Bosnian Danis Tanovic is known to Indian cinema lovers as the director whose debut feature film No Man’s Land stopped the Oscar march of Lagaan — India’s best hope for the Best Foreign Film Award so far — in 2001.
“How can I put it? I am happy to be known in India even if it’s for the wrong reasons. I am also famous in France and Argentina,” says the filmmaker, who faced stiff competition from Amélie (France) and Son of the Bride (Argentina) as well at the Academy Awards.
Years after No Man’s Land — which focuses on an encounter between a Bosnian and a Serbian soldier in the height of 1993 war — was a surprise Oscar winner, Tanovic has strengthened his ties with India. A year after he co-produced The Lunchbox in 2013, he is currently in Mumbai wrapping up the post-production work of his newest directorial venture Tigers ahead of its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) that opened on Thursday.
Later in the month, the film features in the San Sebastian Film Festival’s competitive section. Like most of his movies, the 45-year-old director tackles a controversial issue in the Emraan Hashmi-starrer, Tigers.
Based on a true story, it exposes the activities of multinationals in the developing world. A Pakistani salesman, who peddles locally made drugs to pharmacies and doctor, stumbles upon a scam in a substitute for breastfeeding available in the market.
“Andy Paterson came across the story and proposed that I direct a movie on it. We wanted to see if the scam was really happening and went to Pakistan in 2006. Once we realised it was true, we started writing,” says Tanovic, who has co-written Tigers’s screenplay with Paterson.
Writing this screenplay, according to the director, was a long and painful process as they were working with “true fact and real people”. What turned out to be more painful than that was finding a producer. “A number of people really wanted to make the film but it kept getting overruled by the higher-ups,” says Paterson.
This put the project in a limbo. It revived nearly four years later, when Prashita Chaudhary and Guneet Monga of India stepped in as producers in 2012. “Prashita and Guneet took steps to ensure that the financial and technical aspects are taken care of,” says Tanovic.
When Paterson and Tanovic visited Pakistan in 2006, they realised it would difficult to shoot there. With similar landscape across the border, India seemed to be a better option. The film was shot in Punjab last year. “That apart, India can really be proud of the level it has achieved in cinematic technology. It is already hard to make a film, so I opt for whatever can make my life easier,” says the director, who is currently in Mumbai for the movie’s post-production work.
In India, Tanovic also found his lead actors for Tigers, a human drama that’s treated as a corporate thriller. “When I hear of a Bollywood star, I think of someone like Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, who continued…