It should come as no surprise to anyone that seasoned television director Iqbal Ansari loves to read, particularly short stories with dramatic potential. He is very fond of Manto’s works and enjoyed Manto Rama a lot. Says Ansari, “I am very taken by the way Manto looks at human situations.”
Ansari claims that no matter how good the book, he is not inspired by direct reporting. Nor is he interested in autobiographies or historical books. What actually inspires Ansari is the writer’s interpretation of a given situation, and that is why he is known for exploring stories usually abandoned by others. Admits Ansari though, “There is greater level of tolerance now and channels are more willing to experiment with unusual scripts, and even pay tribute to such writers.”
Fond of reading human interest stories and fiction, some of Ansari’s favourite writers are Bano Qudsia, Intizar Hussain, Ghulam Abbas and Ismat Chugtai. He is not into reading English books though, and recalls his student days when D.H. Lawrence was the rage, but he was advised not to lose sight of local writers and poets – an advice he has religiously followed to date.
Fond of reading poetry, Ansari says he loves to read Ahmed Faraz and Parveen Shakir. However, it doesn’t mean that just because he enjoys romantic poets of a particular period he cannot appreciate the philosophy in Iqbal or Faiz’s poetry.
However, while Ansari has remained steadfast in his selection of books and has not experimented with too many genres, his taste in music has changed much over time. Thus he says, “I enjoyed a different kind of music in the seventies from what I later listened to in the eighties, and I enjoy the contemporary music of today – as long as it has good lyrics – with as much zeal as I enjoyed the music of these two eras.”
According to Ansari, the lyrics should be poetic for him to be able to appreciate any song and listen to repeatedly. He admits that music has undergone radical changes over the years and these days it is more visual than audio, what with music videos having taken over the local music scene and the emergence of music channels on TV. However, being a director himself, he is quick to add, “That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy music videos – I appreciate beautiful shots and photography.”
In fact, Ansari claims he enjoys music in any language. Says he, “I feel I am a young soul and so can relate to any music of any time.”
What Ansari listens to at any given time depends much on his mood. He says, “I can’t be rigid. I’m always learning and growing. I find different things creative at different times and see music as an overall creative process.”
When asked to name one favourite singer or song, Ansari, understandably has no concrete answer. He replies “That’s extremely difficult, and I can’t possibly limit myself in this way.”
As for movies, Ansari says every year he has one favourite and by the next year it is forgotten entirely. And of course, his favourites vary drastically. However, Ansari confesses that never watches commercial films. He became hooked on movies during the days when Satya Jit Ray’s films and Russian cinema were the rage and so developed a taste for experimental films.
Recently, he saw Gandhi Ko Mein Nay Nahin Mara, which he liked a lot. Another movie he thoroughly enjoyed and which ranks among his many favourites is Rung De Basanti. Says Ansari “I like movies in which I find the approach different. A unique angle and treatment of the theme always holds appeal for me, no matter in which language it is made.”
He also liked Black, although he admits it has been accused of being too western in its approach and feel. He explains his views, “I enjoyed it for its technology, craft and performance and it must be admired that such a great production came from this region. Performance levels peaked in Black. Both Amitabh and Rani Mukherjee were phenomenal. The movie was probably much ahead of its time. It is movies like this one that is seen ten years later to review how much development and progress have taken place over the years.”
Ansari watches English movies with as much zeal as he does Indian ones. He saw Life is Beautiful and was completely floored by it.
He says enthusiastically, “I have never seen a better plot than of that movie. From a creative point of view, I feel the director’s sensitivity bordered on the dangerous. He has dealt with the issue of war versus humanity in the film, and done it in a fantastic way.”
Ansari claims that one can gauge the contrast in his choice of movies by the fact that he was as gripped by Rung De Basanti as he was by Life is Beautiful.
Not too fond of Pakistani films, Ansari says he last saw Javed Sheikh’s Yeh Dil Aap Ka Hua.
He bemoans the fact that in Pakistan we have turned regional cinema into national cinema and then adopted the technique in our Urdu cinema as well.