now experimenting with digital platforms. Any such plans?
It is exciting how there are so many platforms for a filmmaker now. I would love to make content for the digital platform too. I believe whatever I do, the idea should be exciting enough for people to consume it. I would love to make content with so many brilliant actors out there who are amazing but aren’t getting work. So with these platforms we have more opportunities to explore more creative ideas. These are things every independent filmmaker dreams of, to explore every arena.
You had the honour of working with late veteran actor Farooq Sheikh, can you share something about the great actor?
Faaroq Sheikh was my mentor in every aspect. I was fortunate enough to have worked with him in at least one film. He would always tell me that everytime I traveled for work, I should keep my horizons wide enough to grasp the best of different cultures of many countries. He wanted me to have fun, travel beyond work. He was a person who would talk to me, and I have six hundred messages stored in my phone, all of our conversations. Everytime I feel a little lost, I go back to those messages and somehow I find the direction and answers in those messages. Farooq sahab was a man who lived his life fully, worked because work was passion and work was fun. Apart from being an actor, he was a fatherly figure for me. When I went to Japan to shoot a few sequences for Youngistan, he asked me to not only go and shoot blindly. He wanted me to explore the country. One thing he said which is very close to my heart is that, for us, filmmakers and actors, after a certain time, cinema becomes everything, and we need to break that. There is a life beyond cinema and that is more important.
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