By Riya Paul
Nakkash (The Craftsman) was first unveiled at the 71st Festival de Cannes in year 2018 and now its ready for its official launch in India. Directed by Zhaigham Imam who is known for his books ‘Dozakh’ and ‘Main Muhabbat’ along with his films like Alif, it stars Inaamulhaq(of Airlift, Filmistaan and Jolly LLB 2 fame), Sharib Hashmi (of Slumdog Millionaire, Jab Tak Hai Jaan fame), Kumud Mishra (of Rockstar, Ranjhanaa, Badlapur fame) and Pawan Tiwari, who even produced the film. The film caught attention on how the theme of riot between Hindus and Muslims has been shown through the profession of craftsmanship. Bollywoodwallah catches up with the team of ‘Nakkash’ in a candid chat about film festivals, current cinema trends and much more:
Q: Bringing out the riot going on between two religions through architecture is very unique. Where and how did you encounter this idea?
Zaigham Imam: Frankly, nobody has asked me this question till now and I am glad it’s finally been asked, speaking of which carving is indeed an art form and art has millions of possibilities and interpretations. Thus, I have used art done by a Muslim character for various Hindu temples, for a living, as the backbone here, which I often witnessed in Banaras as all my films till date have been shot there – this has in fact been happening since ages, but it was often missed or taken as if it’s a regular thing so I wanted to show the depth and seriousness of the issue which people deliberately run away from rather than facing it.
Pawan Tiwari: Absolutely, when you are gifted artistically by Almighty – you may refer Him as ‘God’ or ‘Allah’ or ‘Bhagvaan’- He doesn’t differentiate you on the basis of which religion you follow. It’s for the same reason it’s said that art has no boundaries. Along with this, the usual political drama and social issues which happen as an aftermath have been shown too.
Inaamulhaq: Yes,both me and Sharib were floored after reading the script because it is indeed a very fresh viewpoint, very different from how usually this theme is represented.
Sharib Hashmi: (laughing) Oh Yes! I still remember how Inaam called me at 2 ‘o’ clock in the morning right after he was done with reading the script and he was so excited to share it with me. This is a very fresh script and I was immediately on board with it.
Q: You all have undergone a transition from one space to another whether it’s from author to a filmmaker, actor to a producer and even acting in mainstream cinema to more artistic ones. How has the transition been for you?
ZI : To term it challenging would be understatement, as Dozakh was just a sixty pages book and to bring it live on screen was a mammoth task. But I believe though words are mightier than sword the impact which visuals leave behind is very lingering hence it’s more difficult to create it too. So, I would end up picking filmmaking over writing any day. I had previously worked for ‘Aaj Tak’ while a journalist yet I would prefer to be known more as a director which I am now, in spite of not having attended any workshop or not having assisted any other director and having Satyajit Ray as one of my inspirations.
PT: I started out as an actor working for television serials. They are great but creatively it doesn’t provide you with much license and we were told to follow the given set of rules and regulations dictated by our superiors or creative heads. Thus, I decided to take a break for two three years with a plan to turn into a producer because when it comes to films, no matter what is the scale of production whether its big or small, cinema is cinema.
IH: Exactly, for me as an actor script matters, not whether its mainstream or parallel and this is a distinction which is further getting blurred with other films like ‘Badhaai Ho’, ‘Andhadhun’ where content is the king. I agree that after appearing in films like ‘Filmistaan’ , ‘Airlift’,’ Jolly LLB 2’, I have been approached with similar roles for even lesser screen time which I ended up rejecting. As in the end, the script has to be convince me – and for how long could you keep the audience in that same dreamy, Utopian , masala- filled, purely entertainment world? I agree one of the purpose of films is to entertain but that is not the only objective – a film should reflect the ongoing life around us. Films at times turn into this money minting machines and then there is this competition of which film is going to enter the 100Crore club and now it’s going to be 500 Crore club.
SH: Yes, times are changing and I am glad that as an actor I could be part of either set of films and experience contrary things as part of this transition – like let’s say the entire shooting of the film ‘ Filmistaan’ was covered in twenty days whereas when I worked with Yash sir in ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’ for one single song it took around nine days to be shot! So though we basically don’t have as big a fame as actors but characters of the films stay on forever and films speak louder.
Q : ‘Nakkash’ has been sweeping awards from every major event. Yet your team consciously chose not to send it for other film festivals.
ZI : Yes, I felt good that Inaam here was awarded ‘ Best Actor’ at ‘Washington D.C. International Film Festival’, but we took this decision to disassociate the film with the stigma that lies around film festivals. Unlike the citizens in the West, the Indian public often show distaste for films which is beyond their grasp of understanding, that is the same pre assumption formed around films shown at international film festivals. We want the message to directly reach the audience now that we are convinced about the quality of our message.
PT: Now that we have had our fair share of limelight from both the festivals where the film was sent, where in one Zaigham was even awarded with the title of the ‘Upcoming Director’ we consciously decided to take it straight to the mass. It’s more important that the purpose behind the film is served thus it should be seen at large by our own nation now.
IH : It’s not enough that our films poster is decorated with achievements . An achievement is met when our work is viewed by our own countrymen.
SH: Moreover, film festivals majorly comprises of pure cinema fanatics, who care nothing about the profit of the art – but just art itself. So like that if we see, per festival would have around just two hundred people, which is comparatively very less and thus a more ideal choice turned out to be ‘Nakkash’ going straight to the audience.
Q : Zaigham Immam’s work have often been criticized for repeating the theme. Your reactions on this ?
ZI : I agree my theme is recurring but yet each film is shown very differently from the previous ones. I take this criticism constructively but on the same hand there are people who don’t want to face the truth of what going on in our country for truth is always bitter.
PT : I agree, in fact it’s very innovative of Zhaigam to have shown the theme very differently each and every single time, one is based on customary rites ,then another is based on education these are the differences which are definitely loud.
IH: Yes, the way each and every film was presented is starkly different and it seems this criticism seemed to have come, just for the sake of having to throw some fault.
SH : Yes it seems invalid, Zaigham’s work could be considered as a trilogy as well there are scores of series and trilogies which have never been panned for the recurring theme. Ours could be considered same way as a continuous story is being told.