Santosh Sivan speaks about his film Tahaan

By Satish Sundaresan, Bollywood Hungama News Network

He is one of the very few men who have been responsible for giving Bollywood its global identity that it's enjoying today. Every thing that he does and every move that he makes becomes a style in itself. He can also be attributed the task of extracting some of the most superlative performances out of children, without altering on their innocence. After having won hearts and accolades by a ton with his exceptional films like Halo, Asoka and The Terrorist, to name a few, the man is back to stir the emotional innocence of every cine goers' hears with his latest offering Tahaan, a story set against the backdrop Kashmir, God's very own paradise!

Bollywood Hungama caught up with this man par excellence for a heart-to-heart interview. Here are the excerpts:

First it was Halo and now Tahaan. How does it feel to return back to the children's zone?
There's nothing like 'returning' to kids' zone as I have also done a film called Malli in Tamil, which won many awards. Then, there's a Kannada film that I did called Prarambh for AIDS Foundation which had a small kid along with Prabhudeva. I always believe that when a person is looking at change, its better that we show it from a kid's perspective as people tend to understand that better. It's amazing to work with children and it's quite easy to work with children as long as you adjust to their mood swings and you don't dictate too much to them. Let them be what they are. I always try to make the shoots with children a very pleasant experience by making them happy, simply by not being very demanding.

So, how easy or tough was it to deal with someone like Purab (the child protagonist of Tahaan) whose mere eyes convey an ocean of unspoken emotions?
It was very easy and tough at the same time. It was not the easiest thing in the world, at the same time it was not even the toughest thing in the world. I always believe with going with the flow of the children rather than bringing them your way. I believe that they are the most important characters. So it was kind of easy to deal with him. Also there's a notion about the best way to work with children is to pamper them, which I feel is wrong, because with pampering, they tend to sit on top of your head. Hence, I feel that one has to treat them and behave with them very normally. That's primarily because there are lots of other people on the sets to pamper them. Hence, I normally don't get into too much pampering. The children are a very clever lot and spontaneous. They will work their way hard to see that you smile.

Was finding Purav Bhandare to play the role of Tahaan difficult?
I wanted someone who could effortlessly speak with eyes, because I feel that if the children start mouthing adults' dialogues, it takes the innocence out of them. It was more of unlearning them. I wanted someone very normal and not someone whom you feel sorry for. I felt that like a kid in Mumbai and a kid in Kashmir go through different kind of childhoods. Hence, I wanted the film to be presented in that manner. And as far as finding Purab is concerned, its all thanks to our casting agent Abhimanyu. We saw several kids and took numerous screen tests. But in the case of Purab, it was simply spontaneous. The moment he walked in, I knew that 'he was the one'.

What inspired you to make a sensitive film like Tahaan?
Sometime back, I had read an article in one of the newspaper cuttings, which was not a pleasant thing to read. That's when I realized that only if something drastic happens gets a mention in the newspapers. But for every drastic thing, there were also so many things that does not happen along with it. That set me of thinking. Since I had earlier made a movie The Terrorist, I did not want to touch upon the topic of terrorism. Also that I liked the whole idea of fable and story telling and then you put them in a place of conflict, something that has a universal appeal as it could happen anywhere. That's how Tahaan was born. We had constant inputs from someone like Anupam Kher, which makes it really very interesting.

What went through your mind when you were casting the following characters: Anupam Kher (as Subhan)
I have worked with him several times when I was a DoP (Director of Photography) and I always wanted to cast him. He has fantastic potential. I have always seen an upward trend in his career since his brilliant performance in Saaransh and also in Khosla Ka Ghosla. I have also seen him in several foreign films like Bend It Like Beckham etc... I always felt that he is someone with tremendous potential. He is someone with tremendous potential.

Sarika (as Haba)
Even though I know her personally, this is the first time that I am working with her. I always thought that she was amazing even as a child actress. She delivers any role with effortless ease.

Rahul Bose (as Zafar)
He looked the part of someone from a village wanting to look a bit modern. Rahul too was totally charged up because he does not get to play the village idiot kind of roles every second day, because of his sophisticated nature.

Victor Banerjee (as Grandfather)
He is a fantastic actor and is also someone who looks like a Kashmiri to the core. Also whenever I visualized about someone who could put values into a kid, it was him whom I would think of. He has this pleasant and soothing personality that exudes warmth every time. In the film, he could easily carry it off very well the scenes of him telling the fables of life to the kid.

Rahul Khanna (as Kuka Saab)
He is doing a guest appearance. He resembles the part of someone who is from Kashmir, and has gone abroad, studied there and has come back to continue working as a Moneylender. It's the same business of money lending, but in a different fashion.

It must have been really tough to shoot in Kashmir and that too with a donkey.
We have not shown Kashmir in a conventional manner. We have shot at a time when the stage is set for the first snow. It's unlike what people have seen of Kashmir so far! And as far as the donkey is concerned, since it belongs to Kashmir itself, it's used to the cold conditions. Since we did not want the animal to do anything unnatural, we did not have a tough time managing it. And since the script required the donkey and the boy to be emotionally tied up, I made Purab take care of the donkey a week before itself by giving it apples etc… They became inseparable anyways! And it is this chemistry which translates on screen so beautifully!

You have repeated Rahul Bose in Tahaan after Before The Rains? Why?
His role in Tahaan was not very defined. Rahul is someone who is able to elaborate on his roles and give some different dimension to the same. Hence, it becomes comfortable to have that with an actor with whom you share a great comfort zone. It's not a big role, but surely a challenging one!

The film has been doing rounds of festivals. But how do u think the janta will react to the movie?
It is been invited to just about any festival one can ever think of.

What do you think of the film? If I were to answer this question as a layman, I would be totally speechless and awestruck!
You have just answered my question, my boy! You have just answered my question! If you and I think that it can connect with the multiplex audience very well, then, I am sure that the film has huge potential! I think that the people will surely like it!

You are one person who is not new to awards as you have a galore of National awards, Filmfare awards and an array of others in your kitty. So, what's your take on actors (without taking names) banning such awards?
Everyone has got their personal choices and reasons to either accept or reject the awards. What really matters is as to why do you like or dislike any award. The irony of the situation is that if you do not have an award, it matters a lot. But after you get one (award), you can say whatever you want! To me, any award acts as recognition of the individual's work. Besides all this, there are some awards that you really treasure the most. In my case, it's my first National Award that I treasure the most. That's because my mother asked me "Son, when are you going to get a National Award?" That time onwards I was so very keen on getting the National Award. But then, by the time I got my eleventh award, she was fed up anyway (laughs).

Wasn't Before The Rains previously called as Kerala?
Kerala was just the working title.

How does it feel when you see Benaf Dadachandjee (the innocent child star of Halo) on TV as a grown up star?
It feels really great to see these kids grow up to become actors.

What has been the most frustrating experience of his life?
It was during the shooting of Tahaan. Firstly, we were waiting for snow to happen. And when it snowed, we had to hurry up with the shoot, because we were told that the roads will get blocked with snow. We managed it all through somehow.

What's your next project after this?
I am planning a fantasy film. It's still in the planning stages.

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