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“The chance to touch people’s hearts is irresistible”

Tanuja Chandra, who returned with her latest directorial Qarib Qarib Singlle after almost a decade, in conversation with Suranjana Biswas


Congratulations on Qarib Qarib Singlle. How does all the appreciation make you feel?

I feel kind of empowered. It makes me very happy to make people smile and laugh and feel good about love. A film gives a director a feeling of achievement, in the act of creating. But to sit in a hall in the midst of open-hearted enjoyment and laughter, that’s the real stuff! That’s where the empowerment comes from, and it’s very fulfilling. 

Irrfan and Parvathy’s chemistry is most talked-about. How did you manage to capture this on celluloid?

Let’s just say I’m a very pushy director! I love watching actors communicate a story that has been in one’s heart for so long. Irrfan and Parvathy are both very talented people, so my job was to keep driving them into those corners that they might not have explored on screen yet. In this particular story, the characters are on a mad journey together but essentially they’re both seeking love, which is the essence of human life. All of us want that. God knows why two people fall in love, it’s an absolute mystery. I tried to ignite this thirst in them and if I was able to achieve something there, I’m thrilled.

How special was it for you to associate with your mother Kamna Chandra for this film? How did you conceive the film from her idea?

I had always loved the radio play my mother had written; it was funny, cute and fresh. But yes, to make a contemporary screenplay out of that brief story was a challenge for my co-writer, Gazal Dhaliwal and me. But it was also a ton of fun. The soul of the script came from my mom’s story, of course, but we reimagined it, went through many, many revisions and Gazal wrote hilarious lines. Writing is not a craft one can ever master, but if one keeps trying, we can achieve something special.

A screenplay writer, a director, an author… you never seem to stop exploring! What are you looking forward to exploring next?

All these come under the umbrella of ‘story telling’ and I find all these very exciting. I’m fortunate to be able to explore these varied things but there’s so much more to do and learn. There is television (movies are like short stories, but TV is like a novel – far more complex) and there is the whole digital world which has no limits, really. I’m totally in awe of what’s being done on Netflix.

QQS happened after a long hiatus. Any reason for the long gap?

I was working right through the gap. Writing scripts, pitching movies – a couple of them almost reached the production stage. I was also working on other scripts at the same time but this one happened! And I’m happy it was this one because I hadn’t done a rom-com before.

Progressive filmmaking is all about content clubbed with commercial elements. What is your take on that?

Nothing is more important than content, than a story and a solid script. It has to be the engine of any project. The rest will follow. The tricky thing is achieving a balance between originality and universality. Viewers must relate to the story being told at some level and it should be unique as well, it should have something fresh. That’s what filmmakers struggle with, agonise over and work hard to achieve. India has countless stories. There is no dearth of unusual tales all around us. All we have to do is put our finger on which ones we’d like to tell. 

What are your future projects?

Right now, I’m working towards my next film – exploring, thinking and feeling. What I’m sure of is that I’d like to do a ‘happy’ film next. Possibly after that, I’d return to my old zone of blood and thrills! But for now, the sound of laughter and the possibility of touching people’s hearts is irresistible. Other than that, besides my book of short stories which was published this year, I am also working on a novel. I hope to finish that next year.  


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