Filmi Fairytale

Reema Kagti, director of Talaash tells Momtaz Begum-Hossain how she went from being a school girl film buff to one of the most talented women in the industry.  

Posted: 11.11.12

I spent most of watching Honeymoon Travels PVT with my mouth open. It was a simple story following the lives of ordinary people; yet there was something about the film’s style; the way it had been shot, the natural acting and characterisations, the brilliant lead song Sajnaji Vaari Vaari and the overall directing, that made it so refreshing. It wasn’t until afterwards that I discovered it had been made and directed by a new female director called Reema Kagti. I loved her work immediately and was already anticipating what she’d do next.

It turns out that her second directorial project would be a real labour of love, five years later. The film in question is Taalash. Set for release on November 30th, it stars three of the finest and most respected actors in the industry; Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor and Rani Mukerjee. A ‘suspense thriller’, the choice of genre places it in a league of it’s own, before it’s even been screened. So what made Reema choose such an uncommon genre? She explains: ‘It’s very much a drama but suspense is an element of that. It’s what takes the story and leads it to a certain place. In Indian film you don’t see a lot of suspense but in Talaash, it’s used to engage and entertain the audience.’ 

Storytelling is of significant importance to Reema and she wrote Talaash eight years ago, long before Honeymoon Travels PVT came out. At the time she shared the script with her best friend Zoya Aktar, herself another phenomenal Indian female film director, and who she collaborated with, writing last year’s award-winning Zindagi Na Milengi Dobara

Reema reveals: ‘I was sitting in Zoya’s room, when her brother Farhan walked in. He wanted to hear the script too so I read it to him. He loved it and wanted to buy it so I sold it to him. Then a couple of years later, once I’d made Honeymoon Travels, I started to regret what I had done. I wanted my film back, so I asked Farhan if he’d sell it to me, I was hoping and wishing he’d let me work on it at least, but he realised how much I wanted to direct it so in the end, I did.’

A role model for anyone wanting to pursue a career in filmmaking, Reema, who turned 40 last month, has modernised Bollywood despite having no family connections. She reveals: ‘I grew up in a village in North East India, in Assam and my father had a farm – we had no film connections but I was a film buff! I was always watching films, but there was one that changed my life and made me realise I wanted to work in the industry - Salaam Bombay! I even missed school to watch it. I later applied to film school and didn’t get in but a few years later started working as an Assistant Director.’

Whilst working on Dil Chata Hai, Lakshya and Lagaan she learnt and honed her skills in bringing stories to life in front of the camera. Her best friend Zoya Aktar proved to be her rock and the two of them supported each other to make their own films. Reema explains: ‘Friendship is very important to me and it’s one of the key things that has helped me. I think that’s why the script for ZNMD worked so well as we were two best friends writing about friendship.’

The socialising aspect also played a role behind the scenes of shooting Talaash. When I asked Reema what her lasting memories of making the film will be, she gave an unexpected response. She said: ‘We had a cast and crew cricket match. Aamir took it upon himself to recruit the very best players for his side…he’s a big fan of the game and prides himself on the fact his side never looses, accept on this occasion they did! I won’t forget that!’

So that’s the fun post-work antics taken care of, but how did Reema find the day-to-day challenges of directing three leads who are experts in the field of film? She explains: ‘They are all very strong actors, but it’s actually how they get into the skin of their characters and how they translate that to the screen that empowered me as a director. Kareena and Rani were very professional and very chilled, while Aamir was very supportive and always there for me. He has a lot of vision and so brought a lot to the film.’

Aside from the gripping storyline and outstanding cast, the soundtrack to the film, is also proving popular, with influences that include retro, jazz and drum and bass. The musical elements are one of Reema’s favourite aspects of the film. She enthuses: ‘There are no item numbers, the songs are scripted into the film, if you miss them you loose vital information. Also they are such wonderful songs – you wouldn’t want to miss them anyway!’

The only aspect of Talaash that has upset Reema is how the film has been handled at the censor stage. Last month a new law was passed in India which states smoking is not allowed to be shown in films, something which has angered Reema as she believes cutting out the smoking scenes or covering them up violates her rights as an artist; ‘We received a letter to say we must cover up the smoking scenes with text that says ‘smoking is injurious to health’, or cut them out. I don’t mind these messages being up before the film starts and during the interval but to appear on screen during the film damages a director’s work. At the moment I’m not sure what we’ll have to do, but I aim to fight the government on this matter!’

Talaash is released on November 30th.
Keep an eye on Asiana.TV for an interview with the film’s lead actor Aamir Khan.


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