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In Conversation with Anu Menon: The Director of London, Paris, New York

A romantic comedy we can get behind

What happens next after Ali Zafar likes your script and hops on board?

In the vast wasteland of romantic comedies and contrived plots, we were pleasantly surprised by the protagonists of London, Paris, New York. Here were two people with agency. The hero was not stalking the heroine beating him down with declarations of his love. And the heroine was not permanently arrested at 16- instead growing into her own woman over the span of the 90 minute long movie. We had to speak to the movie’s director Anu Menon for ourselves, and did a little bit of our own stalking on Twitter, before asking her to talk to us. Here’s what she had to say

1. How does someone without a typically ‘filmy’ background get into direction and making her own movie?
Get trained. Write a script – rather many scripts. And keep knocking on doors, till one opens!

2. The thing we enjoyed most about London Paris NY- was how ‘lived in’ parts of the romance felt. Is the movie in part autobiographical?
I have spent a lot of time in these three cities – and yes there’s a bit of me in both Nikhil and Latha. I guess it’s a sum total of my observations and experiences.

3. Why did you choose Ali Zafar and Aditi Rao for the movie? Personally, we believe that somehow Bollywood hasn’t figured out a way to utilize their very specific charm and skills. What kind of movies would you like to see them in?
I thought Ali was great fun in Tere Bin Laden. I met him and gave him the script  – and he loved it – and came on board without even a producer being attached to it. Nothing like an actor getting your script and getting excited by it!
Yeh Saali Zindagi had just come out – and my producer asked me to meet Aditi.  I did – and it  felt just the perfect fit.
They are both versatile actors and they should do all kind of roles – from experimental to commercial.

4. It is very exciting to see someone try something different in a Romantic Comedy format- since so many critics can be dismissive of the form. Which are the recent (or older) rom-coms which have been an inspiration to you?
I think romcoms off late have nose-dived big time (Editors Note: We agree!).  But I still catch myself watching the usual  classics whenever they are on the telly. From When Harry Met Sally to The Way We Were.

5. Apart from these, which are the other contemporary film-makers/ voices that appeal a lot to you creatively?
I like directors who try different genres and surprise you all the time – like Sam Mendes and Stephen Frears.
6. Any recent Hindi movie that left an impression on you?
I absolutely loved Queen!
7. And are there any recent actors/actresses that you’d like to work with some day?
Vidya, Kangana, Deepika, Farhan, Irfaan Khan
8. If you could turn one book into a movie which would it be and why?
Oh there are many. I turn every book I read into a movie – in my head

9.What’s next on the anvil for you Anu? Are you working on another script at the moment?
Yes it’s all happening. But can’t say much till it’s all formal and official.

10. What were some of the challenges you faced while making and marketing your first movie? What-if anything- will you do differently this time?
I think marrying your sensibility and vision to the supposed audience expectations is the biggest challenge. I think the next time I might make more learned choices on that front.

11. What are you watching on Television these days (Your Twitter Feed mentions The Good Wife, but is there any other recent show you enjoy?). Do you think there’s room for a good long-form mini-series/TV show in India? Would you be interested in trying that some day?
Yes I got sucked into The Good Wife big time – thats the trouble with getting onto a  TV series when you are about 4 seasons behind! I am resisting Game of Thrones now!
I would love to direct a TV series as you can really sink your teeth into the characters – but it will need to have high production values. I am repeatedly told the budgets are too less to make the kind of series made in America.

12. What’s on your I Pod these days, the music you are listening to?
Er I have a six year old daughter… she pretty much chooses the music in the house. So I know all the lyrics to latest Miley Cyrus song. Ya go on, judge me!

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