Habib Faisal doesn’t need more than one word to sum up his forthcoming movie, Ishaqzaade: “akkad”. The Hindi noun variously means attitude, pride or arrogance. Going by Faisal’s description of the spirit of the movie, it could also imply chutzpah. “The film is about the akkad of small-town India,” Faisal said. “Earlier, it used to be a case of Dilli chalo or Bombay chalo. But the way small towns are developing, there is no need to go to a metro city. With that has come akkad, which is the context for the love story.” He describes the two main characters as “animals” who are “absolutely irreverent about the establishment” and “selfdestructive”.
Ishaqzaade sounds like one of the maverick movies that Bollywood is prone to churning out every now and then, but it is actually a Yash Raj Films title. On paper, Ishaqzaade doesn’t sound too much like an anodyne YRF product. The movie is about two hot-heads who fall in love in an Uttar Pradesh town riven by feuds – a Wild West in the Wild Indian East. The roles of Parma and Zoya are played by debutant Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra, who made a sparkling entry in the otherwise dull Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl. “When you get to know the characters, there isn’t much that’s likable,” cautioned Faisal about Zoya and Parma. The rest of the cast comprises mostly unknown actors from local theatre scenes in Lucknow and Kanpur, said Faisal. The movie, which is set in the fictional Almor, has been shot on location in various cities and towns in Uttar Pradesh. Almor could be “on the border of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi”, Faisal said – which is to say it’s a place on the edge of decorum.
Faisal’s experience of the India that lies beyond the big cities was shaped by his five-year stint as a cinematographer at the NDTV news channel. “While I was at NDTV, I got to see the richest and poorest parts of India,” he said. “Those five years of documenting all kinds of spaces through the camera got me excited about absolutely everything happening around me.” The non-fiction, documentary aspect of his television work survived into the screenplays Faisal wrote for Band Baaja Baraat in 2009 and his directorial debut, Do Dooni Char, in 2010. (He also did the dialogue for Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl.) Both Band Baaja Baraat and Do Dooni Char are realistic and richly observed sociological studies of middle-class life in Delhi. Both movies also use colloquial Delhi Hindi to potent effect. “When I was writing Band Baaja Baraat, at no point did anybody try to make the language universal so that it could be understood in Bombay,” Faisal said. “People reacted to the phonetics, to an onomatopoeic understanding of the language. Characters, milieu and language are all a part of the subconscious.”
Faisal senses a growing confidence in storytelling and characterisation in the movie business – an observation borne out by the recent successes of such realistic dramas as Paan Singh Tomar, Kahaani and Vicky Donor. “Nobody shirks from being culturally specific,” Faisal said. “Entertainment is important, but what is it you walk away with?” His preference for uniqueness over sameness also guided the choice of locations in Ishaqzaade. “The recce wasn’t just of places where we were going to shoot, but of the ambience,” he said. Faisal says he took language inputs from people on the street, such as drivers and savoury snack sellers, and made his urbane principal leads spend some time in Lucknow. “My film may be small-budget, but the akkad is the same as any big-budget movie with stars,” Faisal joked. His big lesson from Do Dooni Char, which many critics loved but not many viewers saw, was to “make films quicker and make more of them”. Of course, he wants Ishaqzaade to cross the `100-crore mark (which is the latest benchmark for a really successful movie set by Bollywood trade analysts). “I want this film to make `100 crore so that nobody will tell me, you made a great movie, but this is where you screwed up,” Faisal said.
By Nandini Ramnath on May 11 2012 4.30am