Sugar and all things nice

Tanuja Chandra’s Hope And A Little Sugar won the best feature film award at the recent South Asian International Film Festival in New York, reports Vimla Patil

Tanuja Chandra with the crew of Hope And A Little Sugar
Tanuja Chandra with the crew of Hope And A Little Sugar

Tanuja Chandra’s English film Hope And A Little Sugar won an award at the South Asian International Film Festival in New York in October 2006. Tanuja also has the distinction of releasing two films – the Hindi Zindaggi Rocks and the English Hope And A Little Sugar – on the same day in October.

Tanuja’s Zindaggi Rocks, featuring Sushmita Sen and Shiney Ahuja, has been produced by B.A.G. Films. "Hope And A Little Sugar is a unique international film for many reasons," says the ebullient Tanuja, "It is probably the first film by an Indian director that has been made across two continents. It is almost wholly created through online operations and applications." After training in film editing and direction in the US, Tanuja returned to India with dreams of becoming a director in Bollywood. She says, "I began by making television serials like Zameen Asman and Mirch Masala. Then I got an opportunity to assist Mahesh Bhatt when he made the award-winning film Zakhm. I co-wrote the National Award winning film Tamanna in which Pooja Bhatt played the heart-rending role of a girl-child thrown in the dustbin and brought up by a eunuch. Finally, before directing my own films, I co-wrote the screenplay of Yash Raj Films’ Dil To Pagal Hai.

"I have made mostly woman-centric films like Dushman, Sangharsh and Sur because such stories are close to my heart. I identify with the women characters I create and am able to imbue them with a passion that I feel. Zindaggi Rocks is onemore movie in the same genre. Sushmita Sen and Shiney Ahuja have done complete justice to the roles written by me and I think the film has ‘upset’ many people – which is exactly what I wanted. I think films should move viewers – for good or bad. When I shake the innermost core of my viewers’ hearts, I know I have made a good film. Hope And A Little Sugar happened because of my need to touch sensitive hearts across the continents." Tanuja believes that the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center has been a turning point in the history of the modern world. It has shattered millions and stirred unprecedented passions in the hearts of people all over the world. One consequence of this event is the worldwide isolation of Muslims and the feeling of suspicion and anger towards them. She says, "The more the world treats Muslims with rejection and frustration, the more they react with violence. This is a disastrous cyclical development. I needed to bring this fact out in the open and discuss it through a film. In my film, a retired Sikh Colonel, (Anupam Kher) faces the trauma of the 9/11 tragedy. The dilemma of his daughter (Mahima Choudhary) falling in love with a Muslim photographer (Amit Sial) shatters him further. As you know, the Sikhs have a history of confrontation with Muslims and I wanted a character from this community to symbolise that love transcends the barriers of religion and national calamities. When the script was ready, I did a recci in the US to ensure that my story was accurate and would not cause controversies. The Dadlanis first saw the script on the Net and asked me whether they could scout around for producers.

"Finally, together, we zeroed in on Glenn Russow and Scott Pardo, two independent New York film producers who agreed to finance the film. They contacted me on e-mail when they read the script on the Net and raised the money for the production. The entire pre-production was done on the Net and I gathered a crew of 25 workers from India – half of them women – to create the film.

Among these were actors, technicians, costume designer Anahita Adjania and art director Gina Shetty. We arrived in a planeload in New York to meet our producers for the first time ever. The film was completed in 25 days. I believe this has been the first-ever collaboration of its kind between a US crew and its Indian counterpart that never had met each other before they made a film together. In many ways, this is a milestone in film making across the continents.

Tanuja and her Indo-American team were thrilled when the film was premiered at the South Asian International Film Festival in New York in October 6 and drew a standing ovation for the actors as well as the production-direction team and received rave reviews. It will now be shown at the Kara Film Festival in Karachi, Pakistan and the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), Goa.

The American producers of Hope And A Little Sugar happened to meet singer Sonu Nigam during his concert tour in the US. When they talked to him about the film, he was so touched that he expressed his wish to sing a song for it. The film therefore ends with a song composed by the film’s music director Wayne Sharpe and sung by Sonu Nigam, while the credits are shown.