An ode to Hindi cinema, it touched hearts across countries. Director Nitin Kakkar along with actors Sharib Hashmi and Inaamul Haq relive the ‘Filmistaan’ experience with PRATISHTHA MALHOTRA. 

The praise poured in for ‘Filmistaan’, even as the film acquired tax free status in Maharashtra. And naturally there is curiosity to know how exactly this little gem came about… The germ of the idea, as director Nitin Kakkar recounts, lies in his own personal experience…

“The inspiration for this subject came to me from an incident that happened many years ago. During an overseas visit when some friends and I were lost in a city abroad, wondering where to go and what to do, it was a stranger from Pakistan who spotted us and went out of his way to help. This noble person sorted everything out for us and in return did not take a single penny as he considered Indians to be his siblings…”

This touching chance encounter was the seed stuck at the back of his head which flowered into ‘Filmistaan’, even though Kakkar was consciously keen to make a film around the renowned Urdu writer Saadat Hassan Manto. “It was on Indo-Pak relations set in 1947. Unfortunately due to its canvas, we were unable to raise sufficient finances. ‘Filmistaan’ back then was a thin idea which I had narrated to a friend who later shared it with Satellite Pictures. This studio was looking for scripts and though I was still keen on making Manto, the production house asked me to work on this other script. Once they agreed to produce it, the ball was set rolling.”

‘Filmistaan’ talks about unending love for Hindi cinema in India, Pakistan and even in no-man’s land. All the pieces in the puzzle fit together and the result is gratifying. Playing a huge role in bringing this wonderful experience to life are blazing talents Sharib Hashmi and InaamulHaq. “Sharib Hashmi, the protagonist and I share a special rapport,” says Kakkar. “He is like my lost brother. He is also a writer and we had collaborated on our Manto project. I realised that our wavelengths matched, so he was also involved in the scripting and dialogues of ‘Filmistaan’. I remember Sharib had once expressed a desire to act and while there was no concrete plan back then, we have been a mutual support for each other.”

Inaamul Haq, the other protagonist of the films, joins us in our conversation and reminisces about the old times with a smile… “I was working in television as a writer. Acting has always been my dream, but for the sake of survival I relied on my second skill, which is writing. The writing background was like a savior for me, but acting was always at the back of my mind. The break came for me with ‘Firaaq’. Nandita Das was on the lookout for a particular part and I got through the audition. It wasn’t a major role but was fulfilling as an actor and it worked out well for me. The assistants spread a positive word about me. With regards to ‘Filmistaan’ I must thank Mark Zuckerburg – the team contacted me on Facebook! The moment I read the audition sheet I knew this was special and the plot appealed to me on paper itself. And I really found this part of the Pakistani different from the usual. I asked them for a day’s preparation time – having trained as an actor at National School of Drama, I am used to a certain process of approaching a character. In one day an actor can’t get the grasp of a character but you can convey a basic structure of how you will play it and that’s how I auditioned for the film.”