M F Husain’s quiet painter-filmmaker son Owais assisted his father when he made Meenaxi. It’s never easy to live in the shadows of a genius. Owais has gradually come to terms with his space in life. He has just wrapped up work on his first independent film where Owais tried to turn the paintings in his head into a feature film. Subhash Jha spoke to him:
Is it difficult to put the language of paintings on celluloid?
Yes. But that’s my language. That’s my world. The world that people see in my paintings must be visible in my film. It’s very important for any artiste to be true to self. That quality is bound to show up in his work. Technically this film that i’ve just shot in Punjab featuring Anuraag Sinha and Sonal Chauhan is my first full-fledged film.
You contributed a lot to your father’s film Meenaxi.
Yes. I got involved in it in a much bigger way than i had intended. At one point i took it over completely. In fact, my dad suggested i take credit as director. But i thought that would be unfair to people who had worked on the crew. But i was fully involved with the choreography etc. In my first film (yet untitled) i haven’t yet shot the songs. I’ve the montages ready. I intend to conceive the songs around them. My art is lodged in my heart long before it is executed.
Why did you choose Punjab as the backdrop for your first film?
It’s the story of a professional storyteller. A traditional storyteller who weaves yarns. And i’ve always felt very close to northern India where i went to school. When i thought of my story i thought of that area. I find myself especially linked with the soil of north India. The hinterland of Punjab goes well with the state of mind that my story needs. I needed a fertile soil to nurture my characters. I got that in Punjab. Kerala, Bengal and Bihar are also areas that are close to their roots. Punjab is highly developed but yet very basic.
So many recent films were shot in Punjab.
The challenge is to take the obvious images and change them around. Recently, i was asked to shoot a short film on the Taj Mahal. The challenge there was to capture a monument that has been in the global psyche without encountering the obvious. Creativity is never a self-generated endeavour. No art, not even abstract art, comes out of thin air. I feel an artiste needs to find ways to make the obvious seem unexplored.
The actors were dictated entirely by the nature of the project. I wanted a particular innocent eloquent look in the eyes for the storytellers’ roles. It was also a gifted child’s role. That’s why i brought in Anuraag Sinha. I needed a very Indian look for the girl. That’s how Sonal came into the picture. Nowadays it’s very hard to find actors who are poised and polished and yet very Indian in their bearing.
A musical on my father’s life. The idea just came to me one morning. We all know about the later part of his life. But little is known about his beginnings, about the journey. It’s a story that needs to be told. The time to do it is right now.