Imtiaz Ali: Filmmakers must focus on storytelling instead of making projects based on equations

The director said that it does no good to stick to a formula while making films
Imtiaz Ali
Imtiaz Ali

Director Imtiaz Ali says it is important that the film industry trains its focus on the essence of storytelling over designing films as projects based on "mathematical equations".

Imtiaz, who released his last film Amar Singh Chamkila on Netflix, said filmmakers must understand that a certain X factor draws the audience to the theatres, something which can't be quantified.

He said, "It's just that we make projects in a certain way. We feel that we need mathematical equations... and there is an algorithm and therefore, there will be a recovery. Each time this calculation is done, it turns out to not be accurate.”

He added, "Because in every film, you can have all the ingredients, the same actors and a certain director make two films like that but they'll not have the same outcome financially. So there is always that X factor, which perhaps is the audience coming to watch. You got to focus on that, which is actually the essence of storytelling in filmmaking."

The director was speaking at the second edition of the Indian Express' six-part series Expresso, held in Hyderabad. Also present at the event was actor Taapsee Pannu.

The director, also known for films such as Jab We Met (2007), Socha Na Tha (2005) and Love Aaj Kal (2009), said there is always a period of uncertainty in the industry.

He said, "When I came in, people were saying, 'This was the worst time in the film industry, nothing is working and all films are flopping’... I remember we were all struggling at that point of time to make a film. This was a period of great uncertainty and insecurity for the film industry. And then we came in and said, 'We know. You should make Socha Na Tha, you should make Black Friday.”

Crisis ultimately turns out to be a great opportunity, Imtiaz said. “This particular phase that we are sitting on where many movies have not done well, people don't know whether they want to go to theatres anymore and OTT is doing its thing but we don't know what and where will it stand later, will turn out to be a very positive thing because filmmakers will have to leave some old habits behind and it is very disconcerting to do so. Unless we do that, no creativity can spawn,” he added.

Taapse, who was last seen in Dunki, said the need to restructure arises whenever "redundancy sets in".

"It happens every five to six years because you are following the same formula and there comes a point that the formula stops working, so you feel uneasy... This is the right phase to break that monotony and redundancy," she said.

Asked if she would have said yes to a film like Animal, the actor said, "On paper, yes."

One of the most controversial films of 2023, the Ranbir Kapoor-starrer Animal earned over ₹900 crore at the box office. A sequel of the film, directed by Sandeep Reddy Vanga, is in the works.

Taapsee said it was "a little strange to hear cheers and whistles" at certain moments where she wouldn't have liked the background score to grow like that.

"... where the audience is forced to cheer, clap and whistle at certain moments. That's the issue," she said, adding she doesn't mind playing grey characters.

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