The Cannes Film Festival is coming up in a few days, and one prominent name in the list of Indian nominations stands out: Siddiqui.
And there’s a prize for guessing the first name of this person. Nawazuddin, you say? Yes, he’ll probably be there. But it’s his younger brother, Shamas Nawab Siddiqui, 33, who we’re talking about. Shamas has directed a movie that has been selected in the Short Film Corner category at the Cannes Film Festival 2015.
Clearly, creativity runs in families.
Big brother is reading
Shamas’s 17-minute debut film, Miyan Kal Aana, is a humorous look at Islam’s controversial Halala law and the effect it has on women. According to the law, if a Muslim man wants to remarry the woman he divorced, she has to marry another man first, who must then divorce her.
“Not many people follow this law today, but in Budhana, my native village in Uttar Pradesh, it’s still prevalent,” says Shamas. “I’ve seen couples suffer due to the law, and women suffer the most.”
The film might never have been made if Nawazuddin hadn’t read Shamas’s diary. Ten years younger than Nawaz, Shamas had never shown any interest in films, though he was fascinated by the camera. But one day, while studying at the Dayanand Brijendra Swarup College, Dehradun, his actor brother visited him, who picked up his diary and read the notes Shamas had jotted down about scenes he’d visualised.
“After reading, Nawaz bhai asked whether I want to study further or join him in Mumbai to pursue cinematography,” says Shamas. “He helped me understand world cinema and also encouraged me to write scripts.”
Nawaz was supportive, but not indulgent. “My siblings and I are all scared of him because he’s the oldest and has always taken care of us,” laughs Shamas. “He said he wouldn’t associate himself with my projects unless they were really worth it.”
Keeping it real
Shamas started work on the script when he visited his village last year. “When I told Nawaz and some others that I wanted to make a film on the Halala law, they all thought it was a good subject.”
Rather than focus on the religious angle, Shamas decided to spotlight the ill effects of the law, with a touch of humour.
“The biggest USP of my film is that it has no religious tone,” he says. “It’s presented from a couple’s point of view. Fights between couples are common and the films’ protagonist, Imtiaz, divorces his wife in a fit of anger. But he realises his mistake and wants back. Unfortunately, because of the Halala law, he can only get her back by marrying her to someone else and letting the new husband consummate the marriage before divorcing her.”
And so Imtiaz makes the arrangements – but his former wife’s new spouse doesn’t want the divorce. Every day, he puts Imtiaz off by claiming the marriage hasn’t been consummated as yet.
The film was shot in Budhana with locals playing most of the roles. “I just told them the situation and they did a great job,” says Shamas. “My father is also there in the panchayat scene with a few other village elders, and one of my brothers also has a role.”
It took a year for the film to be edited to the exacting standards of Nawaz, also the producer of the film. Finally, on March 30, at the last minute, Shamas uploaded the film – and it was selected.
“I had heard so much about Cannes from Nawaz that I was almost desperate to make it there,” says Shamas. “I couldn’t believe my luck when it was selected, and now it will be showcased at other film festivals including Sundance.”
Commercial cinema, however, is not in Shamas’s sights at the moment – he prefers more esoteric films. “But I wrote a commercial film before
Miyaan Kal Aana
,” says Shamas. “It’s titled
Ganna, Gehu Aur Gun
. Nawaz loved the story but he is tied up for the next two years. Although that shouldn’t affect the film,” says Shamas.
Till that happens however, Shamas will be taking
Miyaan Kal Aana
places. And he’ll go places himself, with rides on his Bullet and a road trip in his new Maruti Gypsy, a gift from Nawaz bhai.
Shamas Nawab digs World Cinema. Here are a few inspirational movies and filmmakers he looks up to:
The Tin Drum (1979):
This adaptation of the novel of the same name by Günter Grass was directed by Volker Schlöndorff. It is the story of Oskar Matzer, a boy who decides on his third birthday not to grow up, as he sees the crazy world around him on the eve of World War II. The drum symbolises the boy’s protest against his family’s middle-class mentality, which symbolised all the passive people in Nazi Germany at that time.
The Star Maker (1995):
This was directed by iconic Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore, best known for
. Set in Sicily of the early 1950s, it is the story of Joe Morelli, a conman who travels from village to village posing as a film company representative.
Blood Diamond (2006):
Directed by Edward Zwick, the political war thriller featured Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead. Set during the civil war that raged through Sierra Leone in the 1990s, it is the story of a white South African mercenary and a black Mende fisherman who both want to recover a rare gem that has the power to transform their lives. The film won Leo DiCaprio an Oscar nomination.
The Past (2013):
Directed by Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, this French–Italian–Iranian film was nominated for the Palme d’Or award at the Cannes Film Festival. It also won acclaim for its sensitive handling of a story about divorce.
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From HT Brunch, April 26
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