At 33, director Ali Abbas Zafar, in his kitty, has the biggest blockbuster of the year – Sultan, starring Salman Khan, which has grossed almost 600 crores. For a two-film-old filmmaker, without any filmy backing in his family tree, this is just the beginning. Ali in conversation with NT BUZZ
Danuska Da Gama I NT BUZZ
Film director Ali Abbas Zafar has been basking in the glory of the biggest blockbuster of the year, Sultan, starring Salman Khan, which has grossed almost 600 crores, making it the fourth Indian film to do so. What he also has been doing is travelling across film festivals with his film; an achievement no less, especially when it is a mainstream, commercial and formula film.
“The very fact the ‘Sultan’ has been chosen this year at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) alongside ‘Airlift’ and last year ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ was screened, only means that despite being commercial, formulaic, or mainstream films, the stories can move an audience,” says Zafar.
While he went on to say that he would love to make a film solely for the festival, every film, even mainstream films are challenging to make and that they have their own strengths and weaknesses. “People spend their hard earned money to watch a mainstream film. It doesn’t matter who says what about the film, but when you get commercial success, it is the biggest reward for a filmmaker,” he says before adding that the fact that he has been able to bring a smile to the common man who has watched his film is success enough for him.
He says it is not entirely stars who decide the fate of a film, but the story. He spoke about how an international audience at the Busan Film Festival, were moved after watching the film, which only goes on to prove that story has the power to reach and connect with a global audience. “Sultan is a universal story of a man fighting with himself. When Sylvester Stallone heard the story…he really liked it and said it could be easily made in the US. That’s the power of cinema; it has its own language.”
When asked about the upsurge of bipoics, Zafar maintained that in today’s times, story is the hero and that real life stories can be made into good films. “Making a biopic is good as we celebrate these heroes. If you can make the film in the best possible manner and do justice to the person and his/her story, it’s phenomenal. And if the story is inspiring…why not?”
There has been a sudden surge of Indian films that focus on sports from ‘Chak de India’, to ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’, ‘Mary Kom’, ‘Sultan’, ‘MS Dhoni’ and the yet to be released ‘Dangal’. Terming this situation bizarre Zafar admits it has all happened in one go. He doesn’t deny that sport is a good genre to make films, and more so in India where people follow sports passionately. “I personally love the sports genre. I connect to it in a different way,” he says.
Talking further about trends in Bollywood he said with the changing times, there is a lot of pressure on directors to meet expectations. “Whether it’s about making films which have women in the lead roles like ‘Neerja’ and ‘Pink’, or omitting songs from a film, everything is changing.”
After having worked with Salman in the blockbuster ‘Sultan’, he admits the pressure is high. “You have to up your game. The story has to be relevant. It is the trust that the star puts in you and you just have to explore the chance to do or make something new of him,” says Zafar.
When asked to speak about his equation with Salman Khan who he calls SK, he says that to him Sallumiyan is like a big brother who is always open to ideas. “We do not have that actor/director ego,” says Zafar who is very appreciative that Salman pushed himself hard in ‘Sultan’.
Talking about ‘Tiger Zinda Hai’ – the sequel to ‘Ek Tha Tiger’ – that will star Salman Khan and his best friend Katrina Kaif he says that it’s a film that deals with spies and political espionage in the line of its predecessor.