interview Anjana Ali Khan holds forth on her directorial debut and audience tastes

I t is difficult to ignore the special touch, the emotional perspective a woman filmmaker brings to her film but it is also a time to drop the misconception that women are only capable of making sentimental stuff or feminist dramas. Anjana Ali Khan's dream is turning true. She has made an action thriller Veppam (heat) that has been produced by Gautham Menon which will hit Chennai theatres soon.

The director has been running her own production house from October 1997 making TV commercials, documentaries and music videos and has finally decided to tell a longer story, something longer than 30 seconds.

But why did she pick Bindu Madhavi and Nani from Hyderabad for the Tamil movie? Anjana and Nani were friends for many years, they had gone to a film festival together and Nani was present when she was writing the story. She says, “It was always understood that he would be part of the film in some capacity or the other and when the story was created, it was decided he would do the role.”

The director had a clear idea before she embarked on her debut movie: She wanted it to be a small film, that could be done within a tight budget, and that which would appeal to a whole bunch of people, not just to a niche audience. Gautham was her friend and he supported her throughout.

At one point another producer signed her up but she dropped out when the project took time to take off. She was having problems keeping the dates of the cast and the project kept getting postponed. That was when Gautham stepped in and took over the production. People who have seen rushes of her film say that she hasn't reduced the film to cinematic frills but gave it all the ruthless reality it needs, nevertheless Anjana assures it will not be shorn of commercial embellishments.

Apart from Nani, there is Nitya Menon and Karthik Kumar, who runs the theatre company Evam and has acted in several films. Cast opposite him is Bindu Madhavi. Anjana explains that what happens to these two couples is difficult to condense into a single line because it follows multiple tracks, it's about ordinary people and it's an ordinary story but hopefully it is told in a way that will make you watch it beginning to end. “We have taken great effort to make everything look real, when we were shooting in the slums for 46 days, people there didn't even know that Karthik, Nitya or Nani would be sitting there and drinking tea, they blended in so beautifully.”

Anjana says she loves Hyderabad, it's like her second home but doesn't forget to praise her Chennai audience. “The amazing thing about Chennai people, is that they don't care who produced the film, how much has been spent, who's acting in it. All they see is if it has a story that is interesting and whether it is being told with some sincerity. There have been small stories that have become cult movies with little publicity and hype because people see some honesty in it and it works,” she says.

Finally, Anjana's film wouldn't have come this far without encouragement on the domestic front. The Iyer Brahmin married to a Muslim boy has a strong support from her parents and in-laws who live in the same building. With this kind of cushioning, what more can a creative person ask for?

y. sunita chowdhary

We have taken great effort to make everything look real, when we were shooting in the slums for 46 days, Karthik, Nitya and Nani blended in beautifully