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 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 that opened Thursday.
Like most of his movies, the 45-year-old director tackles a controversial issue in 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 doctors, 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.
Finding a producer was tough. The project was revived only when India’s Prashita Chaudhary and Guneet Monga stepped in as producers in 2012.
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.
In India, Tanovic also found his lead actors. “When Anurag Kashyap told me about Hashmi, I imagined him to be some cute dancer. I watched him in Shanghai as a reference and I thought he was not over-the-top.” For the role of Hashmi’s wife, he met several Indian actresses but Geetanjali Thapa bagged it.