Peepli (Live) director Anusha Rizvi is unlikely to participate in the excitement regarding the film’s Oscar nomination. She explains why

Subhash K Jha (MUMBAI MIRROR; September 26, 2010)

In a day and age when a person even remotely associated with a hit film shouts from the rooftops about it, Anusha Rizvi seems remarkably unaffected and detached. The journalist-turned-director might have given a huge hit with her debut film, but would rather tour with her theatre group than be part of a marketing jamboree.

How did you get to know about the Oscar nomination for Peepli (Live)?

From the media! I heard it on NDTV. It was of course very exciting. Maybe we should’ve been informed by the government agency that decides which film goes to the Oscars.

Didn’t your producer Aamir Khan inform you?

He didn’t know! He is in London for the release of our film.

Why aren’t you in London for the release of Peepli (Live)?

Because I have not been asked to be in London. It is my film. But I live in Delhi. And I have no connection with the decisions that are taken in Mumbai.

Why have you cut yourself away from your film?

That’s partly because of the person that I am. I can’t change that. And I’m happy being that way. My work finished when I made the film that I had to make.

Of course publicity and marketing are important. And a lot more people went to see Peepli (Live) because of the way it was promoted. But what is more important to me is that a film should be seen for what it is. I think it is important for the audience to discover a film on their own.

A film should not be pushed down people’s throats. It’s important for it to create its own credibility.

Changes were made in the Peepli narrative for the London market. Are you aware of this?

Yes. Only two scenes were tampered with: one featuring a reference to Saif Ali Khan and the other to TRPs.

These were scenes that were never part of the original screenplay. Like many other scenes they were added later to increase the running time of the film for the Indian market.

Initially the interval was coming after 40 minutes of playing time.

I don’t think Peepli (Live) needed an interval. I don’t think so either. But it’s an intrinsic part of marketing our film. And I’ve no quibble with it. However I wish the film had not been pushed as a comedy, although I know that so many people would not have seen it otherwise. Let’s be honest. Peepli (Live) was not easy to market.

The film has made huge profits.

Really? Wow!

Would you be expecting a larger budget for your next film?

The content of the film and not the success or failure of the earlier film should decide the budget.

The DVD of Peepli (Live) is out soon. Are you participating in its editing?

I’ve got nothing to do with the DVD. I’m back in Delhi. I’m simply cut off from Mumbai and the film now. My husband Mahmood Farooqui and I are back to travelling with our small theatre group.

Hasn’t Peepli (Live) changed your life in any way?

Yes, to some extent. It’s become difficult to travel by train. I really miss that.

Your husband co-directed Peepli (Live). Not too many people know that.

It’s in the credits of the film. And of course he’s the co-director. He has also done all the casting. In the credits after my names comes a long list of producers. Then his name. That’s why his name is missed.

Why is his name not in the credits jointly with yours?

These are things that we had no knowledge or control over. Our main concern was to make the film we had.

What has the experience of directing Peepli (Live) taught you?

It has taught me to deal with a large number of people. It has been a huge learning curve for me. I know how to cope better with the production part of a film the next time.

You’re the first debutant director from India after Satyajit Ray to be going to the Oscars.

Yes the comparisons between my film and Pather Panchali keep surfacing. But there can be no comparison between the two. And I’m not being modest.

Are you and your husband going to Los Angeles for the Oscars?

It’s really exciting to see the film go to the Oscars. But it’s far more exciting to know that people in Patna, Gorakhpur and Barabankhi are watching and discussing it. Like I said Peepli (Live) was a film that we had to make. That it’s touched people is a very happy situation for us.

Final question. Would Aamir Khan be producing your next film?

No, he won’t.