I was very young but I remember my father was happy because a film critic had praised his photography. “He always likes my work,” he replied. I asked him who the critic was and he said Khalid Mohamed. “Strange name,” I thought, but remembered it all the same.
When I was 16, I made a video film with my friends. My father called Khalid Mohamed home to view it. The poor chap had to sit through the ordeal. I remember him being quite polite about it.
No director and critic relationship is complete unless the director makes a film and the critic reviews it.
My first film was Jaanam. I remember shooting for television on the streets of Mumbai and I picked up the newspaper to see what Khalid Mohamed had written. He had thrashed my film. I was depressed.
It’s not easy to see your work and name getting tarnished in print. You feel like the lowliest human being alive, filled with self-doubt and complexes.
But then there’s also an escape and you say to yourself and the world, “What does he know about filmmaking? It’s not as if critics can make a film run.”
I decided I should really hate this chap, Khalid Mohamed, film after film, review and after review — some good, some bad, no let me add, most of them bad!
Love and hate
I began to get really good at hating him but I was also compelled to read what he wrote about my work. Even if the entire world like my films, I kept wondering at the back of my mind, what would my most hated man have to say about it.
Every time I decided I wouldn’t bother to read his reviews, I would find myself rushing to get a copy of the newspaper.
Then came Raaz.. Khalid thrashed it. But the film did well. I felt vindicated. Meanwhile, the critic became a filmmaker and I watched with glee his first film, Fiza, waiting to thrash it. Unfortunately, I liked the film. He was a good filmmaker and he understood cinema.
Who’s the editor?
Then many reviews later, I was asked by this publication to write a column on relationships. I enquired, “Who’s the editor?” And I was told, “Khalid Mohamed.”
I paused and thought — God writes the best screenplays, doesn’t he? As I wrote my first piece, I couldn’t get it out of my mind that he would be reading it and judging it once more.
Finally, my piece was out. I was surprised to see that there was no censorsing, even though I had thrashed critics in the piece. I would secretly ask my friends in the publication what Khalid thought about my articles. I was told that he liked them.
A text message here and a phone call there and I got to know this man I loved to hate. What I learnt about him made it difficult for me to continue hating him.
He is everything I thought he would not be. He’s more human and more feeling than many artistes I have known.
A life wasted
One day, Khalid saw a film and was brooding. He told me, “Vikram, I have wasted my life on Fridays.” The statement hit me like a freight train. For the first time I saw the world from his perspective.
Film after film and Friday after Friday, liking and disliking, agreeing and disagreeing — that was his life as well! I realised that he watched films to like them, not dislike them.
Yesterday I found out that Khalid would not be editing my articles any more. Today I have no will to write. This chap just won’t let me impress him.
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