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'You need passion to make a masterpiece'

Bollywood writer-director Muzaffar Ali, whose movies cater to niche audiences feels that a filmmaker has to be charged with passion to make a magnum opus.

india Updated: Feb 29, 2008 13:32 IST

Bollywood writer-director Muzaffar Ali, whose period film Umrao Jaan still stirs the souls of viewers, says nowadays no Indian director has the sensibility to make a historical epic.

"Poetry, painting, designing, writing all comes into a film, isn't it? But it is not easy to make a film," he said.

"Today nobody has the sensibility to make a historical epic. They lose out on the passion. To make a masterpiece, a filmmaker has to be charged with passion," Ali said in an interview.

Ali refrained from directly commenting on Ashutosh Gowariker's period drama Jodhaa Akbar, which was released this month and has invited controversy over alleged distortion of facts.

But he said filmmakers should take extra care while dealing with history to avoid hurting sentiments.

"The broader objective of films is to unite human beings. It is a way of understanding humanity and its ethos. If you are not sensitive to it, it (film) is the wrong medium for you and you might end up hurting someone's sentiments," he said.

"Filmmakers must be extra cautious about the feelings of others because you are not writing history. Instead, the subject is about those who were victorious," the filmmaker said.

The artist, who is also a painter and designer, ventured into Bollywood with Gaman and most of his movies cater to niche audiences.

"I am trying to reinvent a new cinema for the world. I believe that the world would recognise me because of my work and the kind of work that I do."

Ali is currently working on films on Sufi poet Jalauddin Rumi and empress Nur Jahan, emperor Jahangir's wife. "I have completed scripting for the film on the poet Rumi and the script for period film Nur Jahan is under way. I do it myself because it is a treat to create visuals for them."

The filmmaker said not money, but creativity is the key to creating a masterpiece.

"Films are all about illusion and how beautifully a filmmaker can create that. But one must remember that you cannot make a masterpiece with money, you need to possess an artistic mind," he said.

And where do the country's dream merchants lose out?

"Jodhaa Akbar could have been a great subject. But our (Bollywood's) weakness lies in the bankruptcy of a good script because filmmakers do not pay attention to the script.

"Those who are successful want to churn out a dozen hits and do not want to spend time on the script, which has to be sandpapered and filed again and again. I have prepared 22 drafts of Rumi's script. Moreover, no school in the country teaches scriptwriting. To create a magnum opus, the script has to be done systematically."

Commenting on the future of Bollywood, he said: "In the global arena, the fate of Indian cinema rests on two things - films and marketing.

"Also, filmmakers will scale greater heights if they break out of the diaspora approach and stop being apologetic for being Indians. By which I mean that filmmakers end up making fun of India and its culture. In fact, their work should portray Indian culture in its best light."