Barring his maiden OTT series Tandav, filmmaker Ali Abbas Zafar says none of his projects have been controversial in nature and he wants to continue following the same pattern. Tandav, starring Saif Ali Khan and Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub, was marred in controversy in 2021 and multiple FIRs were filed across the country over its alleged depiction of Hindu deities in a scene.
Zafar stressed that he is not a “controversial filmmaker” and respects all the communities and cultures. “I am not a controversial filmmaker or storyteller, none of the films before my last outing (Tandav) has been controversial. I like to tell stories that are very humane and I want to follow the same pattern with my work now and in the future.
“I have respect for all communities and cultures. The beauty of Indian culture is we co-exist with a lot of love and mutual respect and I want to portray that in my films,” Zafar told PTI in a virtual interview.
The filmmaker is best known for directing blockbuster movies such as Sultan, Tiger Zinda Hai and Bharat, all featuring superstar Salman Khan in the lead.
Ali Abbas Zafar believes people working in the creative field should keep in mind the sentiments of the viewers. “Anything you produce is finally for an audience and you cannot offend them. You need to be sensitive, compassionate and lovable towards them as they are going to see your product irrespective of their faith, thought or opinion.
“And whatever an audience feels for your product they are honest about it. As a creative person we should respect that and not say anything which can be taken in double or multiple ways.” His latest film Jogi, starring actor-singer Diljit Dosanjh, is set during the 1984 anti-Sikh massacre. The aim behind the movie was to talk about the idea of living in harmony, the director said.
“It is an emotional film and a simple story with a lot of heart. The whole idea is that the first responsibility of any human being is to show humanity. That is the core of Jogi,” Zafar said.
The Hindi movie, which premiered on Netflix last week, explores the agony of the Sikh community in Delhi following the assassination of former prime minister Indira Gandhi. In October 1984, violence erupted in the national capital and other parts of the country after Indira was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards the same month, killing over 3,000 Sikhs across India.
Through the lens of Dosanjh’s titular character, Zafar said he has tried to capture a tale of brotherhood. “Whenever there is chaos there is divided opinion about situations like these. What Jogi stands for is how people rise together. It does not matter which culture they come from. But how saving lives in a situation like this, is the need of the hour,” he added.
As part of his research, the filmmaker said he read a series of books on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and survivor stories. Ali Abbas Zafar also relied heavily on Diljit Dosanjh, and said the actor’s contribution to the film is “phenomenal”. “He was the bouncing board where I would ask him that if we show this or do this will you think there would be anything objectionable.
“He said everything that is there in the script has happened and that I should portray it in the most truthful and emotional way. He was like a mirror to me and his contribution to Jogi is phenomenal,” he added.
Kumud Mishra, Zeeshan Ayyub, Hiten Tejwani and Amyra Dastur also play pivotal roles in Jogi. The film is produced by Zafar along with Himanshu Kishan Mehra.