I want to tell my stories simply: Thai Massage director  Imtiaz Ali

I started a production house ––Window Seat Films––a couple of years ago, with the realisation that, at best, I can direct one film in two years

author_img Trisha Mukherjee Published :  24th July 2022 09:30 PM   |   Published :   |  24th July 2022 09:30 PM
A still from Thai Massage

A still from Thai Massage

Director Imtiaz Ali tells Trisha Mukherjee about his upcoming theatrical release Thai Massage, the first film he’s bankrolled but not directed, exploring OTT, and why he wants to hone his craft further:

Thai Massage is the first film you are producing, but not directing. Why is that?

I started a production house ––Window Seat Films––a couple of years ago, with the realisation that, at best, I can direct one film in two years. There are, however, so many stories I want to tell–– stories that are mine, and others that are not. I thought I would exhaust myself and the day I die, I may have this regret that there were so many things I wanted to do, but couldn’t. As a result of the production house, I can still contribute to the stories I have to tell. Also, I enjoy collaborating with creative minds, which, as a director, you sometimes don’t get to do because other writers and directors don’t come and work with a writer-director.

Tell us about the storyline of Thai Massage.

It is the story of a 70-year-old man with erectile dysfunction. It has a lot to do with beginning a journey at a certain age. It’s not just the dysfunction, but literally the coming-of-age story of a 70-year-old.

Your films have almost always been headlined bybig names. In Thai Massage, however, the lead roles are played by Gajraj Rao and Divyendu Sharma, who the audience has seen largely in supporting roles. What made you pick the two actors?

I have tremendous faith in the story and director Mangesh Hadawale. There are such beautiful insights in the story, such artistic human qualities in it that I had to produce it… because of the force of the story. And it required a specific type of actor. When we make a film, it is not just a bit to catch the biggest star; we have to get a suitable cast, which we were lucky to get in this case.

With Thai Massage, you also divert from your favourite theme, love, to dabble into comedy. What led to that?

You will have to see the film to realise what it is. It might be different from what you expect of me, but in some way, it is also similar. There’s a reason why I am producing it. There is an exhilaration of the
human heart. There is a journey, and realisation, which are things you see in some of my films.

Tell us about your OTT project SHE, and what made you explore the medium?

There are some stories which I couldn’t make into feature films because of the duration. You could cut it down to two hours, but it would lead to some content loss. I have had the story of SHE for seven years
in my mind, but could never really develop it. But the moment I realised that there are OTT platforms and they are doing series, it didn’t take too long from there.

Some of your last films, including Tamasha and Jab Harry Met Sejal, received mixed reviews. Your comment?

I think Tamasha was a thought-provoking film. People engaged with it a lot and reacted to it. I think Tamasha and other films have a lot of legacy value. When you make a film, you try to make it in its own juices. I would do that, and if people don’t like the film, usually the reason is that they find something missing.

I want my movies to be universally immediately popular, no doubt. But I think I am in the process of learning how to make my stories simpler. I don’t want to compromise on what I have to say, just because I want an easily approachable film. I think I have got some years left though, in which
I want to hone my craft and make myself better so that I will be able to tell my stories simply, even if they are sophisticated and layered. For me that is important.

What made you participate in the storytelling festival Kathakar, which was recently held in Delhi?

Stories are the basis of everything that is important to me. Kathakar is the only festival that celebrates storytelling. I have never found an atmosphere like this, where you sit under the stars, free yourself from devices, and understand that you can find out about new things without the Internet. I believe Kathakar is a festival that celebrates the very basis of what people like me do.

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