He’s a sprightly 81-year-old director and is gearing up to shoot a Partition saga for Doordarshan. Ek Aangan Ke Ho Gaye Hum takes off in 1947 before moving to the present times when a woman claiming to be Hindu is unmasked as a Muslim. “It will air twice a week. A 26-episode run has already been green-lighted. Then, depending on TRPS, I could get an extension. I’d like to go up to 104 episodes,” says the excited veteran.
Tandon is saddened by the politics of hate that’s being fanned between India and Pakistan despite the cultural connect they share. He recalls a 16-year-old boy arriving in Mumbai, surprised by the fact that he wasn’t all that different from back home except for the fact that he was the only one wearing a salwar.
The filmmaker reminisces about visits across the border. Mrs Puri shopping at a bazaar in Pakistan. The shopkeeper refusing payment for purchases because the ‘tikka’ on her forehead marks her out as a guest from Hindustan. Back in Chandigarh, a man who has come over for treatment asks a doctor if he’ll be killed should he say he’s a Pakistani. He’s told that he can shout it from the rooftops and no one would react.
For Tandon, the so-called animosity is only restricted to the cricket field. “At a baraat (wedding procession) party, a handsome young man walked up to an old Indian lady and offered her some food. He was Pakistan’s former cricket captian, Imraan Khan,” smiles the director, adding that there’s no reason why the common man’s warmth can’t melt the on-going cold war.
Quiz him on his choice of the national broadcaster and he reasons that a private TV channel wouldn’t touch a subject like this. “I wanted to make the serial long ago but after the Kargil war, everyone was talking friendship. Now, I see anti-Indian feelings among Pakistani college girls who don’t have the same freedom of choice and deluded boys who are mislead by fundamentalists. It’s the right to talk peace,” he avers.
Tandon’s cast a new pair, Avinash Tiwari and Divya Dwivedi, and plans to start shooting after Diwali near Delhi. He’s also penning a film script inspired by a real story that happened after the British took over Bengal. He smiles, “I may be old in years but the spirit is still young.”