119 years of Trust Interview THE TRIBUNE
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Sunday, September 26, 1999
Bollywood Bhelpuri

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"I want to tell my story from the woman’s point of view"

TANUJA CHANDRA is among the recent crop of young directors to hit Bollywood. Along with Karan Johar, Aditya Chopra, Vikram Bhatt, Sanjay Bhansali and Sooraj Barjatiya she has given a fillip to the Mumbai film industry. The first woman director to prove that commercial cinema is not the prerogative of men alone, she has focused upon themes of female protagonists, thus relegating heroes to the background.

Tanuja’s first directional venture Dushman was hailed by critics, but she describes it as her failure because she thinks she failed to capture the audience response in the second-half.

Tanuja’s second film Sangharsh has just been released and is getting rave reviews. With Sangharsh she has entered into an area which is unthinkable for a woman director.

After Pooja Bhatt’s Tamanna she wrote the script of critically-acclaimed Zakhm with a couple of TV serials, a few scripts, two films and a couple of projects in the pipeline, Tanuja’s career is still in its youth, but it has got a kickstart which most of Bollywood strugglers are envious of. Excerpts from an exclusive interview with P. R. Ravi.

Some time back Shekhar Kapoor left Bollywood in disgust having saying it was impossible to work in this system. Being a woman how did you think of making your career here?

I cannot say anything about Shekhar Kapoor, but I faced problems similar to what other directors would face, irrespective of their gender. Well, the problem arises if one wants a special favour because one is a woman! From day one I decided to work on an equal footing with men, without expecting any undue advantage. So, there is no undue problem. My cast and crew knows I mean business and that is how they respond.

You have been trained in the USA. Did your postgraduation in cinema help in making you successful here?

I don’t consider my master’s degree in film-making redundant but it’s definitely not of much use in the basic technique used in Mumbai. What I acquired there is not useful here at all. I realised very early that whatever I had learnt there will not work here. Mahesh Bhatt’s school of thought and the practicals in Bollywood are the building blocks of my career, since they have influenced me.

Sanjay Dutt is quoted to have said that he was misled about his role in Dushman and he was relegated to second lead, do you agree?

Sanjay knew all along that it was a heroine-oriented movie and he was only helping the story to progress. I never gave him any idea that he was the most important character. If he thought otherwise, I can’t help it. I feel bad that his role, ultimately, did not shape very well and didn’t really gel with the final storyline. For that I take the entire blame as the director of the film. Sanjay is a good actor.

Despite that you have not taken him in Sangharsh?

Yes, because Sangharsh is, once again, a woman-oriented subject and the hero’s is only a supportive role, which would not have gone well with Sanjay. Though I would love to work with him in future on a mutually satisfying role, he is not in this movie.

Akshay Kumar is considered to be a flop hero and his market value has also gone down. Has Akshay been taken because of his ‘action’ image?

Not at all. I believed in Akshay’s histrionics and I have been proved right. Whosoever has seen the film is admiring Akki’s acting prowess. He is just brilliant. He has not done many action scenes here. If you see the film you will realise that it is the first time that he has acted well. You will love his role in this film.

Kajol’s role in Dushman was appreciated and even nominated for many awards. How come she is not in this movie?

Kajol is a great actress and I would have loved to work with her. But Kajol is very busy and I wanted to start shooting immediately and then I saw Dil Se and I liked Preity so much that I decided to go ahead. I am happy with her performance.

It is rumoured that first you approached Karisma Kapoor for the role Preity Zinta is playing now but she demanded an exorbitant price and wanted a change in her role too?

Money was not the problem. It was not the role but the other cast that Karisma had reservations about and we parted amicably on a positive note that we may work again in future.

Why do you take Ashutosh Rana every time?

Why not Ashutosh Rana? He perfectly fits the bill and carries out my conviction to perfection. What else do I want. I understand him and he understands my language. Ultimately, it is tuning that is the key. David Dhawan likes to work with Govinda, Ram Gopal Varma with Urmila Matondkar, Shyam Benegal with Rajit Kapoor similarly Rana fits in Chandra’s set-up.

Your film is seemingly lifted from The Silence of the Lambs. Like others, are you also into copying ideas from Hollywood?

There is resemblance in the sense that there is a psychopathic killer. But that’s all that is common. Everything else is our own. And Silence of the Lambs is not the only movie with psychopath killer theme. By the way it is also based on a real police case. So will you call that also a theft?

Did you have any bad experience on the sets?

Well on the sets I am the master and no one has any qualms in taking orders from me. Only once in the initial days, a technical hand took me to be an eager fan barging into shooting area and tried to shoo me off. Otherwise, it has been fine.

The kind of film you have made just proves that the standards are comparable to that of Hollywood. Are you thinking of making films in Hollywood?

It’s too early to think of Hollywood movies I am yet to make my presence felt in my own country. Perhaps then international cinema will pay heed to me.

Your mother, Kamna Chandra, is a well-known name in the film industry, how do you get along with her?

My mother is my greatest friend, except of course when she is on the dining table forever telling me to eat this or that. I have learnt the value of sincerity, hard work and the courage of my own conviction from her. She would like me to get married and feel secure but has never forced me to do so. She has also never stopped us from doing anything. Sangharsh has a character that is completely based on my mother’s ideology.

Why are you doing films only under Mahesh Bhatt’s banner, Vishesh Films?

I have been clear that I want to make commercial cinema with a strong emotional and narrative content. I am also clear that I want to tell my story from the woman’s point of view. Vishesh Films is a company where unusual films and subjects are encouraged. It is giving me the freedom to do the kind of films that I want to do. I can only do one film at a time and see no reason to look for other producers when I have what I desire.

Mahesh Bhatt has described you as a wonderful director, any comments?

I am flattered because I have learnt the art of film-making from him and if his opinion is that I am good, it carries a lot of meaning for me.

You have been linked to Mahesh Bhatt, your mentor, in more ways than one.

People like to believe in stories or rather in creating stories. Perhaps in the same way as we do. The only difference is that we create a story around fictional characters for celluloid and they make one around real people for their gossip magazines.Back

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