Salim Ahmed: Humbled by name and fame
This is Salim Ahmed, the director who sketched the desires of a hapless Malabar Muslim ‘Abu’ on celluloid… From the small screen of television this Malayali has reached the multiplexes in Los Angles…From the mileu in which he was born this man could carve a story which touched the heart of millions…Carrying the holiness of Mecca and Madina and breaking regional constraints Abu is growing tall in film festivals along with it the director, Mr. Salim Ahmed… Not carried away by fame and splendour of the film Salim opens up his mind to POOJA JAYAN over a cup of coffee…
State awards, national awards, international awards in Goa…will the next shot be an Oscar?
I did not do the film expecting awards. My soul aim was to make a good film. What strikes everyone after watching the film is the performance of Salim Kumar. His stunning performance motivated us to send the film for competitions and after the national awards there was no looking back. Adaminte Makan Abu is currently undergoing a technical face-lift by top-notch technicians like sound designer Resul Pookutty. We have given ads in international magazines like ‘variety’ for promotion and are planning to conduct several stage shows too.
P. T. Kunju Muhammed was comfortable making films in Malabar backdrop where as M T Vasudevan Nair focused on Nair families in Malabar and naturally Salim Ahmed too opted for a locale which is familiar to him. Why are the directors not ready to break the time-place constraints in their films? Does a comfort zone give more confidence?
A director selecting a subject and developing it into a beautiful story needs confidence. A director should communicate something through his films and for me Abu was a best medium. For my first film I penned three scripts and selected Abu among them because I had a few things to say and not simply because of comfort zone.
Have you ever felt that a particular sequence could have been done much better in the film? Any afterthoughts?
People in Kerala and abroad are wonderstruck to see that the film was completed in twenty eight days. No technical compromises were made. The best in town were hooked up for the film. Every single step was well scripted so there is no question of rethinking.
Best technicians and a perfect script then why did you gamble with the star cast? An actor with a greater star value than Salim Kumar would have been roped in …Another notable fact is that majority of the cast comes from a comedy line Suraj Venjaramood, Mukesh, Kalabhavan Mani…was it deliberate?
Salim Kumar asked me the same question –why me? A star of high satellite-channel rights would be a better option and you would surely get the returns of the money invested, he said. My answer was and is that the person suited for Abu’s role is Salim Kumar. No other actor came to my mind while writing the script; I did not and the most suited.
Kanchivaram, Kutti Shrank etc were films which had only less viewers before winning the awards, but after getting awards the scenario has completely changed. Have awards become a ‘marketing strategy’?
Awards affect a film in two ways. First, it gives the film much fame and critical acclaim.Second it would be categorised as an ‘award film’ which would prevent the common man from watching the film.It is because of the nature of the award films of the past. People need not do any homework after watching my film; even a ten year old boy can understand the story and appreciate the film.
I feel that if awards were not given to Adaminte Makan Abu more people would have seen the movie. The case is just opposite in Tamil Nadu , when a film bags an award people would definitely go and watch the movie. In Kerala how many people are still left to see the movie?
From Small screen to big screen. Have your experiences from the former helped you your new venture?
I’ve worked for Surya TV and in the programme ‘Rasigaraja’ there were 150 artists and eight cameras. There were only 80 people in the crew for my film. Experience from TV definitely.
Adaminte Makan Abu has been kept out of IFFK. Are you disappointed with the decision?
Not at all, Rules are meant to be followed; In fact I was unaware of the rule. My question is why such rules? In sports would a person participating in one competition be kept out of another?
Salim Kumar claimed that he has broken the “wall” to national awards which was supposed to be crosses by superstars only … During early days in the time Of Prem Nazir ans Sathyan too P. J Antony got national award…Same is the case with Murali ,Bharat Gopi and so on…Was there a wall that Salim Kumar talked about?
Mimicry artists are not considered as first class artists, they are looked down upon by the superstars and their fans. For the first time an established comedian has become a national award winning actor and Salim Kumar indeed has broken down the ‘wall’.
Economic disparities among Muslims are portrayed in the film. Did you have any similar experiences in your life?
I’ve gone for Hajj several times .My Hajj was just giving a phone and informing that I’m coming. But there are several people who cannot do Hajj due to paucity of financial sources.
Renjith said that his film would have got an award if K G George was in the jury and Mammootty’s performance in ‘Pranchiyettan and the Saint’ was par superior than Salim Kumar’s. Adoor too claimed Adaminte Makan Abu has less chance of getting the coveted Oscars. Do you feel that newcomers are not tolerated by the veterans?
I’ve come up with nobody’s backing. Negative criticisms do not affect me at all. If we have real talent it will be recognized some day or other.
Your first film was warmly welcomed. Do you feel any pressure as audience would expect a much better film next time?
My approach to my forthcoming films is no different.Every step will be meticulous and I’ll try to do my best. If I’m under pressure I may not be able to deliver a good film.
Abu’s sole aim was to go for Hajj. As a person what is Salim’s greatest ambition?
As Abu yearned to go for Hajj for years, I too carried cinema in my mind for years. My ambition is to make good films which the public would be accept warmly.
Grape wine has it that Abu is going to be re-made in Hindi. Your comments? Would it be easy to recreate it in Bollywood?
Why an Abu remake is a question that everyone asks. Bollywood is a platform for me to present the film before a bigger audience.More people should see the movie and pick up moral values that every good person should cherish. I’ve choosen Lucknow which has a Muslim setup as the backdrop.
Distribution of the film is a real concern today. Adoor’s films were marketed by General pictures Ravi, in Vanaprastham Mohanlal had to take up the task of production too.Same is the case with Abu you had to take care of the production segment as well as wander frantically in search of distributors. Your comment?
Film fraternity is now ruled by prejudices. Distributors believe that a film would only click if it is star studded. The presumptions that audience need superstars is like a house of cards, it will tumble one day.
What was the message you wanted to convey through your film? Do you believe you succeeded in your attempt?
Feedback to the film itself shows that I’ve reached my target. The film is a reminiscence of the past- a glimpse of our moral values which were abandoned during the course of time. Nowadays even if some accidents happen people look for caste, creed or else move away as if it’s none of their business. The film tries to say that that we can live a comfortable life carrying our age old values close to our hearts.
At one point in the film Abu says we water the plants, nourish them and ultimately find that it’s of no worth. Do you feel that Malayalam films has the same condition - high star cast, mind-boggling promotions but no content at all, just superficial flairs?
The spark of revolution has hit the Malayalam industry and there is no stopping it from now on. The ‘Santhosh Pandit factor’ itself is a variation from the usual. Cinema was a forbidden land for some during the early days, but now everyone can walk into it. Younger generations will take over Malayalam industry and free it from the chains of prejudices.