In his quest to discover different facets of the country, veteran film-maker Saeed Akhtar Mirza has travelled to remote regions for over a decade….
During his long sabbatical from films, he travelled across the country and interactedwith local people. And now veteran film-maker Saeed Akhtar Mirza has made a docu-drama about a young film-maker who embarks on a journey to discover the real India.
Saeed Mirza, who is synonymous with powerful films like Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro and iconic soap operas like Nukkad , has conceptualised and directed Yeh Hai India Meri Jaan for the national broadcaster.
Saeed never does things half-heartedly. In his quest to discover different facets of the country, he has travelled with his wife Jennifer to remote regions for more than a decade.
“Every year I travelled twice. My driver is not only a good mechanic but an excellent cook. Once while travelling to Rajasthan, I told him to turn right and we went to Hyderabad, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. All this travelling was not an aimless exercise. Interacting with the local people was a sort of research work for this serial,” he recalls.
For Saeed, it was a humbling experience as he found the locals generous and forgiving.
For this serial, he did not give any brief to his six artistes, who are alumni of the National School of Drama, Marathi theatre and the Film & Television Institute of India.
“Whatever the people have talked, whether it has something with political connotations or the price rise, has been covered. We did not set an agenda. I have converged fiction with reality and tried to combine travelogue with landscape,” he says.
With 25 episodes, the serial grapples with divergent issues. “I deliberately did not take known faces. Television is dominated by celebrity anchors and politicians. But what about the common man? I strongly feel that whatever he says would definitely be watched by viewers. We have not put words into the mouths of people. All interactions have been spontaneous.”
Before directing the serial, Saeed had decided to travel across the country because he wanted to regain his sanity. He was devastated when the Babri Masjid was destroyed by Hindu fundamentalists and had even described his last film Naseem — dealing with communal tensions before the bringing down of the mosque — as his epitaph.
For this serial, Saeed’s crew travelled to Gujarat, which saw the worst sectarian violence in recent times.
“I am not enamoured of Gujarat. I do not know if he [Narendra Modi] becomes the Prime Minister or not but it worries me. The bringing down of the Babri Masjid was the last straw. But the build-up before the destruction of the medieval monument was also disturbing. The anti-Sikh riots after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi were horrendous,” he adds.
He also feels strongly about the present state of affairs. Describing the cancellation of Pakistani plays at the National School of Drama’s annual international festival as sad, Saeed said the decision was “petty and stupid”.