Chaand Chazelle is a poetess, actor, writer and director — all rolled in one. However, of all the media she traverses, Chaand believes it is cinema that reaches the masses in all corners. In Chandigarh — her hometown of 16 years before she migrated to the UK in 1974 — Chaand screened Throw of a Dice: Nothing in Life is Black or White, which she co-wrote, directed and produced in 2010.
Chaand’s debut feature film after trying her hand at some short films, Throw of a Dice was triggered off by her viewing of a news piece that mentioned a young black man burnt alive in London by three white men in 1997. Chaand started writing the story in 2002, and after 16 drafts, asked her son Vikram Sherma to help her finalise it.
The story of Duncan Beckford was then written — a London-born geneticist of Trinidadian descent. Throw of a Dice follows his life from being a shelf-stacker at a London supermarket to dealing with questions of race and ethics after his brother is burnt alive by a white gang. “With actor Wil Johnson playing Duncan, the film tracks the change in this geneticist’s life when he meets a girl of Indian origin and marries her. But, after his brother is killed, Duncan is forced to deal with questions of race and ethics,” says Chaand about the film’s story, to produce which she had to sell her house. Throw of a Dice won the best film award at the Black International Film Festival in Birmingham, UK,in 2011 and was selected to be a part of a film festival called Tongues of Fire in the UK in 2012, and the Pan-African Film Festival in 2013.
Do people still face racism in UK? “There is a world of difference between then and now, but there are still incidents, such as, say a white man enters the home of a Punjabi and assaults him because their child was making a noise. There have been times when people walked up to me and asked me to not speak in Punjabi or Hindi. But, now I can register a complaint,” she says.
Before venturing into films, Chaand had founded a production house called CVS Films in 2002 to produce short films. She also gave time to her theatre company — Navrang Theatre — which she had founded in 1993. Her plays were performed in London, Loughborough, Birmingham and Edinburgh.
Has living in the UK for about 40 years affected her Indian sensibilities? “I have a slight English accent, but I am not English. In these years, I have realised that if a Britisher doesn’t sound like an Indian when he is in India, why should I sound British?” asks Chaand, who recently finished writing a screenplay for a film on Maharaja Duleep Singh— titled Retrieving Kohinoor.
After writing her first book in 1996, a collection of short stories in Urdu, titled Naqab Uthane Tak, the lady is now writing a book in English, Girls Don’t Laugh while also working on a project dealing with the situation of the elderly in the society.