Sooni Taraporevala is one of those unsung heroes in the film business whose screenplays translate into award-winning films like Mississippi Masala, Salaam Bombay or The Namesake. A winner of several awards, Taraporevala finally decided to broaden her sphere of work with her debut film Little Zizou, set to release in India next month. However, Taraporevala has already got busy, traveling with Little Zizou to film festivals, the latest being the recently concluded New York Film Festival, where the film won three awards. Excerpts from a chat with the screenplay-writer-turned director:
How do you feel as Little Zizou nears its release?
I am really excited… not just because of the awards but the overwhelming response it got at the New York Film Festival. It was the ideal premiere and I am really happy that it will now release in India.
Why did it take you so long to direct a film?
(Laughs) I was tired of doing what I love the most. I started writing 20 years ago. Then one day I decided to take a break from writing and direct a film. It was a spontaneous decision and now I am really in love with direction. The script of Little Zizou was there with me, and it didn’t take long to finish this script.
Little Zizou delves into the Parsi community.
It was the easiest thing for me because I belong to this community. But I don’t want to brand this film. Why call it a Parsi film? We never brand films like Hindu films or Christian films. It’s only that the story is based on a Parsi family. I want everyone to watch this film. It’s a comedy… something that will be liked by all. It’s not slapstick and is meant for all age groups. There’s nothing serious about this film… it is a feel good movie.
Almost the entire cast belongs to the Parsi community?
People who come from this community play the Parsi characters, though Imaad (Shah) who is one of the main characters isn’t a Parsi. They are all my friends and I am really thankful that they helped me complete this film. The idea was to work with friends, who are good actors.
Apparently, you requested John Abraham to be part of this film and that’s why he is doing this cameo.
That was not because I wanted a big name to be associated with this film. John is half Parsi and when I requested him he was really excited, and readily agreed to be part of this film. I have come across few people who are as polite and down to earth as John. He has done a fantastic job and so has Imaad.
Zizou is played by your son Jahan Bativala…
(Cuts in) Please, I don’t want to talk about this till the film releases. In fact my daughter Iyanah too is there but I don’t want to promote them as actors.
Mira Nair, who has directed most of your scripts, is producing this film?
Mira is an integral part of my life now. She is my guru (laughs), or to be more precise my friend, philosopher and guide. She was the first one to know about my directorial plans. We have been friends for 33 years now… long enough to understand and depend on each other. Much like my decision to direct, her decision to produce my film too came quite spontaneously. She was always an influence and would remain one. I have learnt a lot from her. And she was the first one to complement me after watching Little Zizou.
You have roped in Bickram Ghosh to compose the music?
I had heard his music, particularly the Rhythmscape album and became his admirer. But I didn’t know much about him. Then one day Nitin (Shawney), who composed the music for The Namesake, was listing to his music on his ipod. He told me to bring in Bickram. He has really done a commendable job and I must say his music matches international standards. He is fit to work with any director in the West today.