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BY ARUNDHUTI BANERJEE

Director Sooni Taraporevala says her upcoming film “Yeh Ballet” reflects her belief of co-existence and religious harmony in a subtle manner.

The film is set in Mumbai, and the director says the location is itself a character in the film. “Real-location shooting is a challenge because this is where we handle not only actors but locals of that area while shooting. But from the beginning of my career, I really learnt the art of managing people, because in all the films I have worked with — be it Mira (Nair)’s ‘Salaam Bombay’ or ‘Mississippi Masala’, or ‘Such A Long Lourney’ (which she screenplayed), or my directorial ‘Little Zizou’ — real location add up to the scenes. I cannot express in words but I think it is the vibe of the place that a storyteller and a performer can immerse into, to create something magical,” Sooni told.

Her new film revolves around two characters, Asif and Nishu, who are trained under a Jewish expert dancer Saul Aaron. This describes the religious harmony that is the essence of the city of Mumbai. “Bandra Worli Sealink and the Koliwada area is the very essence of co-existence. Without even having in-your-face references or dialogues, one can see there is a temple, a few steps away from it is a little shrine to Christ and if you walk a little further, there is a Masjid. This is real, in the location, anyone can visit and see this. This, helped me to convey (my feelings). So, co-existence and religious harmony are very much there in a subtle way,” she said.

“If I really want to show that in my film, I am bound to do so subtly”, she added.

She gives credit to production designer Shailja Sharma who created the dance studio on set. “We did not go to any dance studio for the shooting of those studio sequences. She built it with her team. That was perfect, too,” mentioned the filmmaker.

“Yeh Ballet” features Julian Sands, Manish Chauhan, Achintya Bose, Jim Sarbh, Danish Husain and Vijay Maurya. It streams on Netflix.

Talking about the casting, especially of the English actor Juilan, she said: “It was a pivotal role and I was looking for an actor who is eager to come to India and work with us in the story. Julian Sands is a very accomplished actor and when our casting director wrote an email to him, he responded promptly, and he was excited from the word go. His performance was a very important contribution to the story.”

Music and dance played crucial in the narrative because it is a musical film.

Sooni said: “I was very closely working with Ankur Tiwari and Kausar Munir, who wrote the songs, and I think it is the contribution of each artiste that has created the magic.”

Starting her career with Mira Nair in 1988 with the Oscar-nominated film “Salaam Bombay”, Sooni has seen a huge transformation in the business of cinema — especially as far as the presence of female filmmakers is concerned.

“I have seen Mira — how, on one hand (she would be) shooting her film and (on the other hand) looking for the funding of her next schedule. (She would have) some real ups and downs and never give up (on her effort) to tell a story that we all believed in. I imbibed such quality as a filmmaker. These days it is easy to find your feet in the industry also because the avenues of telling stories have increased. Having said that, the best way to deal with a space that is male-dominated is to go ahead and tell a story that is excellent. I mean excellence, real talent and powerful stories can never be ignored. We have started the journey 30 years ago and we are continuing. It is easier for your generation,” said the 63 years old filmmaker.

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