The Jami we know from various commercials and videos is broody, elusive and has some phenomenal projects to his credit, like Pal Do Pal, Chaye Chaye, Ankhiyan, Chal Dil Mere, Dhanni, Anjaane and many more. The Jami we don’t know is the man, who likes to speak up his mind, digs movies, is laid back. We take a peek on the other side of this director’s fence.
How does it feel to be known as the best video director in Pakistan?
I’m trying to enjoy it. Because when you’re at the top, people want you to fall down, which is why I get scared of being called that. But honestly speaking, we are not doing that well. Abroad, there are so many good short films being made by the kids. We’re doing commercials to run the kitchen, making music videos, and we try to balance both, which is why we try not to sell our souls in music videos. We should do justice to the song. In commercials, the clients will listen to you to an extent. Like in the Indigo commercials, they’ve given a very free rein, but you know that you have to sell something.more
Most of your videos, like Chaye Chaye and Pal Do Pal, are very abstract. You can’t really understand them on seeing them for the first time. Do you think people will be able to understand them?
They don’t have to. Because if I just hand it on a plate, then I’m not doing anything innovative. I want to use and abuse this medium. They’re not paying me to show them what they want to see. When they pay me to show them what they want to see I’ll do that. Right now they have to see what I want to show them. Chaye went over people’s heads. The concept’s been completely changed: the start is in the end and it starts off with the middle of the video. It’s a story that they’re telling.
How important is concept to you?
Everything. For example, look at the Jamiroquai video, where the sofa was moving around throughout. What will we do which a moving sofa? Internationally, there are a lot of special effects and gadgets used-which make like six things come from here or there, etc. In India it’s all based on women. While all we have is concepts.
How much input does the band have in the concepts?
With Strings its 50-50, always. With Fuzon’s Ankhiyan was me. Ali Zafar was immensely involved with the video(Chal Dil Mere) but you have to get him back on track because he listens to everyone’s advice and that is dangerous. 70% of the people like the video and 30% don’t-they say it’s not Jami’s style, because it’s a one-take video, I can’t edit it, I can’t improve the lighting.
How do you feel about the shift in ideas, videos and concepts?
It seems like its shifted, but it hasn’t. Because if you see, 90% of Jawad Bashir’s videos, they’re all girl and boy based. I like the Jal video – Aadat By Umar Anwar. It’s slightly different. Who nikal raha hai uss mein se. India is 101% women based. The new directors, they think that if they’ll show a guy and girl and a little glam here and a little glam there, people will get attracted to it more easily. It’s ironic. A video has to be a bit abstract; the director’s vision and the concept are a must.
How high is the cost of video-making here? Since you’re known as the ten lakh man…
Dhaani was a ten lakh video, but it was branded. Chaye Chaye wasn’t branded; it cost 8 and a half lakh, and it was very well spent. It had such a huge cast, 5 sets, and we spent 2 lakhs just on the cost of the film, then processing it, etc. Ankhiyan and Chal Dil Mere were around 3 and a half lakh. Anjaane is again a ten lakh video. Hadiqa’s new song that’s coming, that’s for 4 and a half lakh. I’ve done 13 videos and if those people who’ve been in the industry for 7-8 years pay ten lakh then its fine with me. Only Strings is able to pay up easily, no one else can. Dhaani, Chaye Chaye and Anjaane-they had so many actors and we shot for so long. You cannot just tell the actors to work for free, we don’t have money. We have to pay them something. Out of 13-14 videos, only 3 have been for ten lakh, the rest haven’t. Our work looks like ten lakh [were spent on it], may be that’s why people say that!
How difficult is it to manage the cost of the video with the budget that you have?
You should come see them when they’re discussing the budget and the video. I cannot ask the younger bands to pay up ten lakhs, for example. Where will they get it from? Nevertheless, we do the video. We just can’t stop working. Galian khaate hain, apne paise lagate hain, biwi poochti hai ke yeh kaunsa kaam hai jis mein ghar se paise jaate hain. It’s so difficult to work in this country-my good friends who are directors are sitting at home, they’re organizing the Kara Film Festival.
If a student wants to go into video directions, how would you suggest he/she go about it?
Start writing stories. Buy 3 or 4 books on direction. When you’re read about the structure, then dump it. First learn the rules, and then break them. Learn how to write stories, write horrible stories and eventually you’ll be able to write one good story. In the meantime continue working on your direction skills, make videos, and make a video of your brother digging sand! So that way both your skills are getting ready. Write all you can. Fine, there are problems in Pakistan, but no one will stop you from writing or condemn what you’re writing.
What about equipment?
It’s broken down; the good equipment is very expensive. The camera that we used in Chaye Chaye costs Rs. 40,000 per day to rent it. The other one that completely broke down costs Rs. 2500 per day, but we have to use it. We used it for the new Hadiqa video and we couldn’t even fix the wire for the battery in it. It would stop in between the shots. But we made the video, because we didn’t have the money. Just compare that to the budget of ads: we took 40 lakh for each of the 40 seconds Indigo ads, 1 lakh for each seconds. And we do a 5 minute video for 10 lakhs.
Recently you replaced Saquib Malik as the director of a candy ad.
Saquib did Khamaj for Fuzon and they were really happy with it. They asked him to do the ad and Saquib said fine. Saquib does commercials, he said yes to that. I don’t know what problem Saquib had, but I feel that he knew that it would not turn out well. Even if you put 50 Billion rupees in it, it wouldn’t have turned out well. It was like Waterworld, paisa jaye ga, mile ga kuch nahi. You will not believe it; they sat here for 8 days, begging me to do the video. I even got less money, because Saqib had said yes for 21 lakh and I charge 25 lakh. I said if I am going to do it, I’ll only do it for 25 lakhs, or else I won’t. Izzat bhi ja rahi hai, galian bhi khaa rahe hain, at least paise hi mil jayein. I had predicted this would happen. Fuzon just wanted their 15 lakh. They would’ve earned that much by doing 15 concerts, they’re such idiots. Just look at Dhaani-it’s a branded video, paid by Pepsi.
