From Salaam Bombay to
She juggles many hats.
As a photographer, her work has been displayed around the world's top galleries, including London's Tate Modern.
As an author, she's written and shot for a coffee table book -- Parsis: the Zoroastrians of India -- A Photographic Journey -- that fellow Parsi and legendary conductor Zubin Mehta calls 'the finest documentation of the life and achievement of our community in 20th century India.'
And, for the last 20 years, Sooni Taraporevala has also been a screenwriter, writing landmark films like Salaam Bombay, Mississippi Masala, and, most recently, The Namesake.
Now, with Sooni readying for her first film, Raja Sen catches up with her at her Mumbai home, talking about Mira Nair, adapting a book you love, and her imminent directorial debut. Accompanied by snapshots from Sooni's on set experiences.
So the scriptwriter finally
turns director. What's your film about?
And what genre would
you say the film falls into? Do you have a name for it yet?
Like the footballer?
Nice. So when you wrote this script, did you always envision directing
it yourself? Or did you think about shopping for that later?
Is there a particular
reason why you chose to do Little Zizou yourself instead of giving it
to another director?
Coming back to your current
success, let's first talk about the director. Is it easy writing for
We know what we both want, which is fabulous.
How different is adapting
a novel for the screen? For The Namesake, you had Jhumpa Lahiri's novel,
Mira's distinct vision, and your own way to connect the dots. So how
much of each did you follow?
It's obviously necessary
to change the book around quite a bit for the screen. Did Jhumpa come
aboard at any point, as a consultant perhaps?
And yes, there are some departures from the novel. (Tabu's character) Ashima's a singer in the movie, which she isn't in the book. And we've moved the location from Cambridge, Massachusetts to New York City, because Mira wanted to contrast New York of the 1970s with Calcutta of the same period.
And you feel these alterations
are fine, as long as they stay true to the film's spirit. But who gets
to make that call?
So how do all the raves
feel, now that critics are hailing the film as being better than the
What would you call the
challenges specific to this adaptation?
It's also, pardon the
expression, 'a very Bengali book.' Did this distance you from the characters
in any way?
I conected with Gogol because I too studied in America, and, when I came back after 6 years, my parents didn't really recognise me. And I connected with the parents, because, well, I'm one myself now. It's a story that reaches out to all the generations, and I think this adaptation came at a time I was ready for it, when I could completely relate to all of the characters.
How did you like the
performances in the film? Are there any actors who surprised you?
A longtime screenwriter
now making her first movie, when do you still find the time for photography?
Do you watch a lot of
current Bollywood films? Are you in the loop, so to say?
A lot of current filmmakers
see Bollywood right now at a point of flux. Multiplexes are making independent
cinema feasible, a lot more avenues for funding have opened up...
I'm thrilled by people like Anurag Kashyap, Zoya Akhtar -- whenever she does get around to directing her film -- Raju Hirani and Vishal Bhardwaj.
Would you, given the
chance, write for Bollywood directors?
Over 20 years, I've written 20 scripts out of which 6 have been made into movies, and each of those scripts had at least 3, 4 complete drafts. So, as you can imagine, that's a lot of drafts.
Right now I'm looking forward to making my own film, with dread and anticipation.
And as you mentioned
earlier, you're doing this with a group of buddies. Tell us more about
Jigri Dost Productions.
There's Nitin Desai, now the leading art director; Hasan Kutty, the continuity expert; Mulchand Dedhia, a superb gaffer; and Anil Tejani, director, resident guru, and, for Jigri Dost, a Consultant & Cheerleader, the man who told me I must make a film.
And all these people are tied together by Salaam Bombay. It was either their first film or the film they broke through with. And now we're all friends, making films together.
About that 1988 film,
don't you think there's a tremendous chance you'll always be labelled
as 'the woman who wrote Salaam Bombay?'
That movie was a cultural phenomenon, and not just in terms of critics and commercial acclaim, but in terms of getting the issues the right kind of spotlight and raising awareness. I don't know if many people have actually watched Salaam Bombay, in the sense, at least not as many who have heard or read about the film.
It is an important film which had an impact, and I'm very proud of Salaam Bombay.
Visit the site to view the article with pictures at http://specials.rediff.com/movies/2007/apr/04sd1.htm
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