She’s without a doubt one of the most talented filmmakers the industry has seen in recent years. Her debut film, 2003’s Rules Pyaar Ka Superhit Formula, was a fresh take on the romantic comedy genre that was ahead of its time. I had the honour of catching up with the woman behind the camera of Rules Pyaar Ka Superhit Formula and we now present an exclusive chat with Parvati Balagopalan. Read on to find out just what went into putting together the ‘ultimate chick flick’!
How does it feel having your film brought to the limelight at BollySpice almost 6 yrs after its release?
It feels great. It’s wonderful when a film goes beyond its expected “shelf life”. Makes you feel that you did something right and touched something universal. Thank you, BollySpice.
The storyline was something never attempted before in Indian cinema, so how did the idea of this story come into existence?
I think all of us have our theories of what works in attracting a person you like and what doesn’t. The story of Radha’s hopeless infatuation with Vikram was a perfect setting to get her wise old grandmother to share with her the rules of attraction. The thing is we have seen so many love stories so what is going to set it apart. It was my first film and so my need and greed to set it apart really drove us to develop a plot, characters and situations that would try to make the film unique.
I find Rules had a concept I could really realte too. Was making the situations and characters relatable to the average man and woman something you had endeavoured to do?
Yes, definitely. I wanted that the film go beyond being a regular love story and become a story about love, inclusive of all kinds of love, all classes and therefore the subplots which needed to tie in to the central story. I hoped in doing that we could appeal to a wider audience such as grandmothers, young girls, the gay community, people who live in a chawls, etc…
The cast is one of the most versatile ensembles I have seen. What was the casting process like and what made you decide on these three prominent actors to portray your lead roles (Tanuja, Milind Soman & Meera Vasudevan)?
Well, as the Supermodel Milind was the perfect choice since he is really the only Supermodel that India has had…so Vikram would be credible played by him. For Radha we auditioned lots of girls because I was clear that it had to be a new face. After about a hundred auditions we found Meera. Actually my mom had seen her in an Ad and called and said, “I think I’ve found the girl you are looking for”. We called her in and after the audition we knew we had our Radha. For Dadi we needed a grandmother with spunk and really that would be the best word to describe Tanujaji – “Spunky” and of course she is such a fine actor with amazing screen presence.
How was the experience of working with legendary Tanuja, the heartthrob Milind Soman and the very talented Meera Vasudevan?
It was wonderful. Milind I have worked with earlier on Television and he is a dear friend so there was already a familiarity. Tanujaji is so professional and a treat to work with. It was Meera’s first film and she was eager and enthusiastic and had an untarnished spontaneity, which worked so well for the character.
The soundtrack of Rules is one that I immensely enjoyed, what made you opt for Sandesh Shandaliya and Vanraj Bhatia for the soundtrack?
Well, I’m a big fan of Sandesh’s music. He is such a talented composer and also works to weave the music into the narrative of the film. He understands the sensibility of the film and creates tracks accordingly so that the synergy between the film and sound track fuses into one. Vanraj Bhatia is a very senior Music Director and has such vast experience that he “cracks” the background score almost instantly. Also the great thing about him is that he has his own take and so what you end up with is not what you expected but infinitely better.
Are there any fond memories you have from the making of the film that you’d like to share with our readers?
Well, like all firsts “Rules” too is full of great memories. One in particular was chasing snow for the “kiss” scene. We drove many miles from Utteranchal where it had snowed but melted to Rothang Pass to film the scene. While we were driving up there the cars began to skid and that was scary. So we continued our trip using one vehicle so people reached the location in batches. It was biting cold and finally by the time the whole crew arrived we had just a couple of hours of light left. To make matters worse, the film began to snap in the camera (it had become brittle with the cold). That was panic time. I looked heavenward and said ” God please help”. And then well, we did complete the scene.
What did you feel was the most common reaction audiences had towards the film upon the release and was this reaction what you had expected?
I think what struck people the most was the freshness of the story and treatment and that was great because that is exactly what we had worked towards.
How do you feel Indian cinema has grown in the last 6 years and would you say Rules would receive a different reaction today than what it did 6yrs ago?
That is a difficult question to answer since it is a hypothetical one. Lots of people think that it would have done much better in the box office today than it did six years ago but I really can’t say. I’m glad I made it six years ago though, because that was my expression six years ago. Today I think it would be a different film. Better or worse, who knows?
Now coming to you as a director and your career as a whole, post rules your 2nd project was Straight which dealt with the concept of homosexuality, a theme you briefly explored in Rules, so what made you decide to explore the genre in full extent for Straight?
Straight was exciting for me because again it was a new space, a new situation. I was also really excited to work with Vinay who is such an incredible actor.
Coming up next is your 2nd project with both Milind Soman and Gul Panag currently titled Phir Zindagi. Tell us a bit about the genre and themes you’ll be tackling in this venture?
It’s now titled Marjanva and it’s the next chick flick I am attempting. It’s basically about Nirmala played by Gul Panag who wants to kill herself because of rejection in love but due to some comic circumstances her suicide is postponed. How she rediscovers life and love makes much of the plot.
The number of female directors in Indian cinema is gradually increasing and they are receiving more and more acclaim by the day. Why do you feel that there has been a delay in the rise of female directors and what traits do you think they consist of that sets them apart?
I think the number had been rising and will rise steadily. It is inevitable. I have been asked this question a lot and I really am puzzled by it. I don’t think creativity can be quantified or set apart by gender. As a woman yes maybe there are certain subjects that attract us more than others but I think this too is a generalisation. As I usually say, what sets me apart as a woman filmmaker vis-a -vis a male filmmaker is that I cry if my film are not received well.
Based on your previous work would one be correct to assume you enjoy directing comedy extensively?
Yes, that would be fair to say as of now, though more romantic comedy than comedy but that can change soon.
A film in recent times that you admire?
Volver by Almadovar
An all time favourite classic of yours?
Mirrorby Andrei Tarkovsky / Mirch Masala by Ketan Mehta
A filmmaker that inspires you or one that you admire?
An actor you’d love to direct?
A film you’d love the chance to remake?
Fiddler on the Roof
Well, Parvati we cannot thank you enough for sharing with us your experiences and insights about the film that we declare the ultimate chick flick. We know you are raring to go with ideas of all shapes and sizes simply waiting to take the audiences by storm and we can’t wait to see what you will entertain us with in the coming years. Here’s wishing you all the best for you next movie in the pipeline and with it touted to be another chick flick we’ll surely be waiting with baited breath for the release!