Filmmaker E. Niwas on the just released Total Siyappa, a romance between a Pakistani boy and an Indian girl
“I was 23 when I was assisting Ram Gopal Varma and he gave me an opportunity to direct Shool. At 23, life is different; your focus is different,” says Eshvar Niwas, popularly known as E. Niwas and arguably best known for his hard-hitting Shool (1999) that won the National Award that year. A decade and a half and five not-so-impactful films later, Eshvar gets talking about his just released Total Siyappa, a film he feels brings out the maturity that only a man at 38 can.
“My last two films didn’t do well (De Taali and My Name Is Anthony Gonsalves) and I was in an introspective mode. I also got married, had two kids and realised that the best time should be reserved for family. I read books and watched films. I did commercials; sometimes there was lots of money, sometimes there wasn’t any. But I thought, when I get back to filmmaking, it’d better be different. It was not a big challenge to direct Shool, honestly speaking. But this one has been challenging. Retaining a concept’s simplicity is the most difficult thing to do in filmmaking,” says the director of the Ali Zafar-Yami Gautam starrer which is produced by Neeraj Pandey’s Friday Filmworks.
Total Siyappa is pretty much a lovely romance between a young girl and boy in London. The hiccup being that the boy is Pakistani and the girl, Indian. “I was very impressed by Neeraj’s A Wednesday. So when his office called in to say he had an idea to discuss, I was excited. He told me the concept of the film and I jumped at the idea. It’s such a dramatic premise. It can be interpreted in any way you want to. It can be treated with utter seriousness or with humour or with sarcasm,” says Eshvar.
The filmmaker knew that in tackling an Indo-Pak subject he’d have to handle the emotional quotient well. “We have looked at the ‘relationship’ between the two countries in a tongue-in-cheek way. A lot of my Pakistani and Muslim friends have loved it too. There is nothing derogatory in the film,” he says.
Asked about the Shahid Afridi remark that had created a furore, he laughs, “That particular remark comes at a turning point in the film. There’s a showdown between the lovers and their ‘true colours’ come out. It’s a hilarious moment.”