BANGALORE: Forming an arc in the eternal battle between reality and illusion, cinema has always had the innate prowess to capture a sense of solidarity. Undoubtedly our desires, memories and thoughts have framed and influenced the world of celluloid.
With a Master’s degree in Film and Television from the US, Saad Khan has written and directed three English films — Dancing in the Shifting Sands, Another Kind of Black, and On my Mind. While Another Kind of Black was selected and screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008 in the Short Film Category; On my Mind premiered at the LA and Acadiana Film Festivals in 2009.
Among other pictures, ad films, and over sixteen English theatrical productions as playwright and director, Khan was also the script supervisor on the Hollywood film The Road starring Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron. Currently, he shuttles between two cities, directing ad films in Mumbai and conducting film acting workshops over the weekends in Bangalore in association with Baldwin Methodist College, and under the banner Centerstage. In a candid conversation with City Express, the talented filmmaker (whose film On my Mind was screened recently at Sublime Art Galleria as part of Art Bengaluru) spills the beans on cinema and art.
Cinema is often attributed to ‘reality through visual exaggeration’. Your thoughts on the same?
I don’t personally believe in visual exaggeration nor am I totally for just minimalism. Reality in cinema has to have an amalgamation of both — creative subtlety and a little bit of visual exaggeration if necessary. For example, for an actor, it is all about living truthfully under imaginary circumstances. If actors in a movie via the director see the larger picture then the audience can also be made to see that truth, however imaginary it is, unless it is honestly depicted by the performers.
What do you propose to achieve through Centrestage?
Bangalore has a lot of talent, but unfortunately from past experience, there aren’t too many people supporting passionate and gifted people. Internal competition tramples collaboration here. Starting with film acting workshops, Centerstage promises passionate Bangaloreans a platform to collaborate, learn and pursue a career in films, and they don’t have to leave Bangalore to do that.
Your film On my mind explored the intricacies of human emotions through a man diagnosed with a rare degenerative cerebral disorder. Can you shed some light on the plot of the movie? Also, how difficult was it bring out these emotions on screen?
On my Mind to me is more than just a man being diagnosed with a terminal disease. What is the terminal disease in this case is the question? It is a rare degenerative brain disorder which makes a person lose his or her senses until they become a vegetable and then pass away. The plot focuses on this emotion and how excruciatingly difficult it is for someone to suddenly lose their senses one after the other and come to terms with the problem. Unfortunately, there is no coming to terms with it. It was difficult to write the script and the character of a man who is diagnosed with Dawson’s disease, and to understand the character. It was more difficult for Hunter Burke who essayed the lead role, but we communicated a great deal before going on the shoot and I made him watch videos of patients suffering from it in the initial stages. My producers were also very creatively involved so the emotions that were finally seen in the movie were a result of a collaborative effort.
Your film Another Kind of Black was screened at Cannes. Do you think Cannes Film Festival today provides a brilliant opportunity for independent filmmakers to showcase their work?
It does provide a brilliant opportunity, but their criteria of selection has surprised me these last couple of years. The films in competition that compete for the Palme D’or have had a few of them below par in 2010 and 2009. Of course, I am no one to judge, but as a viewer I have been inquisitive about the presence of certain entries.
On the other hand, Udaan was screened at the uncertain regard and it was an apt selection. So, it has definitely opened doors for independent Indian filmmakers and also given hope that a good film can get recognised on such an international platform. The worry that remains is — will more producers want to invest in independent filmmakers who aim to achieve accolades at international film festivals?
Where do you think Indian cinema stands today in the global scenario?
Indian cinema has opened a lot of doors for itself with films like Udaan, Kutty Srank (Malayalam), and most recently Shaitan. From a global perspective, India is definitely making waves with urban filmmakers finally getting the freedom and a supportive national audience.
What are your thoughts on contemporary and art films?
A film is a film. A good film is a good film. And, a path breaking film is a path breaking film. Contemporary films and art films, I feel create a bias and at the end of the day are just tags. According to me, Dil Chahta Hai paved a path for new waves in Indian cinema in 2001. Was it contemporary? Very much. Was it artistic? Yes, in many ways it was. I feel, it is the amalgamation that paves a definitive path for new waves in cinema.
Given a choice between portraying realism and surreal fiction, what would you choose?
I love being adventurous and experimental. I loved Taare Zameen Par as much as I loved Inception. So, if as a viewer I can admire both styles, as a filmmaker, I would love to try and work on movies that will make me experiment with realism and surreal fiction.
What is it about cinema that intrigues you the most?
If you try and sit through the end credits of a film, you lose count as to how many people were involved in it. It is always over 500 people and sometimes much more. It intrigues and fascinates me thinking about — how did so many people come together to make a film? Cinema cannot be about one person or a few people. It is much bigger than a writer, a director, or an actor.
What are your thoughts on sci-fi ?
It is an extremely hard genre for any filmmaker to attempt, both at script level as well as the execution level. I think it is a challenging domain in filmmaking and I’ve loved watching sci-fi films. I am a fan of all genres.