She started her career as an actress in Hansal Mehta’s Yeh Kya Ho Raha Hai? and was seen opposite John Abraham in Jhootha Hi Sahi, a film which was directed by her husband Abbas Tyrewala. Now, Paakhi A. Tyrewala is all set to bring Pahuna – The Little Visitors, her first film as a director produced by Priyanka Chopra’s Purple Pebble Pictures, to the audience.
In this interview, she talks about her directorial debut, making a film in a language she is not familiar with, the reason why she will not pursue acting further, working with Priyanka Chopra and upcoming project.
How did the idea for this film come to you?
About fourteen-fifteen years ago when I was working as a teacher with The Art of Living Foundation, I had gone to the North-East to teach. For the first two days, I stayed in a hotel. On the third day, the people I knew there refused to let me stay in a hotel. After that, for a year and a half, I always stayed at somebody’s house. The germ of the story came from the experience I had there. The people there made me feel like I was their own. They were so warm and welcoming. ‘Pahuna’ means guest. My entire experience in the North East stayed with me and inspired me to make this film.
Why would you make a film in a language you are not familiar with?
Yes, I am not familiar with the language but I was in love with the state. Our government has been making a lot of efforts to get North-East to the forefront. As a filmmaker, this is my contribution in the same direction.
I think you had your first brush with direction when you directed a song in ‘Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na’.
Yes, I had directed the song ‘Tu Bole’. They were working on the edit when they realised, they needed a song. I ended up directing it. I also worked as a casting director on ‘Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na’.
You had also made a short film called ‘Kaajal’.
Yes, I made ‘Kaajal’ to figure out whether I could hold people’s attention for a certain period of time. I thought if I am able to make a decent twenty-minute long film, I could try making a feature film as well. I showed ‘Kaajal’ to Abbas and some industry friends like Vishal Bhardwaj, Vikramaditya Motwane and Madhu Mantena. They liked the film and told me I should try my hand at making a feature film.
Did Abbas guide you in your journey as a filmmaker?
Yes. In fact, I would give the entire credit to him for my growth as a filmmaker. I got married early and did not go to a film school or assist anybody. I learnt everything about filmmaking from him. Nagesh Kukunoor and his producer Elahe Hiptoola have also guided me in a lot of ways. Nagesh had once told me that a director should not be egoistic and listen to the people around him.
You started out as an actor with ‘Yeh Kya Ho Raha Hai??’. Years later, you acted in Abbas’s film ‘Jhootha Hi Sahi’. Do you plan to pursue acting further?
No, I do not have any intention of getting back to acting. I was criticised too much for my last film and I do not like negative criticism.
You can be criticised as a director too.
No, I do not think that will happen. I am a good director (laughs). On a serious note, you have to be realistic about certain things. To be an actor, you need to be young, starve yourself to look a certain way and do a lot of other things. I am past that phase in my life and happy being a director.
As a producer, how involved was Priyanka Chopra in the film?
She was a hands-on producer but never interfered in the creative process. She gave me complete creative freedom and never questioned the decisions I took as a director. She was completely involved in the marketing process. Dr. Madhu Chopra was a strong pillar of support during the entire journey of the film. She was with me during all the festivals the film travelled to.
Marketing a regional film could be difficult.
Before we started working on the film, I made it clear to Priyanka and Dr. Chopra that it was a one-of-a-kind film and it had to be marketed differently. We are marketing it like a foreign film and not like a regular Bollywood film or even a regional film. We are very sure about our target audience and are marketing the film accordingly.
What are you doing next?
I plan to make a political thriller. Once ‘Pahuna’ releases, I will be able to take it forward.