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'Fiza is an extension of my personality'

Khalid Mohamed can't seem to understand what the fuss is all about. Khalid Mohamed

His directorial debut, Fiza releases this Friday (September 8). Mohamed, for his part, finds himself answering the same questions endlessly, tirelessly and constantly. If it isn't a newspaper asking for an interview, it's a TV channel. If it isn't both, it's a website.

For a man who says he hasn't done anything staggering, the media is certainly treating him as if he has. A large part of it, of course, has to do with the fact that he has been a film critic known for "making or breaking" a film every Friday, for the last couple of decades.

Not that that is an extraordinary feat. Many international journalists have done so in the past. And done so successfully and well.

As for Mohamed, he scripted two films -- Sardari Begum and Mammo -- both of which were directed by Shyam Benegal. ďNobody would touch my films. Only Shyam Benegal was ready to direct it,Ē he explains, in retrospect.

Given a choice, Mohamed would let his film speak for him. And do what he does best. Critiquing films and exploring them in every possible way. That's a tall order, as he reveals to rediff.com's Sharmila Taliculam:

Was the decision to become a director a difficult one to take?

No, but I never thought of it until Santosh Sivan told me to give it a try.

In fact, five people are responsible for my taking up direction. The first was, of course, Santosh, who told me that since I watched so many films and wrote scripts, why donít I direct a film? What's more, he assured me that he would film it for me.

Then Karisma Kapoor entered the picture. I had shown the script to her -- she liked it immensely, thought the story was terrific. She immediately said she'd love to do the role. In fact, when she went to Delhi for the National Awards, she met Santosh. The two of them decided to convince me to direct the film.

The third person was Hrithik Roshan. I thought his eyes were so similar to Karisma's -- they'd suit the roles of brother and sister so well. He agreed to do it.

Jaya Bachchan was another person who read the script and told me she'd love to do the film.

So I had the cast. But I couldnít see myself knocking the doors of the financiers. I went upto my boss, Pradeep Guha, asking him to read the script. He did and told me he'd finance the film. So everything just fell into place.

Besides, I've always watched films keeping in mind the camera, the technique... And it wasn't as if I were new to the business. I had written scripts and done something for the television, too. In that sense, it wasn't difficult to take the decision.

How different is direction from being a film critic?

There is no distinct compartmentalisation between the two. It's like, say, a farmer trying to do gardening. I think anyone who wants to extend one's personality likes to look at things beyond what he is doing.

I donít think I am doing anything unique or newsworthy. This is just an extension of my personality. In other parts of the world, many journalists have directed films and good ones, too. Why not here?

As a critic, how do you rate yourself as a director?

Pretty good actually!

Subjectively speaking, I knew what I wanted my film to be. I didnít have to get more technical than I already was. I knew what I wanted from mine -- how the shots would look, what kind of light I wanted, the characters...

Would be able to honestly criticise your own film when you have directed it?

(Laughs) I would never attempt criticising my film. For one, it won't be ethical. I have been a writer and now a director.

I'll leave the criticism to other people. See, when a journalist asks a question, he does with some feeling behind it. He never asks something without knowing what he is talking about. I know because I have been one. So I'll just concentrate on the film and hope for the best.

As a director, whose criticism do you respect the most? The public, the critics, peers -- as in filmmakers -- you admire?

All three. Whether itís a man on the street or a chairman of a company.


I know I have made a film which I like and with complete honesty. Itís important for me to get all three to notice my work. I have been a big fan of many of the industryís filmmakers and it would be nice if they recognise my work.

What has been more stimulating for you? Being a director or a critic?

I donít think one should take oneself so seriously.

I haven't done something staggering. This is not the be-all or end-all of me. It's just a question of expressing myself in a different medium, one I am familiar and comfortable with. I have enjoyed a Manmohan Desai film as much as a Martin Scorsese or Raj Kapoor -- not that I'm comparing myself to them.

What I do feel at this point of time is, it's rather strange that this spotlight is on me, just because I have been a film critic. TV channels suddenly want to interview me. I get phone calls all the time...

Also watch the Fiza slide show!

Related stories:
'Fiza will shock many people'
'It's not a launchpad like Kaho Naa... or Refugee'

Do tell us what you think of this interview

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