Director Taranveer Singh opens up on the 10-year-long journey of his debut film Tuesdays & Fridays
In the decade that it took for Tuesdays & Fridays to translate into an actual film, Singh remembers writing over 16 drafts until Bhansali Productions stepped in to back the first time writer-director.
Taranveer Singh’s debut film Tuesdays & Fridays has been over 10 years in the making. He wrote the first draft right out of film school while assisting on Vijay Lawani’s Karthik Calling Karthik, “I was also the post-production assistant on the film and when I was travelling the widths of Bombay in auto-rickshaws, I used to have a notepad with me where I would write the beginning, middle, and end of whatever came to my head. I started writing the film on those notepads when Karthik Calling Karthik was being prepped for a release.” The 36-year-old filmmaker made it a point to polish his draft with every film he worked on if only to incorporate what he learnt on the job, “Being on set helps you realise how you can tell a moment better.”
But on a deeper level, Singh, whose childhood in Gwalior was enveloped by moving images (“I was the kid who woke up at 7 am on a Sunday morning to watch Rangoli and Chitrahaar on Doordarshan) also feels like he was gearing up to make this film ever since he watched Maine Pyar Kiya as a five-year-old. In the decade that it took for Tuesdays & Fridays to translate into an actual film, Singh remembers writing over 16 drafts until Bhansali Productions, the eponymous production house started by filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali, stepped in to back the first time writer-director.
Released online last week, the trailer of Tuesdays & Fridays unsurprisingly features a callback to Salman Khan’s Prem from Maine Pyar Kiya. It is also tempered with ample references to Hindi films and it itself influenced by the idea of a manicured, instagrammable-version of romance that Bollywood is notorious for trademarking as its own. Set in London, the film, evidently modelled around Friends with Benefits and No Strings Attached, revolves around Varun (newcomer Anmol Dhillon) and Siya (former Miss India finalist Jhataleka Malhotra also making her debut), two “restless souls” who come up with an arrangement that involves them meeting each other only on only two days of the week: Tuesdays and Fridays.
On its part, the film, which also stars Zoa Morani and Parmeet Sethu, seems to resemble a generic millennial romance, now popularly known as the Imtiaz Ali genre. The three-minute-trailer isn’t the most subtle with its intentions, essentially centring itself around two good-looking protagonists pining in glossy locations in the backdrop of a heavily autotuned Tony Kakkar soundtrack.
Edited excerpts from a phone-conversation with Taranveer Singh:
How did a boy from Madhya Pradesh with no connections to the film industry get a foothold in Bollywood?
I moved to Mumbai to join film school. I studied at Whistling Woods. This was in 2007 and I hadn’t even held a handycam. I never made anything till then, I just knew I loved movies. When I went in, they asked me what I would want to major in and I immediately said “Direction” because I didn’t know anything else. Unfortunately for me, the direction batch was full. I was told to try editing or screenwriting because people who have been editors or screenwriters have turned out to be better directors because of it, like David Dhawan and Sanjay Leela Bhansali. So I majored in editing. I got my first film right after film school – I assisted on Karthik Calling Karthik. It was an interesting experience because it was so not the kind of film I thought I would be associated with. It was a psychological thriller and I’m a fan of the Yash Chopra-Karan Johar school of filmmaking. But I got to learn a lot, because Vijay Lalwani, the director, was a first-time filmmaker as well. After that, I realised I just have to hustle to get projects with people I really admire because I’m not from the industry. For instance, I was a huge fan of Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na and I wanted to work with Abbas Tyrewala. I ended up working on his next project. I also loved Wake Up Sid and I am endlessly fascinated with rom-coms, so wanting to work with Ayan Mukherji was a no-brainer. I tortured everyone who had worked with me to help me get an interview with Ayan. That’s how I worked as an Assistant Director on Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani.
When did you know that it was time for you to make your own film?
I think it was post Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. You know, there comes a time for every Assistant Director when you need to take a backseat from AD-ing because it can be quite easy to keep doing that. You feel like you’re doing something and a monthly check is coming. But you have to be able to take a break to stop being an AD and start pitching yourself. By then, I had written a few drafts of this little film called Tuesdays & Fridays because I was told by well-wishers in the industry that nobody is going to just hand over money to you and tell you to go make your movie. Your key to getting your movie made would have to have a script that no one can say no to and when they want that script from you, it’s imperative that you stick to it like a leech and say “No, I will direct it.”
