It was while her children were in middle school that Shelly Chopra Dhar enrolled herself in a film school. And in spite of being the sister of illustrious filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Shelly admits she’s a late entrant. But the 50-plus director of Sonam K Ahuja’s Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga believes that when it comes to dreams, they don’t come in bottles with an expiry date! Not only did the director make her dreams come true, but she proved to everyone that in achieving them, age is but a number. The debutante director talks to us about her journey into films.
Your brother, Vidhu Vinod Chopra is a well-established filmmaker. What took you such a long time to enter the film industry? Tell us about your journey…
Well, I’m settled in the US. My background is in computer software and I was working in the field for 15 years. Later, I took a break for the family and my priority changed. I had enjoyed computers because designing software was equally artistic. While on a break, I dabbled in ceramics. I learnt music, pottery and painting. I’m very excited about the arts, learning and doing new things. That’s part of who I am! Things that I don’t know or understand, attract me even more.
It was around then that Vidhu was working on Broken Horses in LA. He wanted me to help him with administrative work on the film, which I really enjoyed. While doing the behind-the-scenes, I fell in love with the process of film-making. And when my kids went to middle school, I enrolled myself in a film school. I was the oldest student there. I feel that there are priorities in life that change with every phase. So let’s just say I have enjoyed every phase, including this one as a filmmaker.
So, when did your film take shape?
I started with assisting on Ferrari Ki Sawaari, then 3 Idiots, and Broken Horses. After that I started working on my own scripts.
Your film’s lead protagonist played by Sonam K Ahuja is a gay character. Wasn’t that a risk for a debutante? Especially considering a mainstream ‘love story’ film has never had a lesbian protagonist?
Yes, and it was the reason that the subject was considered a risk. But it got me thinking and believing even more that this story needed to be told.
Your first film has earned mixed reviews. Do you think the audience connected with it?
Yes. And it feels amazing when your story telling gets validated by the audience. You feel like you have achieved what you set out to do. When the audience actually understands your story in the way you planned for them, it is fantastic.
What do you have to say about the LGBT community’s representation in Bollywood?
The subject is very close to my heart. I’m nobody to speak about anyone’s work. But the LGBT community has not been represented well in our film industry. Pathos and compassion towards them in commercial cinema is lacking. I’ve always felt the portrayal of the community has not been showcased in the right spirit. It has either been shown in a derogatory fashion or in a comical manner. Both are harmful. When people go to watch these films, they come out feeling that it’s okay to laugh at them. Or they expect them to behave in a certain way!
Our films stereotype them. On the other hand, the films that do portray them sensibly and sensitively belong to parallel cinema, that has a limited reach. So, my only idea was to make film that was entertaining and not preachy. And without putting anybody down, I wanted to present them in a light that they deserve to be shown, with respect and dignity.
Your film was shot before the Supreme Court decriminalised homosexuality, right?
Yes, and I wish they had done it way earlier. From the film’s point of view, yes, I would have made it a little differently.
Women filmmakers are expected to make films that are socially-driven or socially conscious. Do you endorse that thinking?
The term filmmaker or director is a gender-neutral term. And women or men, filmmakers should be spoken about for their films and craft. Having said that, I would take what you are saying as a compliment. We, as women, are more attuned to sensitive issues. But I feel that every filmmaker, irrespective of gender, is in a position of a great responsibility. As filmmakers, we must remember that whatever we show to people, there will be a take-away for the audience.
Even if 10 per cent of the audience is taking away something from the film, it has to be something positive. It better be good. As it is, there are enough issues in the world. And the last thing you want to do through your film is to further negativity. So I better do something that will help, if not say or do anything detrimental to society. And this, I do not know, if it comes from being a woman or a responsible filmmaker.
What about commercial aspects?
Who says that a film with a message can’t be an entertainer and work at the box office?
What are you working on next? And will you be juggling between the US and Mumbai? Or are you shifting base here?
As of now, I haven’t locked a script. But we are already working on it. All I can confirm is that my next will be entertaining too. And if there is a nice little message that you can take home, that’ll be better. I will be down from the US to make my next. For now, my family is there.
What would be your advice to women?
Never be intimidated by age or what people or society will say. If you have belief in something, do it. And when you do something truthfully from your heart, you can never go wrong.
Father’s Day 2019: Nitesh Tiwari reveals why fathers play an important role in his films!
In an exclusive interview, Dangal director Nitesh Tiwari talks about how a man doesn’t need to be a superhero to be a superfather
Unlike the mothers in Indian cinema, there haven’t been as many iconic father characters in Bollywood. However, Nitesh Tiwari is a filmmaker whose films – from Bhootnath Returnsto Dangal – have always had fathers play a key role or the main protagonists. In an exclusive conversation with CineBlitz, Nitesh talks about the characters that have inspired him to sketch his screen fathers and also reveals the films that make him cry each time. Excerpts:
Fathers have been the main protagonist in most of your films, where does the affection for the character come from?
Dangal is a personal experience. It was a story of these girls and their father Mahavir Singh that actually happened in real life. We had to do justice to what he had done in real life. It was not about how we think of him, but how he is in real life. Apart from that yes I create fathers in my movies. I create it on the lines of what I have observed, what I have lived and what I would what them to be. There is a personality that should come into account before creating them and not just be a character.
Who are the screen fathers that you have been inspired from?
I am in awe of three father characters – one is Dustin Hoffman from Kramer vs. Kramer, Sean Pen in I am Sam, and Roberto Benigni from Life is Beautiful. I completely relate to them as fathers because what happens with me is, I cry every time I watch Kramer vs. Kramer.Dustin Hoffman is not sort of involved in his kid’s day-to-day life. After the tragedy, he starts understanding his son and starts building a bond with him and the kind of journey they travel together. In the scene where Meryl Streep has left him and in the climax, the father and son are making the breakfast and he knows that this is the last time that they are together and he will go with his mother leaving the father behind. See you don’t need to be a superman to be a super father, you just need to do the regular things that fathers do and that is what makes you a great father.
