How much love can Mumbai accommodate? This man has an answer
Anand Tiwari, now the first Indian director to find Netflix release, talks of shifting personalities around the camera
In a game-changing move for the Hindi film industry, Anand Tiwari has become the first Indian to make his directorial debut on Netflix. The film, a Mumbai rom-com titled Love Per Square Foot, will release on the global streaming platform early next year. For acclaimed actor Tiwari, who wore the director's hat for several short films and the hit web series Bang Baajaa Baaraat, this film marks his entry into feature films as director.
The 34-year-old, who grew up in Matunga West, has incorporated 34 locations in Mumbai in a filming period of 50 days. "I am a Mumbai boy and for this film, we have shot in locations that have not been explored in films before. Like for instance, the railway colonies of Lower Parel and Dahisar. We have shot throughout the city. Our first day was at the Gateway of India while we wrapped up in Naigaon," he says.
The story revolves around a couple that enters into a marriage of convenience in order to buy a house in Mumbai. "Their love becomes transactional. I believe that in the urban space, we deal with interesting and complex relationships that we like to call 'love'. Therefore, the irony of the title, 'Love Per Square Foot'. The story draws from many personal experiences, as well as the lives of those around me. Growing up, our ideas of romance was courtesy everything between classic novels to right up to Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge or Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Love, nowadays, is anything but unconditional; there's a lot of questioning that goes on and the conflicts are far more internal than external," Tiwari says. Even as the film tackles these thought-provoking subjects, he insists that it is a funny telling throughout.
While Vicky Kausal and Angira Dhar play the central couple, they are supported by a stellar cast comprising Raghubir Yadav, Ratna Pathak Shah and Supriya Pathak. Explaining how he is as a director, Tiwari says, "I am a very sweet actor; I cannot say the same about me as a director. I'm a complete Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. But, then, I am a Gemini — I am allowed to be two people." However, calling the shots while working with veterans may have felt strange at times. "Sometimes I would walk back to the monitor thinking, 'Did I just ask Raghubir Yadav to redo a scene?'" With Shah, the roles had reversed. "We have done theatre together, where I was the student and she, the teacher. For this film, the role reversal was as smooth as it gets. It's a revelation how receptive veterans get with age. They are just like students. Vicky, Angira and I would just watch them in awe," he adds.
Being an actor primarily, Tiwari feels he can understand his actors better when compared to pure directors, or people who come into direction from other professions. "I know what an actor is going through; if there's a problem, I get to the reason faster. And most often, it has got nothing to do with filming. It could be a vanity van parked too far, or a fight at home." For Tiwari, heart scores over skill. "In cinema, the camera is so close to you, that if you're not in the moment, it shows. No amount of skill can cover that. I never let my actors give me skill. I insist on heart. And, as an actor myself, I know when one's heart is not in it."
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