Can you tell me a little about how Bhansali films came on board to produce Tuesdays & Fridays?
After I worked on Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, I started pitching it around. I obviously took it to places that I had worked and at that time, Dharma Productions was getting into doing a lot more of the heartland romances, like Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania and I had initially set my film in New York so it wasn’t a right fit for a lot of place. But what happens in the industry is that people talk. Shobhna Sant who is now at Jio Studios, had just joined Bhansali Productions as CEO and she had gotten to hear about the script from someone. She got in touch with me and I was initially confused because I didn’t think my script necessarily aligned with the historicals that Mr Bhansali made. After meeting her, I realised that they also do other kinds of cinema like Mary Kom and Rowdy Rathore that I had absolutely forgotten about. She pitched it to Mr Bhansali and I went in to meet him. A week later, I was told that he had read my script, liked it, and wanted me to start working on it. It still feels surreal to me that his name is on the poster.
Bollywood has always been inundated with rom-coms. It’s possibly the easiest genre to take a crack at. As a result, most of the tropes have become so familiar that they start bordering on being a cliché. Is Tuesdays & Fridays giving a spin on the genre that we might not have seen before?
I was pretty certain from the beginning that I wanted this film to be my own take on the kind of movies that I grew up watching and loving. I wanted to explore how the idea of love changes for someone who is in their late 20s or early 30s, when everyone around them is getting married and they’re the only one left single. In most of our lives – at least that of the urban millennials – this is usually the time when the villain of our love story is usually us and the emotional baggage that we have accumulated. That’s what I was interested in – the idea that there is no one standing in your way but you. This is the age when you turn into a reluctant romantic from the hopeless romantic that you once were; where you want to be with someone but you also find yourself self-sabotaging. For example, why the hell would anyone agree to the arrangement that Varun and Siya have in the film? Clearly, both of them have their issues.
You’re a newcomer making a movie with two other newcomers. What did you see in Anmol Dhillon and Jhataleka Malhotra that made you think they were the right fit for the film?
When I met Anmol for the first time, he limped into the office because he had broken his leg two days ago while playing football and he was very apologetic about it throughout the whole meeting. I thought he had a very gentle demeanour that was at odds with his physique. You don’t feel intimidated by him, you still find him approachable. That was important to me because Varun is an author in the film and I didn’t want it to be a situation where you feel like this person hasn’t even read a book. Jhataleka sent across an audition tape where she enacted Alia Bhatt’s outburst scene from Highway and that stood out to me. I also felt that she had a very old-world Hindi film heroine charm about her which is so rare to come by.
Usually, when any movie launches a star-kid (Anmol is the son of actress Poonam Dhillon), that’s becomes an event that can at times eclipse the film. Was that ever a worry?
I’m realising that I have a star-kid in my film only now that the trailer is out and people are asking me this question. If Anmol had any expectations to be treated like a star-kid during the shoot, that was quashed on the first day because we were essentially making a small film with a strict budget. We didn’t have money to get them Starbucks. The rule was that whatever is not shown on the screen will not be spent on. In fact, so many of the clothes that both of them are wearing in the film was from their own wardrobes. In that sense, this film is very different from your usual star-kid launches so I didn’t have to worry about that at all.
Your film was one one of the many films postponed due to the pandemic. There were reports that it might be released on an OTT platform before it was formally announced that the film was releasing in the theatres. For a filmmaker making his debut, what does a big screen release mean for you?
The dream was always to be on the big screen. In a way, our film would make for one of the most obvious choices for a streaming release. It would have been very easy for our producers to pack this up with some other films and sell it but the fact that they chose to wait it out means a lot to me. At this point, I understand that a lot of people are scared to go to the theatres but people are also starting to get used to the idea of going out. So if our movie can be one of the options for people to get out of their houses and experience a sense of normalcy again, I’m really happy with that.
Tuesdays & Fridays releases on theatres on 19 February.
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