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Box-office numbers are not the only measure of a film’s success, especially in times when content is driving unique, small-budget productions. In the midst of a big line-up in the next few months, the film-going audience will be treated to a delightful gem called Miss Tanakpur Haazir Ho. The film has got rave reviews from Rajkumar Hirani, Amitabh Bachchan and others for its unique concept. We speak with the film’s director Vinod Kapri about his journey and the making of the film

BACKGROUND

Since childhood, I had a knack for writing and, as a child, I had written many short stories and articles which were published in magazines and newspapers. When I grew up, I decided to become a journalist and I started my career with the print media and later headed many news channels. During my journalism career, I met many interesting people and also saw various facets of society.

GETTING INTO RURAL INDIA

In 2003, I was covering the Madhya Pradesh elections and I visited a place in Morena district over there, I heard a beautiful story about a man called Paan Singh Tomar. I found the story fascinating and thought I would return to write a feature story on him. But due to the election, that story never happened and I also got busy with other stories. Later, I heard that Tigmanshu Dhulia had made a film based on Paan Singh Tomar. When the film became a hit, I thought of directing a film myself. These were the kind of stories I wanted to tell and I realised that we now have an audience for films like that. As a journalist, I came across many strange stories and I eventually thought I should start writing stories.

ONE SHORT FILM

When Anna Hazare’s movement was underway, I had made a documentary on him. One day, I received a phone call from a man who loved the documentary. It turned out to be Rajkumar Hirani, who praised the film. He said he liked my style of story telling and asked me what I was doing working with a television news channel. That was the day I decided to concentrate on achieving my goal to become a director.

ON MISS TANAKPUR HAAZIR HO

I had read an article about a boy raping a buffalo and was sentenced to five years by the court. I thought it was bizarre. So I travelled to Rajasthan, where this boy lived, and met him, the villagers and the lawyers who were representing him. While talking to them, I realised what life was like in rural India. That’s when the journey of Miss Tanakpur Haazir Ho started.

ON CASTING

While writing the screenplay, I had Om Puri, Annu Kapoor and Sanjay Mishra in mind. Luckily, when I narrated the script to them, they all agreed to be part of the film. So casting was not a challenge.

BUMPY RIDE

The challenge began when I actually began working on the film. I was not trained as a director, neither did I know how to write screenplay for a feature film. So I finished my research then developed my screenplay. It was easy to write the characters as I had worked as a journalist for so many years and was familiar with the mindset of Indian villagers. Once I finished writing the story, the first challenge was getting a producer who would finance the film. I narrated the story to many people. Everyone said it was an interesting story but wondered who would watch it. I had to explain that I had used the buffalo as a metaphor and the story was about an innocent boy caught in a political satire. Then Vinay Tiwari agreed to come on board as producer. That’s how we started rolling. Since I had no idea about directing, I called my friend Madhur Bhandarkar and asked him if I could visit one of his film shoots to understand how a director interacts with his actors on the sets. So I visited the sets of Heroine, and we started rolling.

ON GETTING ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Once I finished the film, I decided to show it to the man who inspired me to make this film, Rajkumar Hirani. He said he liked my style of story telling and the way I had taken the shots. Anurag Kashyap too liked the film. It was because these two veterans had faith in me that helped me get a presenter like Fox Star Studios.

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