Imtiaz Ali’s daughter Ida is the new kid on the block!
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Imtiaz Ali’s daughter Ida is the new kid on the block!

While star kids her age groom themselves for acting, filmmaker Ida Ali, 17, is basking in the success of her first short film. Note: she’s cautious of the comparisons that lie ahead!

brunch Updated: Apr 21, 2018 22:47 IST
Ananya Ghosh
Ananya Ghosh
Hindustan Times
Ida Ali,Imtiaz Ali Daughter,Ida Ali First Short Film
Imtiaz Ali’s daughter Ida recently made her debut as a director with a short film. Titled Lift, it is also written by the 17-year-old (Dress, River Island; jacket, Zara)(Aalok Soni)

A few months ago, a post from Imtiaz Ali’s Facebook page popped up on my timeline. It was a video link with the following text:

Title: Lift

Duration: 12 mins

Written & Directed by Ida Ali

Hope you like it :)

It was so subtle that I almost dismissed it. But then Ida’s name caught my eye. I clicked on the link, expecting just another star kid trying to get some attention on social media. But halfway through the 12-minute short, I knew I couldn’t have been more wrong about this 17-year-old. The maturity, restraint and subtleness with which Ida unfolds an open-ended and layered love story inside the confines of a tiny lift are definitely well beyond her years.

While star kids her age are mostly grooming themselves for their acting debut, Ida quietly writes short stories in her diary. “I was always a shy kid but I love to observe people and analyse their actions. Characters have always fascinated me and I end up creating stories around them,” says Ida.

It was her mom Preety who prodded Ida to follow her dreams (Aalok Soni)

Write choice?

In fact, the story of Lift came from the pages of her diary. “Whenever I have an idea, I write it down. This is almost two years old. It was not until last January that I thought of developing it into a short film. In fact, it took a lot of prodding from my mom!” She throws an impish grin at her mother, Preety, who has just walked in.

Preety, a film producer and co-founder of Humaramovie, and a proud mom says: “Well, she has been writing since she was a child. In fact, when she was about eight years old, she wrote a poem which was so deep that it actually worried me: where is this little girl getting such complicated ideas from, I wondered. What’s going on in her little head? And it didn’t help when she wrote a piece on suicide! I freaked out! Although it was nicely written, I didn’t have the mind frame to think about its literary value. I just freaked out!”

Ida’s favourite short films:
  • In a Heartbeat (2017): It says so much without using even one word.
  • Aai Shapat (2017): It was very relatable, this is the way little children think and that thought was encapsulated well.
  • Kheer (2017): New ideas are brought forward through an engaging story.
  • Lunch Time (2017): I love how they captured the young girl’s emotions through this story.
  • Juice (2017): It had a good message and Shefali Shah was amazing.

“But mom, that was just a fictional story!” exclaims Ida, who quickly returns to the topic of her short film. “While going up and down the lift of our building, I always listen to what people are talking about. I slowly realised that even if I didn’t know half of their names, I actually knew quite a lot about them and their lives just by listening to their lift conversations. This fascinated me and the lift became an inspiration of sorts for this story,” says Ida.

Ida’s always been a story writer, she wants to direct films. But being the daughter of acclaimed director Imtiaz Ali, she knew that if she ventured into the same, expectations would be sky high and she’d be compared to him.

“In fact, for the longest time, whenever people asked me what I wanted to become when I grew up, I would not tell them that I want to become a director. I would instead say that I want to become a writer. I didn’t want to face the expectation and comparison. I was scared. I didn’t want to become a mediocre version of either of my parents,” Ida confesses.

“When people asked me what I want to be, I wouldn’t tell them I want to be a director. I didn’t want to face the comparison”

But as time went by, she understood that she must follow her dream. “I realised that if I am actually good at this then I shouldn’t run away because of people’s expectations. But I also wanted to see if I have the talent to back up that dream. Perhaps the atmosphere I have grown up in inclined me towards this field. I think it is important to do something that you are actually good at. I don’t want to join a profession where I am average.”

