Noted writer-director Abbas Tyrewala promises to return to wicked ways with “Mango”

While talking to Abbas Tyrewala one thing that strikes you is his clarity of thought. It shouldn’t surprise for the writer-director has written lucid films like Munnabhai MBBS and Maqbool. He has catered to popular taste with Main Hoon Na and Salaam Namaste and when he directed Jaane Tu… Yaa Jaane Naa he showed us that rom com need not be just frivolous, escapist and derivative. But the same resume has Jhootha Hi Sahi as well. It had everything we didn’t expect from Abbas. The fact that it had his wife Pakhi playing the lead role made things all the more difficult for the director, who by then had made hitting the bull’s eye a habit. It not only brought Abbas to the ground but also made us realise the capricious nature of the film craft.

He took the blow chin up and is now back to the sets with his latest flick Mango. Set in Goa, it is the second film from Multi Screen Media Private Limited, a big name in television business, and is co-produced by Kaleidoscope entertainment.

Abbas says Mango is a metaphor for the fact that it is a fruit that drives the whole country crazy. “My wife is from Delhi and she feels the best varieties of mango are in the North. To me Alphonso is the best and my friends in Hyderabad feel there is nothing like Totapuri. So mango unites people in a way but at the same time people have diverse opinions about it. I think that is the quality one is trying to capture. It is slightly comic, slightly romantic and slightly black.”

Besides the role that the fruit is playing in the film, Abbas feels these days films tend to look very similar to each other. “You can’t tell whether this song or promo is of this film or that one. I wanted some sort of visual device that would make people identify with the film. I wanted to give the film a visual identity for which mango is a very fun device. The idea came from producer Bobby Bedi and I elaborated upon it.”

Known for his cutting edge writing, Abbas says these are welcome times for writers. “Every corporate production house now has readers who actually look at every script that comes their way. Earlier people used to run after a producer for years to have a look at one script. In that sense the world is available to you now. Some degree of exploitation still exists because there are so many people. Life is good for some, tough for others. Fate smiles at some but generally speaking there are a large number of writers working professionally and making a living which was not the case a few years back.”

A lot is being written about scripts losing steam in the second half. Abbas says that he doesn’t fall in this trap but admits that there is a first half – second half culture that is followed here for a long time. “India is perhaps the only the country in the world where people could say first half was good, second half was boring. I don’t like to work that way. In Jaane Tu… we just thought of one convenient point and said let’s do interval here. Younger filmmakers are not thinking in terms of first half-second half.”

This moving away from established norms has found response at the box office. “Recently Fukrey started on a low note and then picked. Similarly Aashiqui 2 had a low key start but then surprised all. People are responding to subjects they were not keen on earlier. As long as films manage to evoke audience interest on Mondays, it means these are better times for writers and newer ideas. Friday to Sunday belong to the star.”

Mango stars Rannvijay Singh, Chandan Roy Sanyal, Swara Bhaskar and marks the acting debut of singer Monali Thakur. The names don’t seem right to set the box office on fire but Abbas feels he doesn’t write scripts that service the stars. “I want actors who service the film. I write first and then look for actors. I have no complaints from people who write films keeping in mind the strengths and mannerisms of a particular star but I am not that person. I work in the industry but I am not an industry guy.”

Perked by his honest approach, one broaches the subject of Jhootha Hi Sahi. Abbas says the film was a massive setback. “My father used to fix tyres and then taught himself to become an optician. My mother is a housewife. Nobody in my community is connected to film business. My first film was Asoka, it was followed by Main Hoon Na, Maqbool and Munnabhai MBBS. So I had not seen big failure. When I saw it on a large scale and in my case it is not just that my film failed but suddenly people started passing judgements on me as a person, my relationships and my choices. We live in a society where people take great delight in other people’s failure or in other people’s misery. So instead of saying that you have done great work in the past and you will bounce back, a lot of people took delight in the fact that the film failed.”

From casting Pakhi to believing in John Abraham, in hindsight it seems he put all his risks in one basket. “But I do it all the time. At that time it seemed like a great idea. It was a fun film to make but perhaps we made it at too big a scale and perhaps it was too gentle. The rest of the post-mortem goes on but I really believe that it was too gentle a film for people to be excited about to watch. They want a little more drama. We were a little too influenced by international scene and I think in the process we confused ourselves.”

For people, says Abbas, movies are events. “When they spend so much money and go in groups they want excitement. I feel they are justified in wanting slightly more dramatic stuff. One should try sometimes to make sensitive, gentler films. It didn’t work for me so I am coming up with the craziest film that I have written. I don’t have the faintest of idea how I will place it. Every film comes with its own kismet. Right now I can say it is a rom com with a wicked twist.”

(The journalist was in Goa at the invitation of Multi Screen Media Private Limited.)