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Paakhi Tyrewala: Having a voice behind the camera

By Armin Sethi Tuesday, Oct 31, 2017 10:17: AM

When one speaks to Paakhi Tyrewala, one knows that it is incumbent on the interviewer to ask about the motivation behind Kajal and now, Pahuna, which we saw at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival this year. In her conversation with us, we hear about the story of Pahuna and how the need to give people voices and make sure her own is heard is paramount for Paakhi.

Pahuna is such a lovely film. I think it is a film for the masses. But I wanted to go back to a time before Pahuna, because while this is your first directorial feature film, you did a short film Kajal, and I spoke to Salony Luthra at that time.

Ohhh, I didn’t know that. That’s great.

And of course, you have some acting background as well. What kind of influence has your acting career had on what you wanted to do or where you saw yourself  as a director?

So, as an actor, when I did Jhootha Hi Sahi, it was not a very well received film right? I had a film before, which was very well appreciated. I was the same person and I had worked really hard but suddenly everyone thought, it was not working out. So I was unhappy and I lost myself. But I believe that I needed a voice. I needed a voice - just because I failed once does not mean I lost the right to have a voice.

And Kajal was my voice. You know, I wanted to be a filmmaker. I know I tried my hand with an acting career but that’s what happens when you try doing something behind the camera, everyone says, I think you should act. That’s the problem -  You see a half-decent good looking girl, and she should try acting first is what they say. But I thought it was money, it was easy distraction, and then I started modelling.

But my mom, very interestingly told me, I’m not a great actor. She said I wasn’t able to bare my soul. But behind the camera, I am completely shameless to my audience. I think Kajal, somewhere, was a part of me that I exposed. I was bullied before, and I showed this girl who is bullied. But as an actor, I did not bare myself. But as a director, I am completely shameless.

Is that the reason why you are making films with characters, with stories that need voices – who we tend to forget ourselves?

Absolutely. See, you just caught it so well. I went through a phase after Jhootha Hi Sahi where I lost my voice. But it was also important to be the voice. The next film I want to make, hopefully – I don`t know if I will produce it or direct it – but it will be about children who have lost their space to play, to walk. There are no gardens anymore. Like because children don’t work, they are not important to society, right? So they need a place to play, but there are no parks. You can`t expect children to go to clubs to play because not everyone can afford it. It won`t make the audience feel guilty but simply make them more aware. That’s something I really want to do.

You`ve indicated before that the reasons why you were being rejected was because it was a children`s film, it was a Sikkimese film, and you were a first time female director. Priyanka Chopra said yes to you for those three reasons. What was the feeling like when you finally got the yes to the project?

I’ll be honest with you. Not once did I doubt that I would get a yes to the project. That I would find somebody who would see it and make it with me. I just didn’t think it would be someone as big as Priyanka Chopra backing Pahuna. So when it happened, it was more of a relief.

The three of you, Dr. Chopra, Priyanka Chopra, and yourself seem to share a chemistry that seems to go beyond this film. Is that true?

Yes, but I think it is because Dr. Chopra and my mom, Veena Mehta, who did the training of the casting for the film, are very similar people. They’re both very strong, very clear-headed, and Dr. Chopra acted like a bridge between me and Priyanka. She treated me like a person and looked at what I went through as a director and she made it very easy.

TIFF is one of the biggest festivals in the world. And Pahuna is not a big, Hindi commercial venture. The film also opened to huge applause at the festival. What were your thoughts?

See, me and Priyanka knew that the film deserves to be there. But at the end of the day, the credit goes to Cameron Bailey right? A festival’s film usually makes a point with violence, or cutting-edge drama; or it is a commercial film. But Pahuna is neither right. So I give pure credit to Cameron Bailey, and both Priyanka and I really thank him for taking such a big chance.

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