Although this 12-minute film is a baby step, it is certainly one in the right direction, and after her film was shortlisted for the Jio Filmfare Short Film Awards 2018, Ida is ready to give this career option serious thought.

“Now the fear is lifting a bit. I think I could succeed. But only once I am 100 per cent sure of this will I actually take the plunge. ”

Filmmaker and father Imtiaz Ali was excited about Ida’s film, but refrained from giving his suggestions to her creative process (Pic courtesy: Ida Ali)

Who’s the boss?

She has given herself six years to get into full-time direction. As of now she is in Class XI. “I want to finish my studies first. In fact, in the next four years, I might find something more interesting than film direction. I can even become a travel journalist! But whatever I do, it’ll be because I love that and not because I am running away from filmmaking due to the pressure of expectations. I think if I am good, I’ll be good on my own. And the inevitable comparisons will not affect.”

Ida picks her favourite scenes from her dad’s films
  • Rockstar: The first sequence of Jordan in Verona Arena, entering his concert. It was a very powerful scene, which succeeded in showing how big Jordan was. It had background music and I love the whole visual starting from the fight to the stage. Ranbir was too good in it.
  • Highway: Entering the house in Nurmahal. Nurmahal looks great in the way they have shot it. It looks like another world. I also like how comfortable Veera has gotten with them.
  • Tamasha: “Agar tum saath ho…” The song is beautiful but even the visuals have the power to make one feel for the characters who actually seem lost.

In the meantime she wants to keep experimenting with the short film format. “This one didn’t require too much camera movement or dialogues, but I’d love to experiment with those,” she says, pointing out that her mother has already cautioned her that she has a very long learning curve ahead of her. “Ek film banake kuch honewala nahi hai,” she quotes her mother. And she agrees that these are still early days.

“Although I’ve been to dad’s shoots, I have no clue about the technical aspects of filmmaking. When I decided to make this film, I knew what I wanted to see, but didn’t know how to translate it onto celluloid. I learnt everything on the job. I learnt from my

DOP, Vishal Sharma what close-up and mid-shots are. I didn’t even know the terms!”

Her mom’s been insisting she assist a director for the right guidance, but Ida wants to do this her own way. “Although I really struggled with the technical part, I had 100 per cent creative freedom. I prefer that,” she says. Then her voice drops and her eyes lose their twinkle. “You know I can do that. I can assist anyone. But whoever I assist would take me because he knows my father or my mother. Why else would anybody even give me that chance?” she says.

“Whoever I assist would take me because he knows my father or my mother. Why else would anybody even give me that chance?”

She doesn’t want to assist her father, “Because I am his kid. He’ll be biased in a negative way! He will expect too much from me. He will be too angry if I make a mistake. Also, I don’t want his thought process to influence mine,” she says. In fact, father and daughter seem to be on the same page on this. When Ida had first broached the topic of making a short film, Imtiaz, although excited, calmly said: “Go ahead. But I am not going to give you any suggestions. No matter what other people think, this is for you and for me to know what you can do.” After watching the film, he was impressed. “He said that I might have a career in Hindi films, but I should learn the language properly,” laughs Ida.

Although she wants to create her own niche, she says she will always let the content decide the treatment. “If I’m working on something similar to what either of my parents did, I will not deliberately tweak my treatment just to be different. It shouldn’t affect the story or its flow.”

Ida likes movies that have a tinge of darkness and she is not fond of over-the-top Bollywood melodrama. “I like realistic cinema. Even if I am making a love story, it will not be overtly mushy,” she smiles. For the past two years she has been also getting acquainted with world cinema, especially French, Italian and Iranian films, but she is yet to become a MAMI regular. “I am still not 18! They don’t allow me at MAMI yet!” she complains.

It is just the beginning, girl!

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From HT Brunch, April 22, 2018

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First Published: Apr 21, 2018 21:20 IST