Indian theatre and film director, playwright and screenwriter Feroz Abbas Khan was once narrated an incident by Satish Sawhney, former Police Commissioner of Mumbai, who described it as possibly the most bizarre he had encountered in his career. “I consider him to be one of the finest gentlemen in uniform, and he once told me of a real-life incident which he had to handle as a young officer. A poor man died accidentally and the search for his religious identity led to bizarre reactions, and when his identity was finally revealed, everyone was stunned. That story got me thinking. I believed that in this true incident lies a very important story for India,” says Feroz, talking of his upcoming film Dekh Tamasha Dekh (April 18).
Dekh Tamasha Dekh is co-produced by Sunil Lulla and Feroz, and also directed by the latter. The film is a political and social satire based on a true story. It revolves around the hypocritical search for the religious identity of a poor man, who dies after he is crushed under a politician’s hoarding.
Considering that we aren’t particularly living in very tolerant times and that election campaigning is currently on in full force, how does he expect people to react to his film? “I don’t think that as a society we have reached the point of intolerance. Actually, the political scenario and administrative support have allowed a small number of people with shrill voices and violent disposition to unleash their terror on a decent but silent majority. The film holds a mirror to this nonsense. Yes, it is funny and provocative. It is up to the political class and the clergy to show their true colours,” he says.
Asked if he was inspired by Kundan Shah’s black comedy Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron , which revolves around a dead body and the political circus involved in ‘acquiring’ it, he says, “This (film) is a result of having lived through the experiences, and the tamasha which has to be shared with the audience in all its colours and nuances.”
Dekh Tamasha Dekh has an ensemble cast comprising some of the finest actors from Hindi and Marathi stage and films, including Satish Kaushik, Tanvi Azmi, Ganesh Yadav, Sharad Ponkshe and Vinay Jain. Feroz says, “We were guided by merit and appropriateness for the character. Casting was a huge challenge, as we had to find the right faces and special talent to make it real, truthful and engaging. Finally, we have some outstanding performances in the film.”
The filmmaker is set to surprise a lot of people, considering that he is directing a film very different from his first one — Gandhi, My Father (2007). “I myself am very surprised with what I have done with this film. It is unlike anything I have done before. However, when you choose a difficult road and navigate unfamiliar terrain, you may end up with exciting results. Repeating yourself can be a safe career option, but it is a deadly blow to your personal growth,” he explains.
Talking of his 52-episode trans-media (comprising television, radio, Internet and mobile phones) serial Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon on Doordarshan (DD), Feroz says it is his endeavour as the creative director of the family planning media advocacy project by the NGO Population Foundation Of India (PFI). “Poonam Muttreja and her team at PFI had a vision and they entrusted me with the job to make a television soap that would include issues of sex selection, child marriage, spacing between births, choices of contraception for a planned family, quality of maternal healthcare, etc. It is a highly entertaining TV serial with a message. This will be amplified with an outreach programme which includes radio broadcast, telecast on regional channels of DD after being translated in different languages, YouTube and social media, mobile vans etc. It’s a huge programme on a massive scale involving the Central and State Governments and NGOs.”
On the theatre front too, Feroz is gearing up for a new adventure. “I will be doing a new and original play sometime in July. It’s something I have never attempted before and will be my most ambitious work till date.”
Talking of reviving the play Tumhari Amrita after the loss of his actor Farooque Shaikh, he admits he doesn’t have the courage to do so. “At this point of time, I don’t have the courage to take up Tumhari Amrita without Farooque sahab . The loss has left an emptiness that is difficult to fill.”