Writing is solitary? Uh-oh, don’t tell all those U.S. network and studio execs who keep making producers open larger and larger writers rooms. Here’s a good article from India illustrating a not-so-good truth that American showbiz just doesn’t get anymore:
by Prashant Singh
When you enter his quiet pad in Andheri’s Lokhandwala area, writer-director Habib Faisal instantly sets the tone of our chat by uninhibitedly sharing his views on the current state of affairs in the country. “We always connect politics to party politics. But it can also be about politics of entertainment or engagement (sic),” says the 49-year-old, as he also talks about his journey in Bollywood, his admiration for Amitabh Bachchan, and more.
You are an accomplished writer and director. What excites you more — writing or directing?
I can’t pick one over the other. They’re both very different experiences. Writing is a very solitary experience; it’s a bigger personal struggle for me. On the other hand, when I direct, I have a script that I have confidence in. But when I am writing, I don’t have anything. Writing is a far more complex process. When it happens, it’s joyful. But when it doesn’t, you hate and curse yourself.
Today, when you look back, do you feel that you are doing what you had set out to do?
Professionally, yes. I guess most directors would say that it’s not a nine-to-five job. When you write or direct a film, you are into it completely. Some people are good at detaching themselves from their work, and some are not. The way things have happened with me, I can’t guarantee that I will be making films two-three years down the line. But right now, I am excited about my next script. I have been happy with the way things have happened. Now that I have a grown-up daughter, who is studying in the US, I’m trying some time management, so that I can give more time to not only the people I love, but also to myself for my personal growth.
Did films influence you a lot when you were a kid?
Not really. I used to watch films as any other viewer. At home, we were allowed to watch one film a month, and during exam time, a film airing on TV would also be problematic. I remember watching a lot of films when we would travel to Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh during summer vacations.
We’ve heard that you are a big fan of Amitabh Bachchan…
At one point, I was a huge fan, especially at the time when films like Deewar (1975) and Suhaag (1979) released. I remember watching Trishul (1978) for the first time in Delhi, and then travelling in DTC buses from Jangpura to Old Delhi to watch the movie all over again, because it moved to theatres there. I interacted with Mr Bachchan as an assistant director during the making of Jhoom Barabar Jhoom (2007). After the release of Ishaqzaade (2012), he sent me a bouquet with a hand-written note. Immediately, I had a long chat with him over the phone.
What is next?
I am writing a script. The subject requires a lot of research, and is quite complex. So, I am taking my time to make sure that it is entertaining, thoughtful and foolproof.
You worked as a cameraman for a news TV channel before you moved to Bollywood. How did the transition happen?
I started as a cameraperson professionally. But, for any creative person, things start much before you get into the professional realm. For me, it all began when I started doing theatre with Kirori Mal College’s (KMC) society, The Players. Initially, I was keen on studying medicine, specifically to be a part of army, since I always loved the uniform.
So you weren’t interested in the creative world till then…
I was doing my B.Sc in Zoology (Hons.), and had planned to prepare for the Armed Forces Medical College entrance examination after that. One day, there was a notice for an audition for a play [in my college]. I went for it, and got selected for a production — Harold Pinter’s A Night Out. I ended up playing the lead. That’s when I knew the bug had bitten me.