In a casual mood we settle down for a chat with Ali Fazal – known for his impressive roles in ‘Fukrey’, ‘Happy Bhag jayegi’, ‘Mirzapur’. He has come a long way gaining recognition in Bollywood and Hollywood. He talks to us about his latest release ‘Milan Talkies’, his critical view about him, why small, simple stories work these days amidst much more…

What was the most interesting aspect to come onboard for ‘Milan Talkies’?
I think the concept was really cool. I remember watching a film when I was a kid called ‘Cinema Parody’, it was an iconic film.  It’s a film about a kid who works in a projection room in a single theater so when I heard the story of ‘Milan Talkies’, I found this film as a reference, though ‘Milan Talkies’ is a love story but the base of it is similar. It’s a story of these young guys in Allahabad who make local films. In the place Malegoan these people make all released films in local budget; they’ve made ‘Mughal-E-Azam’, ‘Batman’, ‘Superman’, ‘Avengers’, many such films.  In a budget of 20-30 thousand, taking their own people they make films, they literally have a screening and they earn double the amount invested. So, ‘Milan Talkies’ is inspired from there, in the trailer you can see the action sequences they look very tacky but when you watch the film you realize that those are the shots we are shooting within the film. Because they don’t have proper equipments and they work on temporary arrangements, they have all smart ideas for everything but in cinematic way.  I am happy that this film is finally made after being in talks for years.

How instinctive are you when it comes to choosing films?  
I feel it’s definitely the gut feeling because when I am scared about doing things that’s when I know I want to do it, when I can’t figure it out as to what will I do and how will I do. For example in ‘Mirzapur’, I couldn’t figure out what will I do on the day of shoot but I knew I needed the right trainer, the right costume department, I need the right direction. So, you have to trust your gut feeling, you have to blindly trust and take the leap of faith with the production.

Talking about ‘Mirzapur’ and the appreciation you have received for your character, do you believe your previous choices make an impact as to what will bring you in for future?
For an actor, it is a treat to be able to play different parts, the last part I played was Abdul Karim which was totally different and I was happy because it was a big, big validation for progress in Indian cinema where somebody had cast Ali Fazal for a part like Guddu Pandit. If I was the producer I wouldn’t cast Ali Fazal for this character because Ali Fazal has a different image – subtle, good actor, can act and stuff like these. So it’s nice to see that, it makes you work, and I like working on my voice. Voice modulation is really important for an actor, that’s why people say you should be able to sing, because singers can always modulate their voice. And if you want to compete at a global stage then you have to be trained at so many things, it’s not only that you make a good body and people only talk about that. So, my point in ‘Mirzapur’ was not to show people that I’ve only transformed, though it’s a part of it and I wanted to do for myself. I have never gone to the gym, I am a sports guy and I play basketball. So for me it was kind of a cage for six months I had only done weights, so that was a challenge and it wasn’t that easy to get the acting right.

How interesting was it for you to play this character in ‘Milan Talkies’ who is an aspiring director and also your experience to work with your director Tigmanshu as one of the co-stars?  
It was easy to work with Tigmanshu sir because I feel any good actor with you makes your job easier and he came as a surprise, I didn’t know he is playing my father. And I don’t think anyone has ever seen Tigmanshu Dhulia in such a character, people’s perception will change after watching him. It was fun to work with him and he as a director is a genius, he is the most interesting guy I have ever met and I have learnt a lot from him. If I may say this, life before ‘Milan Talkies’ and after ‘Milan Talkies’ as an actor I learnt so much. I don’t know what will happen to the film though.

How matured do you feel as an actor when you see yourself on screen today?
Firstly I think I was horrible back then and I have improved a lot and that’s the idea as an actor and as a person to learn things. I keep trying to read, learn and do films with different parts, also learn the grammar of cinema. I chill on the sets with the camera department because I want to learn but at the same time I can’t stand watching myself, I’ve not watched ‘Mirzapur’ even.

Why so?
I am very critical to myself, if I watch my film in one go; I will go in depression for 2-3 days. After a point I can’t stand watching myself. There are some scenes I love doing and when you know you love doing it, you are confident about the scene that it’s definitely going to be turn good and there are some scenes which became big hits but I hate it. And if those things I am made to watch then I’ll go mad (Laughs)

 Do you think now-a-days a small budget film or a simple content film works than the big star films where technicality and visual appeal play the key role?
I believe this time is very important for writers, directors and actors because there is a canvas for everybody not jus big cinema, if the big cinema is with good visual effects it will work. Now the audience has so much of content to use and that too Hollywood content, in one pause you come to know if your work is good or not good and they have the liberty to switch onto some other show or a film. So small, simple stories work, because they are true to our culture, true to our roots, people are connecting with that. And for the first time there is good content then why must I watch Hollywood.

Last words on ‘Milan Talkies’?
I think it’s interesting and it has got a lot of heart in it, I don’t know what’s the final length of the film, don’t know if people will find it lengthy or short but it’s ‘Milan Talkies’ has got a lot of innocence, new age romance and old school romance. It’s a very 90’s age love and people will relate to it as we all know that time love stories. And I think the TRP of the film is that it has its quirkiness, the way they make films, and how my character writes letters through films and that’s the idea. In the age of communication there is no communication and in that miscommunication the chaos happens. And even today it is as relevant as it was back then and it’s actually very ironic. Trade Magazine