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“A film should be able to make an impact regardless of its length” – Akiv Ali

‘Murder’, ‘Agneepath’, ‘Barfi!’, ‘Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani – he has edited some of the most memorable films made in the last several years and now, Akiv Ali is all set to make his debut as a director with ‘De De Pyaar De’. In this interview, he talks about his directorial debut, working with Ajay Devgn, striking a balance between being a director and an editor and more.

As a first-time director, how easy or difficult was it to work with a star like Ajay Devgn?
I feel I am very lucky to have somebody like Ajay as he is a dream to work with. His energy has driven the film and helped it reach where it has reached. I think he was the first person Luv (Ranjan) narrated the story to. He is a very positive person. I was a little nervous when before the shoot started as this was the first time I was going to direct a film but the nervousness vanished on the first day as Ajay made me feel extremely comfortable and showed complete faith in my vision.

Did he offer any inputs?
Yes but not unless asked for. He is a senior actor and there were times when I asked for his advice. There are two kinds of input – productive and unproductive. When somebody questions you all the time, it means they do not have faith in you. That was never the case with Ajay. There is a small action sequence in the film and none of the people in our group, including Luv, had any experience with action scenes. Ajay came forward and offered to help us out with that scene. We were more than happy to let him take over during that scene. We worked on the film together as a team. Directing the film was a breeze. I do not feel like I worked on the film. I was just enjoying the whole process.

Out of all the films you have edited, is there any film which you think could have been edited better?
In hindsight, I think we could have made ‘Brothers’ a little shorter. There were certain scenes that probably should have been left out at the editing table.

Today, a lot of people in the trade say that filmmakers should make shorter films. But then, you see a three hour long film like ‘Avengers End Game’ turning out to be such a huge blockbuster hit. Do you think the length of a film matters?
Length is just a concept. A film should be able to make an impact regardless of its length. Sometimes, people tell you shorter films work today. ‘Avengers End Game’ is the final film in the franchise and it was bound to be long as the story was being culminated here. Nobody sets out to make a large or short film. It is the story that drives a film. At the end of the day, the audience should enjoy the film. I edited ‘Kites’ which was a pretty short film but a lot of people complained that it was too long because they could not connect to the story.

You have served both as an editor and a director on ‘De De Pyaar De’. Was there a conflict between the two entities within you?
No, I kept the two responsibilities apart. When I was editing the film, I did not get emotionally attached to any shot and thought it should be there in the film even when it was unnecessary. I think everybody, be it a director or an editor, wants the best for the film. You cannot be indulgent as a filmmaker.

“I hope to work across different film industries” – Rakul Preet

“I feel fortunate to have got the opportunity to work in such a diverse variety of films” – Tabu