Saeed Mirza ko phir gussa kyon aaya

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By Pratim D. Gupta Which is your favourite Saeed Mirza film? Tell
  • Published 19.02.08
Saeed Mirza at the Calcutta launch of Ammi: Letter to a Democratic Mother at Starmark (South City). Picture by Aranya Sen

The last time you heard about Saeed Akhtar Mirza, it was way back in 1995 when his last film Naseem, starring Kaifi Azmi, Mayuri Kango and Kay Kay Menon, released and even had a screening at the Calcutta Film Festival. Thirteen years later, the man who gave us Albert Pinto, Arvind Desai, Mohan Joshi and Salim Langda, is back. But as a writer.

Saeed Mirza was in town last week for the Calcutta launch of his maiden novel Ammi: Letter to a Democratic Mother at Starmark’s new outlet in the South City mall. “When the publishers said that we would be travelling to Delhi and Mumbai for the book launch, I asked them what about Calcutta? I am very happy to come to this city with my first book,” Mirza told t2.

So, why a book and not a film? “It wasn’t planned,” said Mirza. “After Naseem, I had nothing more to say. So I thought of travelling and for the next few years I just kept travelling right across the country, avoiding the big cities and passing through the small villages and towns. I met lots and lots of common people and it was very humbling. It completely took out the arrogance in me.”

Throughout his travels, Mirza kept jotting down notes, without any wish to turn into something bigger like a book. It was only when George Bush launched his attack on Iraq, that Mirza couldn’t take it anymore. He again had something to say.

“I was alarmed at his choice of words and the meaning he made out of it,” said the maker of Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyun Aata Hai. “He was using words like democratic and undemocratic, modern and old, civilised and uncivilised, rogue states and law-abiding states without knowing the meaning of a single word.”

Now Mirza wanted to personalise the “democratic” agenda. “The only analogy I could find was my own mother, who is the most democratic person I have known,” he said. “My sister is married to a Brahmin, my brother’s married to a Hindu and I have married a Christian. She never made an issue. She didn’t even know how incredibly democratic she was.”

And to that was added all the travelogues and notes. “There’s also poetry and a film script as an epilogue,” added Mirza, calling Ammi a “tossed salad”. “I don’t know whether I have been able to get it all together cohesively. My wife still feels it’s disjointed. But then again it’s a tossed salad, you eat what you want to.”

While Mirza plans to write more books, it’s not goodbye to Mirza the film-maker. “I had given up but Rajat Kapoor has got me to make another film which I am starting next week,” he revealed. “It’s about Mumbai again (all of Mirza’s films have been about the “maximum city”) and it’s called Savdhan Meri Jaan. It has more than 60 actors from all over India.”

And one of those actors is Pawan Malhotra, who played the title character in Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro. “It’s like going back to work,” smiled Mirza. “I don’t know whether I will be making another film after this one.”