Bollywood has lately been increasingly receptive to content-driven films. And director Tanuja Chandra, known for her story-driven movies with intense plots such as Dushman (1998) and Sangharsh (1999), is glad that the story is the most saleable aspect of films these days but adds that female-driven films don’t find easy takers. “Auraton ke bare mein filmein chalti nahi hain, the investors say. They in the end talk from experience and selling ability, but there are very few women-centric films to make that theory on,” says Tanuja. Excerpts from the interview:
It has been nine years since your last film, so what made make a comeback with Qarib Qarib Singlle?
Basically, for a director each project is a two-three year journey. Before this film, I was working on some scripts that were on the verge of being made but had to be shelved. Those scripts are still there with me and will not lose value, will make them at some point. I also wrote a book of short stories and I made some short films. I decided to comeback with a rom-com because it is gives you a great feeling making a film about love, it bring out a smile on your face.
What made you cast Parvathy and Irrfan together?
I always like to cast actors in roles that you have not have seen them in. Irrfan also took some time to say yes to this, especially since it was not something he has done. I think that since his character is a little odd ball, though he is serious in his heart but he just doesn’t show it. Just like all men are (laughs). She (Parvathy’s character) on the other hand is a strong woman and unsure about relationships. So the combination of strength and frailty in Parvathy’s performance that makes her very human.
Are there facets of the character that you relate to?
Yes, I do. The whole idea of a 35-year-old woman not looking for love is something that I connect to but I think there are a lot of other women who will connect to it too.
Do you feel that men today are still uncomfortable with strong and a confident woman?
There are some men who appreciate a strong women, but honestly not enough. This is how it is all over the world, women are not equal to men. The day we become equal to them, is when they will start appreciating strong women. But I am happy that at least in fiction, I could have a guy like that.
Do agree when people say that films, in a lot of ways, are responsible from sexism?
They do feed of each other, but films do come from real life. Honestly films only sweeten reality. But I don’t think they can change your perception, I wish they could. So many movies show good winning over evil, but in reality today, we have more violence, rapes, tragedy and war. But movies and book should not deteriorate, they should try to seek the good in human beings, which we are capable of. Though movies have an effect, it may not change me but it will affect my thinking. So, I must not portray and glamourise vulgarity and say that it is ok.
Do you feel that stories which have strong women characters have difficulty in finding investors?
Yes, they always were. We may feel that there are many films with just a female protagonist but in reality there are hardly one or two such films a year. If there were 100 such films that were doing well, then the economics will start changing. There should be more female directors and stories about women. Look at television it is only about women, it is the only place where I go and people say get me a female story.
Do you feel the film industry is open to more female talent?
They world is not open to talented female. In every walk to life, there is no equality. The film industry is a part of society so it will reflect the same thing. But I feel that the film industry is bit less on the patriarchy side, it is all about what sells. If I am a woman and I am very successful, then they won’t care if I am a woman or a man.