It is? But there’s no bottle of Pepsi in it.
A lot of people are shocked at hearing it. It’s in the scene where Bilal is in the restaurant. The Bottle’s been cut from the neck down; you cannot see the label of Pepsi on it. We told Pepsi we wouldn’t do it any other way. Dhaani is a philosophy, it’s a journey, a story, and you can’t show a bottle of Pepsi in the middle of that. Itni galian khaaien for the Fuzon Mayfair ad, they’ve written about me in newspapers because of that. You’re a rock band yaar, get a life! You don’t sing candy ads. You don’t blame the director. You signed up for a candy ad. What do you expect? Marlon Brando milega? And it’s a cheap candy ad!
Plus it’s not like they’d signed up for Cadbury or some other famous company.
Exactly, you’ll meet the client and you’ll start laughing. Mein kitna larr loonga unse? They wanted me to show God knows what and when I told them that it’s not looking good they’re like, kiya baat kar rahe hain, hum ne aap ko paise diye hain, aap dikhaein. These are the sort of fights we were having. This is why I don’t do such commercials. I can’t deal with getting so many kids to act; it’s really hard getting 150 kids to act.
What do you consider your best video to be?
That’s a very difficult question to answer. Pal Do Pal, Chaye Chaye comes very close. Pal Do Pal was so pure. I’d just come back from the States after finishing my studies and I was like aisa karna hai isse ke dunya rakhe gi. It was very simple- a girl falling in love with a boy, the boy saying my heart belongs to you and then deceiving her. She goes mad and she takes his heart.
What sort of work is being done under Azad Films?
Commercials and music videos, 2-3 feature films and right now I’m working on this film with Nadeem Mandviwala. We’ll also be helping out Kara, if they accept our help, that is.
Are you submitting anything to the Kara Film Festival this year?
Not this year. Probably next year. We’re working on something right now. We did submit something in the first Kara festival with Farjad Nabi.
How do you feel about controversies such as the Gana No. 1 story? Why does this happen? Isn’t the director the owner of the video?
If I apply the American philosophy to it then yes, the director is the owner of the video. But you have to make changes if the band doesn’t like it. For example, the start of Dhaani has been completely changed because Bilal and Faisal didn’t like it. So I changed it. I think the band does own the video, but if the band goes cuckoo, then the director can also go cuckoo. But you have to keep the band’s wishes in consideration; they’re the ones paying for it.
How do you feel about the recently held award shows, such as the Lux Style Awards, where Anarkali won the best video and it had a higher budget than the rest of the nominated videos?
That video had an 80 lakh budget or so. You cannot compare it to videos like Anarkali, which cost 3 and a half lakh. There should be a separate category for branded videos and unbranded videos. Even in the IM Awards, Chaye Chaye didn’t win because it was a 2003 video or something and Mahi won. I think no one can say no to Asim. Maybe it’s a drama, maybe it’s not.
Do you think your work gets the proper recognition it deserves?
Oh yes. You’re sitting here, right [smiles] But I think I’m getting way too hyped now. Bahut zyaada ho gayahai.
Chal Dil Mere is a one-take video. Is it the first one of its kind in Pakistan?
No, Shehzad Mughal’s video was the first one-take video here. But it’s the first one take video on film.
It’s been rumored that the video’s been edited.
No, It’s not. There’s a scene in it where everything goes dark so it may seem like I’ve edited it, but it’s not. Ali Zafar asked me to edit the video but I told him I wouldn’t.
Which band have you liked working with the most?
And which band have you not liked working with?
They’ve changed. I think fame has gone to their head.
What do you think about the current crop of videos playing on IM and the Musik?
I think some good work is being done. For example, look at Rushk’s video-it’s brilliant. I heard their album 5 years ago when it was being made. Ziyyad and Uns, they put in everything in their album. Saquib put in his own money in Khamaj, his khoon paseena and that shows.
How do you feel about the Tulsi sponsored music videos/advertisements on air these days?
They should be banned! I swear, God! They’re so badly done- and they’re mujras! What is wrong with the channels? The Tulsi people approached me to do a video, and the guy has his hand in a bowl of Ding Dongs and says, so what do you want? And I turned them down there and then. Itna bura kaam kar rahe hain yeh channels by showing these videos, and it’s going to have an adverse effect on them.
The channels are getting paid to air the videos.
Agar aap ko paise de rahe hain to aap bache baich deinge? These MBA’s and all that have come, rair maar diya hai inhon ne. It’s okay to bribe the policeman, it’s okay to take bribes. If you talk to them, they’ll do anything wrong as long as they’re getting paid for it. There are so many talented directors out there – Maheen Zia, etc.- they all went to IM. Nahi kaam mila. This is why people like Mehreen Jabbar have left the country. She’s the best director in Pakistan; she left and she’s in New York right now. You’re getting paid 40 lakhs for a Tulsi video and you’re paying her 2 lakh for a 50 minutes serial? That doesn’t make sense.
What would you recommend to upcoming video directors?
All of Sigfield’s books on screenplays. And the book The Art of Dramatic Writing- We studied that as well. Learn the structure, and then dump it.
What future projects do you have lined up?
Ali Azmat’s new video from his solo album; Hadiqa’s new video, that’s yet to be edited; working on this commercial film with Nadeem Mandviwala; and I want to start work on my own feature film this year.