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November 28, 2001

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'No heroine can sell a film'

Subhash K Jha

Tanuja Chandra Tanuja Chandra's latest film Yeh Zindagi Ka Safar opened to nearly empty theatres across India, but its box office fate has not disheartened her.

Chandra knows she made a film straight from her heart and she is not scared to admit that her film has not done well at the turnstiles -- a bold departure from her colleagues who claim their films are successful, even when the box office paints a different picture.

But she is baffled. "Those who have seen Yeh Zindagi Ka Safar have liked it. The worst reaction I've got is 'picture theek hai. Unfortunately, not enough people have seen the film. I admit the box office collections were miserably low."

Tanuja Chandra's third directorial venture is about a woman who discovers that she is the product of a rape. Despite convincing performances and Amisha Patel, who was riding high after her two blockbusters, Yeh Zindagi Ka Safar is an abysmal failure.

A still from Yeh Zindagi Ka Safar "I was convinced by the trade experts that Amisha would draw in the crowds, that after Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai and Gadar -- Ek Prem Katha, she was a lucky mascot at the box office. But I've realised the hard way that no heroine can sell a film," Chandra says.

Post-Yeh Zindagi Ka Safar, the director takes a departure from heroine-centric films.

After three female-oriented subjects with Kajol (Dushman), Preity Zinta (Sangharsh) and Amisha Patel (Yeh Zindagi Ka Safar), Chandra's next film Sur features singer Lucky Ali in the lead. The film is 60 per cent complete.

"Lucky plays a classical singer, somewhat like Amitabh Bachchan in Abhimaan. Though the girl Gauri, who plays Lucky's disciple, has a very strong role, Lucky plays the lead," she says.

With Sur, will the immensely gifted Chandra finally find the commercial acceptability that has been eluding her?

Tanuja's dilemma as a woman filmmaker is typical. Most Indian women directors find it hard to get popular actors to act in their films.

A still from Daman After her saga on marital rape, Daman, Kalpana Lajme approached leading men like Govinda and Akshay Kumar. "Unfortunately, they all seem to believe a woman director only makes women-centric films," Lajmi says.

While most women directors including Aparna Sen, Aruna Raje and Kalpana Lajmi have made predominantly women-oriented subjects, Chandra has constantly tried to project the male voice in her women's films. The antagonists in her films -- Dushman, Sangharsh and Yeh Zindagi Ka Safar -- are very powerful and brutal men.

And Chandra has no intentions of reversing the gender equation in her cinema for box office success. "After I'm through with Sur, I'm making another film which has Raveena Tandon in the central role. I'm a woman. I think like a woman. And I'll continue to cast women in pivotal roles."

Indo-Asian News Service

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