It’s the same with I am Sam, how a mentally challenged man turns the whole world upside down for his daughter. Life is Beautiful is one of the most heartwarming story coming out of the World War and Renaissance. How the father makes sure that the son never realises what has happened and that is so beautiful and that is what every father tries to do.
Your story as a real-life father is also unique?
So, me and my wife (filmmaker Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari) we take turns. When she is travelling around, I am with the kids and vice-versa. And I love spending time with my kids.
Which scene from your films do you relate to as a parent the most?
If I have to tell you a scene that I completely relate to is from Dangal, it has to be by the climax where the father who is this strict person all the while kisses his daughter’s forehead. It is so relatable that we have seen our dads being tough, but they are sweet inside. And that is what makes fathers so special. Even with my kids wherever I need I am tough on them but apart from that it’s always love. I have to do that because kids don’t really know what is right and what is wrong. Also if you ask me about my characters, Pankajji’s (Pankaj Tripathi) character from Bareily ki Barfi is also dear to me. You see him, he doesn’t need to do too many things to prove he is a good father. He takes pride in his daughter in what she is. Even with all the unconventional things she does he allows her to do. Not just allow but he is cool with it.
What do you think has changed about fathers in cinema from yesteryear till now?
Emotions are universal, there is no benchmark as to how a father should be showcased. Different people will showcase their father characters in a different way. So, I don’t think fathers were any different in the past. Fathers were always fathers! It is just the time in which they were made. Looking at the cinema now maybe there is a realistic portrayal which is closer to your life. If you ask me my favourites from the old cinema – it would be Amar Akbar Anthony or a Waqt. Maybe I cannot relate to them but they are iconic.
Stay tuned to CineBlitz for more updates.
Ankit Tiwari and Akansha Ranjan dedicate their romantic number to Alia-Ranbir and Malaika-Arjun
The music video of Ankit Tiwari’s newest song Tere Do Naina features Aparshakti Khurrana and Akansha Ranjan and they talked much about love in an exclusive chat with us – read more
A while ago Ankit Tiwari released his newest song Tere Do Naina and this romantic number has gone on to become an instant hit with music-lovers already. Gourov-Roshin has composed this melodious number that’s sung by Ankit in his soulful voice.
The song’s music video too is garnering many likes. Featuring Aparshakti Khurana, it also marks the screen debut of Akansha Ranjan. While she is seen doing hip-hop in the video, she interestingly told us that it was just one day of learning and practice that we see in the video. But that’s not all. Being Alia Bhatt’s BFF, she even dedicated this romantic number to Alia Bhatt and her beau Ranbir Kapoor. Ankit Tiwari too dedicated the romantic song to the most-talked-about couples in Bollywood currently, Malaika Arora-Arjun Kapoor and Alia Bhatt-Ranbir Kapoor. Watch the video below:
How did you like the song Tere Do Naina and the first glimpse of Akansha Ranjan? Let us know in the comments below. Stay tuned to CineBlitz for more such exclusive interviews and updates.
Sugandha Date: I love Deepika Padukone, Alia Bhatt and Priyanka Chopra Jonas, in future I would like to sing for them
Sa Re Ga Ma Pa L’il Champs winner Sugandha Date talks about her future plans, journey and studies, read on…
Maharashtra’s 14-year-old Sugandha Date emerged as the winner of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa L’il Champs on Sunday (June 9). Other than winning the title, the girl took home a trophy and prize money of Rs 5 lakhs. While Sugandha has been very happy about it, she said in an exclusive interview with CineBlitz that, “It’s a great feeling; I cannot express it in words.” Other than this she revealed what will be her future plans with singing as well as studies, she also spoke about which Bollywood actresses she would like to sing for and lots more…
Did you ever imagine winning the show?
No, I never thought so, but now it’s happened so I feel nice. I have made many people proud including my guruji. I had also participated in Indian Idol Junior when I was 8-years-old. After that, my father took a transfer for my career, and we moved to Mumbai. Then my mother requested my Indian Idol’s music coach Anand Sharma to train me, now it’s been 5 years that I am learning classical music from him. He doesn’t take any classes or fees, he only teaches me.”
What is your plan now as far as music is concerned? Any plans for playback singing?
I haven’t thought anything as of now, the journey has just begun so I have to continue learning. I also have my 10th standard, so I have to focus on studies, at the same time I want to continue with my practice. I plan to keep learning music for a few more years, and if an opportunity comes up I will take it up.
In future, if you get a chance to sing which actress would you like to croon for?
I love Deepika Padukone, Alia Bhatt and Priyanka Chopra Jonas, in future if I get a chance I would like to sing for them. But there is a lot of time and hard work left for it.
On Sa Re Ga Ma Pa L’il Champs, which judge was your personal favourite from Amaal Malik, Richa Sharma and Shaan?
My favourite judge was Richa (Sharma) mam, all of them were very good and we got to learn a lot from them throughout the journey.
What do you plan to do with the prize money?
I will use this Rs 5 lakh prize money for my career in the future. But I also wish to take my parents on a world tour.
When you participate in shows like these, how do you manage your studies? Do you like studying?
I manage my studies somehow. I study because I have exams to write, I like it also and it’s important too, but I like singing more. It is my passion and I want to make a career in singing.
From the entire journey, which one has been your favourite performance?
Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam that I sang in the grand premiere, right after my auditions was my favourite performance from the show.
We wish Sugandha Date many congratulations and all the best for the future. Stay tuned to CineBlitz for more updates.
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