Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mostofa Sarwar Farooki Across the Table

Farooki with participants of the programme. Photos: ATL AAKASH
The first instalment of Star Arts & Entertainment's new initiative, Across the Table, bringing artistes face to face with their fans, was held at The Daily Star Centre in Dhaka on January 9 with one of today's most accomplished film directors of the country, Mostofa Sarwar Farooki. Ten readers were selected through lottery from the numerous responses to the programme announcement, and they engaged in a lively discussion with Farooki over a wide range of issues. Excerpts from the discussion:

Mahfuz Anam, Editor and Publisher, The Daily Star: Films are a magnificent media for artistic expression, social messages and transformation, and I consider myself a big fan of you. I warmly welcome you to The Daily Star and thank you for accepting our invitation.

Sadya Afreen Mallick, Editor, Star Arts & Entertainment: We have anot
her regular feature called DS Cafe where our readers ask questions to celebrities over the phone, but we thought why don't we bring our readers face to face with their favourite personalities? We are elated that Farooki, who has gained international acclaim for his work, is among us.

Mamun Rashid, IR postgraduate, Chittagong University: What is more important for a film -- a good script, or good direction?

Farooki: What do you think is more important when cooking? Good ingredients or skills? You cannot have a good result without either of them. However, in one aspect I'd keep direction a little ahead, because you can bring home the best ingredients and still cook a very bad meal. Story is important but if two directors belonging to very different levels of skill are given the same story, they will make two completely different films.

Mahfuz Anam: When you see a story, can you visualise the whole picture in your head? As for writers, they start with a plot, but as they write, the plot develops and evolves. Does this happen to you?

Farooki: Yes, that happens to me a lot. When I and writer Anisul Hoque are inspired by a story or a character, we sit in discussion. And when the final product comes out, it is nothing like the original story. When I go to shoot, the location makes me think differently and I always like to make corrections until it is completed.

Mamun Rashid: Can we expect an action thriller from you in near future?
Farooki: I want to make films of different genres. It's a huge positive that the international film fraternity has noticed our work, and praised it, but it will be of no use if in the next five years, we cannot produce good films of various genres. In our country, there are two supposed schools of film: one is Bollywood inspired, and the other is the Satyajit Ray or Indian art house inspired. Making films within these confinements makes one thing difficult; it creates an identity crisis. We now have access to global films and resources from all over the world at our fingertips. If you're making an action film, you should watch films by 10 different directors, and take your choice of elements from them to make a film in your own style. People will criticise it at first. There was a time when Kim Ki-duk's films were not appreciated.

Masfiqur Rahman, BSc in ETE, North South University: In your films, social issues and reality come out very strikingly. Do you want to bring about changes in the society through films?
Farooki: As a part of the society, I do think about these issues. Social activists analyse them, motivate people and take action, but it is difficult as a filmmaker, because it is an art. One very common question about films these days is “what is the message of the film?” I like to think of messages as undergarments -- they have to remain under the main fabric of the film. Only Superman can wear it over his clothes. My primary target is to make a film; yes, there is an underlying portrayal of how I see the society, but I wouldn't want to bring it too far forward.

Mizanur Rahman, Dhaka-based filmmaker: If I want to shoot a film with a Red One (special camera), would I be able to process and project the film here?
Farooki: It really does not make a huge difference. If you're spending a lot of money to shoot with a Red One, but you're shooting uncompressed, it won't be much different from working with a Canon 5D DSLR camera. There are new technologies coming to the market everyday, and not all of them will be available here right away. But I always believe in cutting my coat according to my cloth. Creativity should never have to wait for technology or budget or anything else.

Mizanur Rahman: When casting, should I get theatre artistes for the roles, or should I get people who have never acted before?
Farooki: There are advantages and disadvantages of casting a theatre artiste. The advantage is that he/she will not have camera fright. But theatre acting has a stylised approach, because from a long distance, the audience cannot follow the subtle body language, so the acting is always a little “larger than life”. The risk of casting non-actors is that it can turn out to be a disaster, but he/she can also produce something that no one has seen before. Personally, I would cast a complete newcomer, and try to get out something new from him/her.

Ahsan Habib Russell, Student, Dhaka University: What is your core advice for someone who wants to be a filmmaker?
Farooki: If someone asks me what my advice is for someone who wants to learn swimming, I'd say jump into the water. If you want to make films, start making them. Make rubbish films at first, you'll make mistakes, but gradually you'll learn and improve. And if you are not making good films, it means you tried but it did not work, then you move on.

Tasnim Ahmed Konok, Student, Leather Engineering, Dhaka University: What are the rules that you believe need to be followed to make a good film?
Farooki: The most important rule is -- don't follow any rule. Do whatever you need to do to tell the story you want to tell, break any rule that you have to for that. And never stop questioning yourself. The day you start feeling content with yourself is the day you stop developing. One more thing: never compromise. To improvise and to compromise are two different things. Omitting parts of your script because it is not working is compromising. If you are omitting something, think of how you can fill up that void. That's improvising

Shazzad Hussain, Student, Dhaka University: When a movie comes out, everyone asks who are in it; very few people ask who wrote it, or directed it. The problem must have been worse when you started filmmaking. What were the factors that gave you strength? For someone who writes good scripts, how can he/she pitch stories to directors like you, Amitabh Reza or Mezbaur Rahman Sumon?
Farooki: My biggest support was the youth of Bangladesh. We started making films at a very right time, when a generation with a new outlook was growing up. We grew up together.
The answer to the second question is: you can email me, or contact me through Facebook.

Devapriyo Mithun, Student, Engineering: In your films, how do you maintain the ratio of logic and emotion?
Farooki: It is a very subjective question. It's different for every film, depending on what the story is. It is a whimsical decision, and I sometimes wonder why I did that?

RK Rony, Student, Pathshala (South Asian Media Institute): What is your understanding of the term “film”? Do you think it is possible to make a film for everyone in the society?
Farooki: I don't believe that one story can touch the lives of all classes of the audience. It's absurd. And as for your first question: a film is a non-verbal, visual dialogue between the director and the audience. Non-verbal because although there are dialogues in the film, the filmmaker and the audience are not talking directly.

Rubaiyat Habib Onin, HSC graduate: Going to a film school is very expensive, especially the top schools in the world. Those who cannot avail that chance, what is your suggestion for them to learn the art?
Farooki: Yes, filmmaking is one of the most expensive subjects of study. But there is a lot of material on the internet, you could go through them. Watch a lot of movies of different genres and countries. Start shooting, start editing; editing softwares are easy to find now. You'll learn best in the process of filmmaking. I never went to a film school.

Nafis Shahriyar, Department of English, Dhaka University: How does a director approach a script written by someone else? Which aspects do the director look into first? Surrealism is not a genre that is practiced much in Bangladesh; do you have any plan to work in that genre?
Farooki: Filmmaking, or poetry, is the translation of the personality of the artiste. So, impose your personality in the film. The scriptwriter leaves his mark on the script; leave yours on the film. In my films, I sometimes put elusive elements and treatments in certain scenes. But a whole film on it? No plan at the moment.
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