Qarib Qarib Singlle does not have the darkness of my past films, says director Tanuja Chandra

Abhishek Srivastava

November 09, 2017 10:36:31 IST

The meeting with Tanuja Chandra, director of the upcoming romcom Qarib Qarib Singlle, is scheduled for 3:15 pm but by the time the interview begins, it is delayed by almost 90 minutes. When Tanuja announces her appearance, a shower of profuse apologies greets me.

It is her petite appearance and smile, which remains conspicuous. When the session begins, I ask inquisitively, "Why ‘Q’ and not ‘K’ in Qarib and what’s the mystery behind two ‘L’ in Singlle?" “It looks more pretty and ‘Q’ sounds more Urdu. The two actors meet on this website called Ab Tak Single and in India, when you are still single after the age of 35, it only means that the ship has sailed. People greet you with a curious ‘ohho’ expression. The website caters to such people and they also have a very cheesy jingle which says ‘let not single ‘L’ become double ‘L’,” explains Tanuja.

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Parvathy and Irrfan Khan in a still from Qarib Qarib Singlle. YouTube

Qarib Qarib Singlle is a marked departure from Tanuja’s earlier flicks which were more seeped in violence coupled with drama. Inform her that her persona does not gel with such films and she is quick to respond that it does and she is fond of the stuff she had made earlier. “That’s my zone and I love the part of strong emotion, drama and violence. Making a rom-com is a far difficult task and I stayed away from such films till Qarib Qarib Singlle happened. It requires great effort to charm the audience and frankly, it’s a difficult genre. I always felt that I was not up to the mark.”

Tanuja believes that Qarib Qarib Singlle has certain sweetness to it and has none of the darkness of her earlier films. The germ of the story came from a radio play that her mother, Kamna Chandra, writer of films like Prem Rog and Chandni, had written ages back. “The radio play stayed in mind for long. The story was about funny man, also a shayar, who had numerous flings in the past. He harbours the notion that the women must still be weeping and crying for him but the truth is far from that. So the film is actually my mother’s story which I co-wrote with Gazal and gave a contemporary feel to it.”

It surely comes a shock when Tanuja informs that she had no clue about her lead actress Parvathy before the film. It was through her brother-in-law, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, that she got acquainted with Parvathy. “Vinod Chopra had screen tested her for a film that never got made. I was not aware of her work and this is the arrogance of Bollywood people that they don’t bother to find out people from other film industries where some amazing work is happening.”

The subsequent days were spent fishing her contact details, travelling to Kochi and giving her a narration, which was okayed by her on the same day. Tanuja adds that it was Irrfan Khan who took his own sweet time to say yes to the film. “His first reaction when I sent him the synopsis was ‘interesting, let's meet.' Then it was followed by many sessions. It also gave me time to revise the script when he kept pondering over the script.”

Its also interesting to note that despite her two decades in the industry, she has directed less than nine films. Why such a low strike rate? “Technicians and actors can do three films in a year but directors have to write the script first, meet actors, pitch the script to producers and then mount a team to shoot the film. The whole exercise can take anywhere from two to three years. Also, there is the long journey of post-production. There is uncertainty at every level so considering this, my average is not bad.” Also the gap between Qarib Qarib Singlle and her last film has been the maximum. She informs that in the intermittent period, she was busy working on two scripts but both could not materialise as things got scraped at the eleventh hour.

Tanuja is also mighty excited that her brother’s tome Sacred Games will finally come alive on Netflix. “I am really excited because the book truly belongs to the world of Netflix shows. In limited series you can explore and discover characters so the platform is perfect for the book.” Tanuja also believes that Saif Ali Khan in the role of Sartaj Singh will do full justice to the character. “Sartaj Singh is such a fabulous character with his quietness and simmering anger. Saif has done some unusual acting in the past and I am confident that he will bring his quirks to the role.”

Being a filmmaker who has often made films with female protagonists, it is also imperative to get her views on the crisis that Hollywood is facing these days in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein saga. “I am not for justice which is vigilante justice. There has to be a process of law. We must talk about things because there is extreme inequality. This is the kind of treatment that women have been getting for so long. We have to constantly speak against it and keep harping, it does not matter if people get tired of listening to us,” signs off Tanuja.

Updated Date: Nov 09, 2017 10:36 AM