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Director Tigmanshu Dhulia and actor Ali Fazal on working together on their latest film Milan Talkies, shooting in Lucknow and their romance with cinema

The way mothers tell fairy tales to their kids, Ali Fazal’s mother told him a story about a cool Italian family in New York. Year later he realised that she was actually narrating the story of The Godfather. That was Fazal’s first brush with the concept of stories and cinema in what one may call, an interesting initiation. But it’s after starring in a slew of projects including 3 Idiots, Victoria and Abdul, and the success of a popular web series, Mirzapur, that Lucknow-based actor got to work behind the camera. Tigmanshu Dhulia’s romantic drama, Milan Talkies, which released last week and has Ali and Shraddha Srinath in lead roles, had Ali learn the ropes of direction and shoot some scenes as well.

“I never learnt so much on a project. Not just because Tigmanshu Dhulia was on board and he is such a great craftsman, but also because I got to handle the camera in this film. There are few shots which I took for the film. Now I think someday I might start writing or work behind the camera,” says Ali, who adds that it’s only after this film that he wrote a short film and shot it. He is yet to finalise the name though.

Based in Allahabad, Milan Talkies is a story set in around 2010-13, when single screen theatres were just beginning to get replaced by big multiplexes. The film has been shot mainly in Lucknow and Mathura. Dhulia said that he was planning to work on this film since 2013 but could only start it last year. “I started writing it during the shooting of Pan Singh Tomar. I approached several actors including Shahid Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Imran Khan and Sonakshi Sinha but dates were a huge issue. I was also busy with other movies,” says Dhulia, who also wanted this film to be a departure from the usual kind of films that he works on. “People say that I make dark movies with gangs and violence. Even my daughter was asking me to make a movie without an A-certificate. What people do not know is that in real life, I’m quite a romantic. This movie is all about ishq — ishq with cinema and with the lover, both of which are declining in this era,” said Dhulia, an actor, director and writer, who has directed films like National Award-winning Paan Singh Tomar and Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster. He also essayed the role of Shah Rukh Khan’s father in Zero and his other acting outings include Manjhi — The Mountain Man and Gangs of Wasseypur.

Though the film is set in Allahabad, it has been shot in Lucknow. Lucknow, says Dhulia, is a city that offers both comfort and subsidy, which is what makes it so attractive to filmmakers. “Incentives should be given. It will help both sides. While tourism will increase, giving a boost to the city, filmmakers too will get a chance to tell rooted stories instead of making formula movies,” says Dhulia, who is also working on a film based in Lucknow’s millieu.

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