The first thing you notice about Anu Menon is her walk. She’s tall, actually quite tall, her confidence is rocketing and she really doesn’t have that ‘fake’ British accent even though she’s been working in the U.K. for almost a decade now. But the question is: Will her experience abroad reflect in her debut movie London Paris New York? I think ‘yes’. First couple of minutes I start to believe that while it’s a bit awkward and self-indulgent, the look and feel of LPNY also creates two extremely vivid characters (Ali Zafar and Aditi Rao Hydari) and might go down as one of cinema’s more believable romances. A few more minutes later, Anu utters, “It feels that my movie is like a Lyril advert. I mean, everyone is coming up to me and telling me – it looks fresh”. And then ten minutes into our talk and you can tell that Menon hasn’t crafted one of the many romances on screen but she seems to have painted a masterful examination of relationships we all crave for – a bit mad, a little crazy and sometimes unpredictable. So, what if Valentine’s Day has come and gone, I guess it’s never too late to fall in love again. What say Anu?
“I think it’s a fallacy that industry doesn’t believe in female directors”
It feels special to fall in the bracket of ‘women directors’ in Bollywood. I work in London, I live in London, I’ve gone to a film school in London and I’ve made a lot of short films and documentaries, etc. I came here to make my graduation film that was titled ‘Ravi goes to School’. It went to the Edinburgh Film Festival. I shot the movie in Hyderabad and the local team there helped me too. It was always difficult to get respect from my peers in London. In Hyderabad no one judged me because I was a woman. Today after making London Paris New York, the amount of respect I’ve got as a first time woman director is unbelievable. I think it’s a fallacy that industry doesn’t believe in female directors.
“I remember meeting Shrishti at her house and in three days I got a call to meet Goldie too and they said – Let’s make the film”
I had heard of Goldie Behl but I never knew Shrishti Arya. I remember Zoya Akhtar mentioning about Shrishti and after doing a bit of homework from my side I found out that there was some similarity in the kind of films she was looking at and I wanted to make. At that time Shrishti was working with Manish Acharya. Also, Ali Zafar had already liked the script because I approached him on my own. I remember meeting Shrishti at her house and in three days I got a call to meet Goldie too and they said, “Let’s make the film”. Shrishti charmed the life out of Ali. We all know how Shrishti is (laughs). The film happened with similar like minded bunch of people and I always wanted that.
“The way Ali, Shrishti, Goldie, Aditi responded to the script took me by surprise”
I didn’t know Ali and Aditi when I was writing the movie. I used to imagine Farhan, Ranbir, etc. It was about these laid back guys. When it came to girls, I did struggle (laughs). That’s the time Tere Bin Laden got released and there was something interesting about Ali Zafar. But the way he responded to the script took me by surprise. I mean, whoever loved the script got back to me immediately.
“I am equally good at both – writing and directing but I’m quite happy to write for other directors too”
I am equally good at both – writing and directing. Sometimes you have material that you write that you want to direct, no matter what and sometimes I’m quite happy to write for other people. The fact is, film is a director’s medium and a writer has to understand that. You have to give birth and allow. I knew that London Paris New York is a very intimate material and I knew that it could only be me who can direct this movie.
“The word everyone is using is ‘fresh’ after seeing the promos of LPNY. It feels like a Lyril advert”
Everybody has used the word ‘fresh’ to describe the promos and songs and the two lead actors of LPNY. I don’t follow a typical pattern when I write but at the same time, there is a certain way of consuming cinema. It’s a commercial piece of work and a fairly mainstream film. I like the characters a lot and their personal journeys. Yes, it is fresh (laughs). It’s a coming of age story of these two people.
“I love Masoom and Mr. India. I love parallel cinema mixed with commercial”
If I had to name a few of my favourite Hindi movies, Masoom would top the list and Mr. India, etc. I was more inclined towards parallel cinema. LPNY is about these two people and two people only. Can you imagine, every scene has two people. Yes, there are some supporting roles but they come and go in a jiffy. It’s a slice of life that no one has seen on Indian celluloid ever. I hope it’s parallel yet commercial. Let’s wait and watch how the audience reacts.
“I tell Aditi she’s like Natalie Portman. She looks frail but when she takes on a tough role, she gives it her best. That’s Aditi”
Aditi has this complete lack of inhibition. You have to be very brave sometimes to put yourself out there. Aditi has done just that. You need both confidence and the ‘I don’t care’ attitude. She has both, on screen and off too. She has a bit of wide eyed presence in London, a sort of bitchiness in Paris and calmness in New York. Aditi has lots of layers in herself that she brings with her and that’s what good actor’s possess. Aditi is like Natalie Portman. She looks frail but when she takes on a tough role, she gives it her best. That’s Aditi.
Watch ‘London Paris New York’ promo