'Little Zizou' script was completed in 10 days: Sooni Taraporewala

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By Robin Bansal

New Delhi, March 10 (IANS) She's written Mira Nair's acclaimed films like "Salaam Bombay!", "Mississippi Masala" and "The Namesake", but photographer-writer Sooni Taraporewala decided to turn director for "Little Zizou" as she knew the subject - the Parsi community - better than anyone else. So much so that she completed the script in just 10 days!

"I wrote it with actors and locations in mind. I could visualise it and knew exactly what I wanted... Which is why I decided to direct it myself - I knew the subject better than anybody else," Taraporewala told IANS in an e-mail interview from Mumbai.

"I had some time on my hands in 2005 and for the first time began writing a script that was not commissioned by anybody else. I enjoyed myself thoroughly as the characters and subject grew and I found myself with a complete script in 10 days," she added.

With Parsi roots herself, she had special reasons to base her film on her cultural milieu.

"I chose to set my debut film within the Parsi world because it's a world I'm very close to, I am very familiar with and confident about depicting accurately. But also because it is so fascinating and so rarely seen," the filmmaker explained.

"Parsis have a culture just like anybody else. While the setting is very particular the characters, their dilemmas and the issues they face are totally universal," she added.

Produced by Dinaz Stafford, Vandana Malik and Taraporewala herself, the film is a 101-minute Hindi, Gujarati and English amalgamation with a 34-actor ensemble cast.

Releasing March 13, "Little Zizou" revolves around two Parsi families in conflict and stars Boman Irani, Sohrab Ardeshir, Imaad Shah and child actor Jahan Bativala to name a few. Bollywood star John Abraham too does a cameo in the film.

Donning the director's hat, however, was not planned for the 52-year-old.

"My life has never been planned. I never intended to become a screenwriter but life took me in that direction. Similarly with direction, it was unplanned," she said.

The first-time director confessed that she did have her share of initial apprehensions.

"Before the first day of the shoot I had a deep pit in my stomach. The only other time I've ever been that nervous was for my school leaving exams back in 1973! But then as soon as the first few shots were canned I was fine.

Known for focussing on the finer details of her subjects, the writer has thrown light on the Parsi mentality of looking inwards at their success.

The presence of a portrait of Zubin Mehta in every Parsi house, their habit of playing loud Western classical music and constant stress on Indira Gandhi being married into a Parsi family are some typical traits of the community she has humorously depicted in "Little Zizou".

The film has already been appreciated and won awards at the Mahindra Indo-American Arts Council (MIAAC) Film Festival, New York and the Asian Festival of First Films, Singapore.

"The reaction has been absolutely wonderful, heart warming and effusive. Audiences in New York, Washington, Rome and Goa have laughed their way through this mad yet fun tale," she said.

Taraporewala says her relationship with Indian American Mira Nair will always be special.

"We have been friends since 1976. We are also very close creatively so that combination is a very special one."

So has photography taken a backseat now?

"I still take photographs, not professionally any more but for my own satisfaction," she said.

Taraporewala has "no immediate plans to direct anything" but is working on an ongoing project since 2006 to adapt Mark Shand's book "Travels on my Elephant" into a screenplay.

(Robin Bansal can be contacted at robin.b@ians.in)

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