Before Andy Tennant became a director, he was one of the 10 people picked to dance in the iconic John Travolta film, Grease (1978). “There was a huge audition in Los Angeles and New York. I wasn’t the best dancer, but I got lucky,” says Tennant. “I was walking around the stage with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, and even then I was more interested in what the crew was doing.”
His first assignment as a director was on a TV series most Indian audiences will recall. “My first job was to direct The Wonder Years. And I remember I was so nervous, everyone just stared at me and then an assistant director came to me and told me, ‘Say action’,” he says.
After two episodes of that, his career began rolling out and led him all the way to the red carpet with successful potboilers like Ever After: A Cinderella Story (1998), Anna And The King (1999) and the Will Smith-starrer, Hitch (2005).
However, his present trip to India seems to have been an enlightening one so far, beginning with the news that his film, Hitch, ‘inspired’ the Salman Khan-starrer, Partner (2007).
“I just found out that it isn’t homage to Hitch or loosely based on it. It’s pretty significantly direct. I’d love to see it if someone gave me a copy,” he says. Ask him to react to the copycat act, and he pauses for a second before saying, “Well, if I had some financial stake in the movie, I would be pretty upset. But for me personally, I think there is a value to movies getting translated to other cultures’ DNA… But ripping it off is not exactly culture.”
On Thursday, Tennant will host a master class session in direction at the ongoing Mumbai Film Festival. “It’s not going to be a technical class. What might be interesting for people is the emotional journey of a director. I always felt great comfort when I heard directors, who I admire, tell me that they didn’t have all the answers and they did make mistakes. I think that gives new filmmakers hope. It’s a trial-and-error process,” says Tennant.
The master class in direction will be conducted by Andy Tennant at NCPA’s Experimental Theatre between 2 pm to 4 pm on Thursday.