There's hope for Hope...
Tanuja Chandra’s English movie Hope and a little Sugar is finally ready for release, over three years after it was wrapped up in the autumn of 2004 in a 25-day shoot in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.
Shrugging off the delay Chandra says, “My producers Scott Pardo and Glenn Russow are from New York and the Americans take a long time to edit a film. There are hundreds of test screenings and depending on the reactions of the audience the movie is edited and re-edited. Since I was busy with my Hindi film, much of the editing was done on-line for this across-the-ocean kind of a project.”
Once the final print was ready, Hope.. it the festival circuit for a year. “That’s the route most independent American movies take,” the director explains.
“We had screenings at Milan, New York, Florida, Karachi and even Goa.” At the South Asian Film Festival in New York it won an award for Best Feature Film and at Milan it caught the attention of an Italian critic and Chandra was awarded a fellowship to the Writers’ Retreat in Florence.
Boosted by these unexpected successes Chandra is looking forward to her film’s commercial release, first in India and then in the UK and US.
The film is a bittersweet love story of Sikh widow and a Muslim photographer. Saloni ( Mahima Chaudhury) loses her husband ( Vikram Chatwal ) in the Twin Tower crash and then has to face her father-in-law who subsequently hates all Muslims, with her growing feelings for her photographer friend Ali Siddiqui ( Amit Sail).
Though Chandra admits that she was getting impatient about the release, she admits that in retrospect she realises that it was wise to have waited.
“Two years ago, people in the US were still too close to the tragedy to be objective to the film. Despite it’s anti-terrorism message, Hope.. is not anti any community and talks about looking ahead. Not that we’ve put some distance between us and the event, the message will be better appreciated today,” she reasons, adding, “Even Oliver Stone’s World Trade Centre released only a year after the incident.”
In the interim Chandra’s lead actress, Mahima Chaudhury has got married and become a mother. Surprisingly, the director’s delighted.
“Children are so beautiful and motherhood doesn’t necessarily mean ‘The End’ for an actress. Mahima’s back in shape and raring to start again. She looks lovely in my movie. Hope..will be a good comeback for her.”
In the last year Chandra herself has wrapped up three scripts. She’s in talks with a couple of producers for a Hindi film. It could be either a romantic comedy or an epic drama inspired by a true story.
“The most difficult part—the writing—is over. Now I just have to pitch it to the right people,” she says.
She was spotted with Mahima Chaudhury recently. Will the actress be a part of her next film too? Chandra laughs, “We were discussing the release of Hope.. That’s our first priority now.”