In conversation with Director Aliakbar Campwala


With Samuel Street up for the Cannes and his new directorial venture in progress, Aliakbar Campwala has left his imprint in the world of film-making. He opens up about films and the art of film-making to Subhadrika Sen from Asian Lite News

Director: Aliakbar Campwala

Aliakbar Campwala (Ali)  is a man of multiple talents. He has been seen as an actor in ‘7 Welcome to London‘ in 2012 apart from his various directorial ventures. This ace director hails from Mumbai, India and currently resides in London. He is known for his critically acclaimed movies which have been screened and praised across International Film Festivals. His movies ‘Satisfied‘  and ‘The Invisible Subtitler‘ released in 2011 were widely acclaimed. His latest movie, Samuel Street (2016) has even made it to the Cannes Film Festival .

Being an International Multilingual filmmaker has always been Aliakbar’s signature in his projects, His previous documentary ‘The Invisible Subtitler’ was widely acclaimed in the world of subtitling. In Samuel Street Aliakbar has shot the film in multiple locations and has also creatively collaborated with Indian production houses such as ‘Accord Equips’ and Indonesian filmmakers such as Erna Pelita based in Jakarta, Indonesia. Aliakbar is confident that his upcoming  projects will also have a surreal International feel and is already working on a few exciting new projects in South East Asia. The music of Samuel Street is composed by New Yorker Rishabh Rajan in New York and remains as one of the things to watch out for  in the film. The film also has an exclusive soundtrack from ‘Moby’ which again adds to the cultural tone of the film.

Here are the excerpts from the interview:

Subhadrika:  What was your inspiration behind the movie ‘Samuel Street’?

Ali: To show Indian stories in a realist manner to the world, as usually Indian Cinema always has an element of escapism and fantasy towards the audience.

Subhadrika:  Who are your biggest influences in cinema?

Ali: Filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodrigues, Wong Kar Wai and Wim Wenders were always an influence in my stories and filmmaking style in my career. I am also a massive fan of the French New Wave Movement in Cinema. It has been a major influence in my work and film-making style.

Subhadrika:  What do you love about directing?

Ali: Directing a film is an art of its own. You can imagine everything on a script but watching the actors charisma coming to life on screen is what I love in direction.

Subhadrika: Did you face any challenges while shooting the movie?

Ali: To film in a place like Mumbai is never an easy task as you have to deal with huge crowds and stereotypes in the society. We faced new challenges almost every day but in the end everything would go well as planned.

Sarita Joshi in a still from Samuel Street
Sarita Joshi in a still from Samuel Street

Subhadrika: How was your experience directing Sarita Joshi, Saif Thakur and Anne Adams?

Ali: I am quite privileged to work with such a talented actress (Sarita Joshi) in the film. She was an absolute gem of a person to work with. It was a great experience for all the co-actors to work with such a professional personality in the film.

Subhadrika:  Do you think commercial cinema is overpowering independent films?

Ali: Commercial cinema will always empower Independent cinema. That’s a fact as they have the power to do so. But due to that Independent filmmaking should not hold back and continue making interesting stories to give the audience a choice to select from, watching films in the long run.

Subhadrika: Where do you stand on the film vs. digital debate?

Ali: Digital cinemas are a norm. And to be honest it is of great help budget wise for independent films. It is a major tool for film-makers now to experiment their stories to world -wide audience.

Anne Adams
Anne Adams in a still from Samuel Street

Subhadrika:  Has Social Media helped you in promoting your film?

Ali: If you have made something that is worthwhile people will talk about it. Via social Media or Word of mouth. A film always speaks for itself.

Subhadrika: If there are one or more things, you think, that would make the film industry better, what would it be?

Ali: I am not a fan of escapism cinema and fantasy films. If they were less in the film industry, I think that would make me really happy. And Bollywood dance item numbers. I think someone needs to ban them. 

Subhadrika: Do you have any upcoming projects?

Ali: I’m directing an interesting International film which is going to be shot in the Far East Asia later this year. It should complete by the end of the year.

Subhadrika: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to have a life creating film?

Ali: Take a camera and make your film. Unless you don’t do so, nobody will notice you.