Meet the real star of Ishaqzaade: Habib Faisal
The big buzz film opening this weekend is Ishaqzaade. While the flashbulbs are going off for the young stars Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra, film buffs are excited about the man behind the camera - Habib Faisal.
by Vanita Singh
We have been waiting for one and a half hours already before the first of the stars of Ishaqzaade appears.
Arjun Kapoor, the 26-year-old debutant actor, saunters in to the area designated for media interactions, his hair stylishly messy like that of the small town boy he plays in the film. But now he must wait for a few minutes before the film's leading lady Parineeti Chopra announces her arrival.
And somewhere before Parineeti's loud talk and after Arjun's star walk, was the unannounced entrance of the film's director, Habib Faisal.
The trio begin their drill with an interview to a TV channel: Parineeti proclaims herself to be 'the singer,' Arjun too finds his star voice and challenges the reporter to get down and learn the dance moves. Only director Habib Faisal has no grand claims to make.
Perhaps that is because Faisal has already managed to say a lot more through his films than what the his two young stars can do with all their pomp and show. From his story of the young and restless in Band Baaja Baarat to now his trigger-happy lovers in Ishaqzaade – Faisal has captured the real India without compromising on the filmi hooks (read song and dance routines and the dialogue-baazi). He is certainly a part of the extraordinary league of realistic filmmakers including the likes of Anurag Kashyap and Dibakar Banerjee.
“The final push was when I finally had something to say and share it on my own terms,” says Faisal in his self-assured baritone about why he turned director with 2010's Do Dooni Chaar. That film was a quirky look into the aspirations of a middle-class family from Delhi's Lajpat Nagar - that of owning a car. The germ of that idea came with the launch of the Nano - Tata's one lakh rupee wonder. “Everybody had their first car story. Everybody wanted their own car,” says Faisal who used to be a cameraman with NDTV before diving into scriptwriting and filmmaking. “I have done one MA from Jamia, a Masters from Illionis and five years of ‘getting to know India’ with NDTV.” The job required him to travel across the country and served as a fast track lane to “cricketers, industrialists, swanky offices, poor towns… I never knew places like Jagatpur existed!”
Yet his first projects as a scriptwriter in the film industry were movies like Salaam Namaste, Ta Ra Rum Pum and Jhoom Barabar Jhoom - all set outside India, and far from the real India that Faisal has come to delineate so well in his films. Those films, however, failed to make any dent critically or commercially. “The society is ever evolving, so does its popular culture like films, arts, etc,” says Faisal defending the films that he believes had been designed to cater to the then dominant NRI audience. The flush of such films was followed by a slump in their collections. “Soon small budget films made big budget formula question itself," says Faisal citing examples like Bheja Fry. But much before that, there was Munna Bhai. “In fact, Munna Bhai was meant to be a small film. Rajkumar Hirani took Sanjay Dutt who was not that big (at that point of time.) Nor was Arshad Warsi. And it was a film about Gandhian philosophy,” he says about 2003’s Munna Bhai MBBS.
Three years after Ta Ra Rum Pum, the last of his NRI dramas, Faisal returned with two stories set in Delhi - Band Baaja Baraat and Do Dooni Chaar both set among the capital’s middle class. "When I set it in Janakpuri or Lajpat Nagar it becomes more relatable," adds Faisal who himself looks like a Dilliwalla corporate type with his crisp shirt and spectacles.
He listens to the questions directed towards him and chooses his words like he refers to producers as "money bags" and says finding one for his first directorial venture, Do Dooni Chaarwas not difficult. "I don't have a story of knocking on 10,000 doors. I got lucky," says Faisal about selling his story of Lajpat Nagar's Duggals for whom a car holds the promise of an instant status upgrade.
"There are takers for good stories," he says.
So he is now aiming to tell another with his latest, Ishaqzaade that releases this week. Even until a few days back, he had been busy putting finishing touches to the picture and sound quality of the film or as he says "Everyday it's like a butterfly factory." So is he happy with the butterfly called Ishaqzaade that is emerging from its factory?
"Films are not personal indulgence, they are not bathroom singing,” he says. This is why he takes care to keep his films relatable, assimilating the concerns and conditions of the middle class everyman. That everyman will be the star of Ishaqzaade as well. And while its promos and trailers are all blazing guns and chases, Faisal confirms that this one is a love story. "In our films we have taken falling in love for granted," he says. "(But) love is still a taboo."
Whether you are rich or poor, live in small towns or big cities, something as fundamental as love is still frowned upon. A boy and girl in love still need to convince their parents in order to marry. And when they do tie the knot, their parents proudly announce it as their child's accomplishment: "Humaari beti ne toh love marriage ki hai," singsongs Faisal in that typical Delhi accent.
Postscript: At this point the ever-smiling yet assertive public relations representative signals that time is up. When I ask Faisal about a possible follow-up via email, he almost laughs, "If only I had the time to respond to an email…" He says thank you politely before being ushered to the next interview.
Vanita Singh is Associate Features Producer, CNN-IBN