Tarun Dhanrajgir , of erstwhile illustrious family of the city, left the city four decades ago to pursue modelling, acting and filmmaking. After Mumbai and South Africa, he has now returned to the city to give a royal makeover to the image of Hyderabadi cinema. Currently shooting his movie Ishq-e-Hyderabadi in the city, Tarun shares, “Dakhni films have come to earn a reputation of not having strong storylines or characterisation and having excessive comedy. This has, perhaps, been a result of budget constraint. But I feel its time that the genre of Hyderabadi cinema is taken to a different level.”
And why not, Hyderabad proudly holds the distinction of being among the few cities that holds such a unique culture and a regional dialect and a separate film industry. So it is an important mission for this Hyderabadi, who also hopes to take his movie to Bollywood. The full-length feature film is a love story based in Hyderabad where a middle-class boy falls in love with a Nawab’s daughter whom he meets at a wedding. The five songs and dialogues of the film are in the Hyderabadi dialect.
While Tarun wrote the script with Abid Shah, an old friend, he insists that this love story — despite being a stereotype of boy meets girl, the conflict that arises and is resolved to make way for a happy ending — will be something to look forward to. After all, it’s not the story that matters, it’s the setting. “Just like how Sanjay Leela Bhansali took Romeo and Juliet and put their tale in Gujarat and made Ram-Leela, this is a love story that is typical of Hyderabad, the city’s culture and its dynamics of everyday life,” he explains.
Tarun left Hyderabad in the 1970s to pursue modelling. He later moved on to acting in theatre with actors like Naseeruddin Shah, on Oedipus and Jasma Odhan. After his stint on stage, he moved to the small screen with the Indian version of Pride and Prejudice, Trishna, in which he played Darcy. In the 1990s, he went behind the cameras when he wrote and directed a serial named Abhay Charan, based on the life of Iskcon founder Srila Prabhupada. Subsequently, he moved to South Africa where he wrote and directed three 90-minute feature films. After returning to India, in 2010, he released Kis Hudh Tak, a movie on date rape “although it didn’t go as well as planned”.
Tarun now returns home for this film and can’t wait to start shooting in Old City. With the shooting being scheduled in Old City around the end of February and beginning of March, Tarun is confident that his understanding of the “local dynamics” will ensure that the shoot will go smoothly. “They are small shots, nothing elaborate, so we won’t be disturbing the daily life or anyone’s routine. Moreover, I need the background to look natural just like any other day in the city,” he says and jokingly admitting that, “the shooting will take care of half of the promotions as well”.
His positive energy and confidence also translates into excitement in the lead actress, Neha Mahajan from Pune. The actress, who has worked in a British film, a few Marathi films and also in Midnight’s Children (paired opposite Rajat Kapoor as the younger Shabana Azmi), says learning the Dakhani lingo is more fun than hard work.
“I love the way the facial expression changes as well with the talk,” she enthuses. Although she hasn’t watched any of the pure Hyderabadi films, she researched the language through two Shyam Benegal films that used the language.
The lead actor, however, is a Hyderabadi boy and a well-known model from the city — Dr Irfan Ahmed. After debuting with the Telugu film Music Magic in 2013, this project “feels like home” for Irfan. “You can’t brush it aside as a routine love story, because the fun is in the little details and dynamics of Hyderabadi culture. Also, we hope that with a fresh approach and with Tarun on board, we should be able to take Hyderabadi Cinema successfully to Mumbai and Bollywood.”