Phir bhi dil hai Hindustani

Reposing in his Khandala home following the release of Kismat Konnection, Aziz Mirza talks to Rishi Majumder about his love for the common people and real romance

Aziz Mirza

Ah! I see a nice tree,” says the gregarious, booming voice that has come to characterise filmmaker Aziz Mirza. Mirza has left for Khandala to spend a night at his brother’s place, the day after his film Kismat Konnection’s release. He’s now looking for a nice tree under which he wants to enjoy the afternoon.
“I am affected by the financial returns from a film because there are people who have invested money in it,” Mirza states simply. “But the last time a critic affected me was during Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani.” His other three directorial ventures, Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman, Yes Boss and especially Chalte Chalte, were well received by critics and box offices alike. “It affected me because Phir Bhi… was a leap forward as a director,” Mirza explains. While the other three films were romances set in social scenarios suffered by the middle class, Phir Bhi… was his first film to place a social issue (media urging public opinion to translate into action) at its helm. This is reminiscent of his brother Saeed Mirza’s films (Albert
Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Aaata Hai?; Salim Lagde Pe Mat Ro…) except that “Saeed doesn’t mince words. I sugarcoated a social message to reach more people”. Today, he laughs, with events like the Jessica Lall case leading media to rouse middle-class public into protesting on streets and overturning unjust court orders, that message seemed tinged with prophecy.
Kismat… is the first film he’s made since wife Nirmala’s death, five years ago. “It’s not that I’d taken a hiatus,” he explains. “I was just too upset to work.” Nirmala, a dedicated social worker, had pushed Mirza to not worry about money, quit his truck transport business, and pursue his passion in filmmaking. The son of scriptwriter Akhtar Mirza (who wrote Naya Daur) remembers his mother noting ideas for his father’s scripts on unused pages of his school exercise books. “Nirmala was in the hospital during Chalte…,” Mirza also remembers. “But she kept sending me notes on how the relationship between the couple should be depicted.” Nirmala was an ex-psychology student,
and Mirza was scared of using some of her deep analyses in Chalte… “because I didn’t want to experiment too much after Phir Bhi…” But what she did manage to influence, by her life rather than her notes, was his creation of strong female characters, and romances that stem from the struggle that a relationship endures. “I was in love with my wife from school,” he recounts happily. “Romance for us wasn’t dancing around trees like in the movies, but waiting for a bus while promising to buy ourselves a car some day. It was dependence, and faith.” This romance comes forth in Kismat… as well: “All the struggles – of ideology and livelihood – which come in between a relationship are present, just in a different environment.” And this lasting romance, with a childhood love, is as ever omnipresent in the script he’s writing.
Kismat… is also Mirza’s first film to be situated outside Mumbai. “I wanted a change – a city that was a metropolis in general,” he explains. This is unlike his earlier films which had distinct shades of Bombay city in its locales as
well as characters.
Finally, Kismat… is the first film made by Mirza that doesn’t have Shah Rukh Khan playing protagonist. From Circus and Raju… to Chalte… Mirza has always been credited for being able to cast Khan as the common man, while so many directors thought his star image was too huge for such portrayal. “Shah Rukh has grown up before me,” dismisses Mirza. “I understand his middleclass roots so well, because I see a younger me in him so often.” This understanding had prompted Mirza and Khan, along with Juhi Chawla to start production house Dreamz Unlimited, to make the kind of movies they wanted to make. “Dreamz hasn’t been shut down. Only the office closed, because we weren’t making any film,” Mirza emphasises, and follows with a pun. “When Shah Rukh, Juhi and I decide to make a film, we’ll make it with Dreamz.” Dreamt personally, amidst middle class metropolis romances… or under a tree near Khandala.

This article first appeared in Mumbai Mirror, Times Of India:


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