Ali Fazal on Milan Talkies: Tigmanshu Dhulia asked me not to keep it subtle like I do in Hollywood

Seema Sinha

Mar 13, 2019 08:45:22 IST

"Whether or not the movie runs, life should be super hit," Ali Fazal’s character declares in Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Milan Talkies. “That is also my personal belief,” says Fazal, who, as an actor, does not mind being a little more expressive than his Western counterparts. And considering that he has been part of both Hollywood and a British production, he says the same statement with renewed confidence.

“These days we have gone into this subtle space. But our culture is very expressive by conditioning. It shows on our face. The Western influence is not right and that is one thing I learnt from Tigmanshu sir — that as actors, you have to be a little more eloquent and demonstrative than the actors in the West. So, when I am doing Victoria & Abdul, I am different in my approach, but here, our celebrations are loud. We laugh, we cry, we express emotions. That is our signature style,” says the actor. He is currently basking in the success of the dark and gritty Amazon Prime Video India Original Mirzapurin which he was widely lauded for essaying the role of a gangster. He was also seen in Fukrey Returns and Happy Phirr Bhaag Jayegi.

Ali Fazal on Milan Talkies: Tigmanshu Dhulia asked me not to keep it subtle like I do in Hollywood

Ali Fazal and Shraddha Shrinath in a still from Milan Talkies. YouTube

Milan Talkies has been in the making for almost six years and had several names attached to it, from Shahid Kapoor to Imran Khan; from Sonakshi Sinha, to Shraddha Kapoor, to Priyanka Chopra. The film will be finally released on 15 March. Touted to be a love story set against the backdrop of the “old world charm of single screen cinemas”, the story, screenplay and dialogue are by Dhulia. Fazal plays an aspiring filmmaker in an Uttar Pradesh town. The title also refers to the single screen cinema hall that nurtures his character’s filmmaking dreams. Fazal will be seen paying tribute to Prithviraj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar from Mughal-e-Azam, and Amitabh Bachchan from Deewar, while the film itself seems to be a homage to Dhulia’s passion for cinema.

“This story is very close to Tigmanshu sir and his growing up days when we had only single screen theatres. The film is also a tribute to single screen, to old cinema and the classics,” said Fazal, who longed to work with Dhulia. “The title was stuck in my head for four years or so. I found the story very interesting and the film came to me right after Mirzapur. I have always been fascinated by Tigmanshu sir’s body of work. I don’t know the fate of the film but I felt very much evolved in his company because as a person, you need to not be just bubbled up in your own little world. You need to know what is happening around you. He also makes you learn how to think on your feet as an actor. He knows Bollywood like nobody else. He is a writer, actor, director and musician, and that really helped me in my craft,” Fazal added.

Milan Talkies shows a bunch of “filmy” boys working in a projection room of a single screen theatre who make “local” films. “It’s a film within a film. We are basically laundas (used to describe boys with a devil-may-care attitude) in Allahabad (now Prayagraj), who make movies on a small cost and run an industry of their own like how it is done in Malegaon,” says Fazal.

Not many may know that Malegaon, which is situated in Maharashtra’s Nashik district, has been regularly churning out remakes of Bollywood films with twisted storylines and lookalikes, armed with just a ragtag crew and a shoestring budget. Malegaon’s ‘parallel’ cinema shot to fame in 2000 with Nasir Shaikh’s debut film Malegaon Ke Sholay, a spoof of the cult classic.

“We took the same idea, inspiration and canvas to Allahabad, and the love story is in the backdrop of this madness, quirky and filmy stuff. We work in a projection room where each day some old film is playing, and the lifestyle of these boys — the way they romance, the way they fight is all influenced by these films. Even the action sequences we shoot in that typical Bollywood style is not there in the film but it is actually done for their own local film. These things really fascinated me to be part of the film,” said the actor.

A still from Milan Talkies trailer. YouTube screengrab

A still from Milan Talkies trailer. YouTube screengrab

Fazal’s opening dialogue in the film is a scene from Mughal-E-Azam, and he plays both Akbar and Salim. “We needed voice modulation and everybody was worried that we may have to go for dubbing. But I tried and could manage both the voice of Dilip Kumar and Prithviraj Kapoor. Let’s see if people like it. They will either find it tacky or they will understand that it has got that filmy undertone because of the environment,” said Fazal.

Fazal had to lose about 12 kg for the film. "When I met Tigmanshu sir early last year, he found me very bulky. I was almost double the size that was required for the film and I told him to give me two to three months to get back into shape. I didn’t want to look like a hero in Allahabad for Milan Talkies. He is someone who one could connect with. It was very hard to lose all that muscle but it’s good because for Mirzapur sequel, I have to look lean,” said Fazal.

In a confession, Fazal admits he usually avoids watching his own films. “I go into depression because I am very critical of myself. I watch a few portions here and there. I saw some part during dubbing , then I will watch bits and pieces during its premiere. I have not watched Mirzapur yet,” he says.

Fazal, who is still making inroads into Bollywood 10 years after he began his career with Aamir Khan’s 3 Idiots in a cameo, is currently in a happy space. He has a few more projects lined up besides the Mirzapur sequel and Prasthanam (remake of a Telugu political thriller, alongside Sanjay Dutt and Manisha Koirala). “2019 is looking good. It is a good time for actors, directors, storytellers. Now, you don’t have to worry that you need a big superstar to make the film work. Last two years brought a huge change for the audience and cinema. Good content is working,” says Fazal.

Fazal, who never chased masala potboilers, may have now given a nod to a few commercial subjects with big studios. He feels that films should not be categorised.  “At the end of the year, I am working with couple of what we may call as mainstream big studio production houses. But I think that this whole funda has to go. Lot of what we used to call off-beat art has become good cinema and it will become better. I always wanted to be part of good projects. I have just come from a narration. It was such a poor script though it is a big banner. What do I say? Very politely, I turned it down. I would say it is good cinema or bad cinema but even good cinema has to be presented well and you need a forefront leader to present it. Today, people like Dinesh Vijan, Excel Entertainment, or Dharma (Productions) also to a certain extent, have been presenting some good cinema and not just anything. Then it makes a big difference,” says the actor raring to go.

Updated Date: Mar 13, 2019 08:45:22 IST

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