What's the formula to make a hit Indian daily soap? Most of you will say it's wicked saas, weepy bahus, villains tip-toeing for revenge & a cookie-cutter approach to romance! However, with the advent of OTT platforms, 'being lazy' in this TRP-driven game is not cool anymore, especially when the audience today has an easy access to content across the globe.
In the midst of all the melodrama on small screen, Star Plus' popular show Imlie is a whiff of fresh air, which has struck a chord with the audience with its simplicity & relatable characters within a short period of time. Currently, the team is shooting for the show at Ramoji Film City, Hyderabad since there is no breather yet on the lockdown in Maharashtra.
Amid all the hustle there, the captain of the ship aka 'kahanibaaz' Atif Khan caught up with Filmibeat for an exclusive tete-a-tete on the show, the actors & much more.
Over to the man...
'Being A Storyteller, We Are Always Ready For The Criticism'
Q. Imlie is a love letter to times when stories on small screen depicted joys, sorrows, trials & tribulations of a simple Indian family. One of the USP of the show is that it dwells more on making an impact with simple, unadulterated moments rather than resorting to cliched plot devices. Do you enjoy this space more as a director?
A. Imlie is very challenging to execute. Keeping the narrative organic in television is a tough job. I am lucky that the producers and broadcaster have given us an open space to tell the story in utmost rustic and organic way. I am enjoying, learning this simple yet powerful storytelling.
A. Both story and the narrative are complex in Imlie. If we miss a small nuance in the telling, the character graph would go for a toss. Gashmeer, Sumbul and Mayuri are fantabulous. They are keeping the sanctity of their characters intact. Being a storyteller, we are always ready for the criticism. People can say whatever they want, but the story will take its time and course. I hope we keep the entertainment quotient intact.
Q. Right from its inception, Imlie has always managed to make a place in the top 3 shows despite of its contentious theme. This says a lot about how the audience today is hungry for stories which have their heart & emotions in the right place, irrespective of the medium. What's your take on that?
A. From the first day of shoot, we knew that if we hit the right chord, we will touch the audience's heart. Ishti Kutum was remade earlier twice, but it didn't work. So, Gul (producer Gul Khan) wanted us to treat it differently. We honestly did our job and the rest is history.
'Television Has To Come Out Of Clichéd Romance, Sindoor & Dupatta Flying Stuff'
Q. Aditya has redefined the concept of flawed heroes on screen in recent times. An upright man who isn't afraid to face the consequences of his mistakes even when he knows his redemption isn't a bed of roses. In a way, he is a pole star whose actions determine the direction of the story. Generally, makers end up whitewashing such male leads & brush their faults under the carpet in garb of romance. However, you guys have steered clear of this trapping and made the hero admit that his repentance is not going to be easy. Do you feel this could pave way for more such complex characters on-screen and break the notion that the male leads have to be idolized all the time?
A. TV is in its worst phase nowadays. OTT platforms are giving it a tough competition. Makers are compelled to tell different stories and unseen characters. It has to come out of cliched romance, sindoor and dupatta flying stuff.
'Sumbul Is A Born Actor; Imlie Belongs To Her Only'
Q. It's said that an actor must surrender completely to feelings & impulses of the character that he plays, and a good director understands that vulnerability & creates a safe place for him to perform. One can sense that equation between you and Gashmeer especially in the emotional & intense scenes. How do you see his evolution as a performer from the first episode till now?
A. Gashmeer is a blessing for a director. He understands the complexity of his character and the scene. He's a star performer, a true entertainer.
Sumbul is a born actor. I have never seen an actor who can switch emotions instantly. Imlie belongs to Sumbul only. This is a tailor made show for her. We are blessed that we are working with such good cast.
'The Amount Of Hard Work, Brain & Soul Gashmeer Puts In His Character Is Mind-Blowing'
Q. Gashmeer's body language & voice modulation lends a very distinct nuance to Adi. Be it mere simple words like 'Suno na, theek hai or hatooo', they bring an altogether different impact to a scene. Are those his improvisations or your vision? How much is he involved in the creative process?
A. Those are Gashmeer's improvisations. He thinks about his character and lives it completely.
Q. Gashmeer always says that you bring out the hero in him. How tricky does it get for you when you need to present him in a larger than life way at times & yet maintain the realistic tone of his character?
A. That's so kind of him to say that. The amount of hard work, brain and soul he puts in his character is mind blowing. We are just capturing the actor's performance.
Q. Coming to the female leads, Sumbul and Mayuri are both powerhouse of talents in their own way. When it comes to execution of their respective roles, is your approach towards each of them as actors different considering they bring in their own uniqueness to the table?
A. Sumbul is too young and chirpy, and that's how Imlie is. So, she's playing her real self. The same goes with Mayuri. She is intelligent, smart and learned. She's also playing her real self on screen. So we don't have to put any extra effort to bring out those characters.
Q. Symbolism plays a major role in the narrative of Imlie. Be it the rains, diya, the near-death scenes or certain dialogues, you along with writing team always incorporate these elements to give an arc to the character & the story. Where does that inspiration come from?
A. Inspiration can come from anywhere. Most of the times, it's written. Sometimes, we improvise during the shoot, or sometimes we get an idea while reading the script. Like the fight sequence before Satyakam abducts Aditya was not written, it was planned a day before the shoot. We just went on location and started. Nobody had a clue what's going to happen next. It just happened.
'It's My Duty To Frame Aesthetically Well & Eye-Pleasing'
Q. If you had to pick one scene which was a tough nut to crack but at the same time helped you to tap your inner potential as a director, which one would that be?
A. In terms of execution, Imlie is the simplest to do. The first episode of both, Nazar and YJHJK (Yehh Jadu Hai Jinn Ka) were quite hard to shoot. We have to shot glossy horror. That was a hell of an experience.
Q. Besides the stellar performances, Imlie has also raised the bar when it comes to framing the shots to give visually appealing scenes. This is something which has been neglected for a long time on small screen. Do you feel storytellers on television need to buckle up and focus on this aspect to enhance their content?
A. Framing a shot is an integral part of storytelling. And being a camera student, it's my duty to frame aesthetically well and eye pleasing. Sometimes, it's very helpful to catch the viewer's eyeball.
'I Am Always Open To Suggestions And Feedback'
Q. Recently, you & the other crew members doubled up as extras for the shoot at Ramoji Film City In Hyderabad. Whose idea was that?
A. That was the need of the hour. We are trying to avoid external crew member as much as possible. Also, casting is a bit tricky for us in Hyderabad. So, our team is acting and I am surprised that everyone did a fantastic job.
Q. Lastly, you are one of the directors who is often seen lending a patient ear to the creative suggestions, feedback and at times, even brickbats from the fandom on Twitter when it comes to this show. How open are you to constructive criticism & do you believe storytellers need to have more of such healthy exchange in order to get a different perspective on their work?
A. Every filmmaker should do that. It's very helpful to overcome your director's block. I am always open to suggestions and feedback. It broadens our storytelling ideas and makes it more interactive. I think every human is a story teller, and every story has its uniqueness. So when you listen to people's suggestions, it helps you to tell more organic stories.