New Generation of Filmmakers Aren’t As Desperate As We Were – Imtiaz Ali

Amidst fresh talent about to embark on their filmmaking journey at the NFDC Film Bazaar in Goa, Imtiaz Ali looks back at his early days in the film industry  

There are so many young filmmakers here running from pillar to post to pitch their stories to festival programmers, world sales agents and producers. What are your memories of chasing producers to get your film off the ground? 

Oh, I’ve had to do a lot of it. Not at a glamorous five-star hotel like this but at various other nooks and corners where you meet producers and have to talk to them and try to tell them your story. I guess I’ve had the good fortune of going through the process of my first film twice because after my first film (Socha Na Tha), the second one (Jab We Met) was also an uphill struggle for me. In fact, the second film also got rejected maximum number of times at the stage of green lighting.

What skills do you require to get through this stage? 

There’s no real skill set. I guess what matters ultimately is the idea -that is the only weapon. Also, when you’re telling a story to somebody, you’re also listening to it yourself so it adds some value to you as well.

I believe a great idea usually finds its people. I have not been a smart person in the way I’ve carried on my life so if I can be here making movies then I think others can be too.

Do you think we have enough platforms for discovery of talent? 

We are a very populated nation. I guess it’s equally hard for a person who wants to get into some super specialisation of petrochemicals. There are many people who have good ideas and they have to put up a certain struggle to actually reach the right people. The same happens in the film industry as well.

But I believe a great idea usually finds its people. I have not been a smart person in the way I’ve carried on my life so if I can be here making movies then I think others can be too. I’m inhibited and shy. It’s very difficult for me to approach anybody especially for my own work. I didn’t proactively go anywhere selling my idea. It happened through some mechanism which I was not controlling. So if I can make it then those people who are more active in meeting people and telling them their stories will make it for sure.

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How do you scout for new talent? 

There are a lot of people in the industry that I’m in touch with who are upcoming and doing different kinds of things. We keep talking and discussing about stuff that’s interesting and upcoming. That is how I get to see and meet new people. So it’s kind of an informed word of mouth.

What does the present generation of filmmakers have that yours didn’t? 

They’re more prepared and also more confident. They have options and are not as desperate as we were. When we came in there was only one thing that was happening – films. Now people who want to make movies have the option of doing digital films and making their own short videos for YouTube to gain popularity. Many of them have already done so much work and not so desperate. You can’t take them for granted at all. When you fix appointments with them, you have to find out if they are free as well.

We just wanted to work with whoever gives us work. We had no choice between Subhash Ghai or Mahesh Bhatt. We were trying to grab at anyone.

Do a lot of freshers come to you for work? 

Lots of people want to become assistant directors on my films but they have their own view of why they want to work with me. They feel it’s good for their career graph to work with a person like me because of the films that I do. For us, that was not the case. We just wanted to work with whoever gives us work. We had no choice between Subhash Ghai or Mahesh Bhatt. We were trying to grab at anyone. We didn’t have phones where we could shoot and put them up online. I try to do that now. I made a short film (India Tomorrow) recently and I want to do more of that now. it’s so fascinating and empowering. The short film I made wasn’t entirely shot on the iPhone but much of it was.

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Any advice for the filmmakers here? 

I really have nothing to say. Advice doesn’t work. At a certain time you just rely on your own character and knowledge and do things.

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