It’s a little secret ace cinematographer Sooni Taraporevala has been keeping. Her directorial debut, Little Zizou, stars her two children, Jahan Bativala and Iyanah Bativala, in key roles.
The director was reluctant to give out their identities as she didn’t want the children to be judged as Sooni Taraporevala’s kids. “It would have been unfair. But I must say that both Jahan and Iyanah’s work has been better than I had expected. And I say this not as their mother but as the director of the film,” she assures.
Nine-year-old Jahan plays the chief protagonist Xerxes Khodaiji aka Zizou, who loves to play football and hopes to meet his hero Zinedine Zidane. His elder sister, 11-year-old Iyanah, plays their neighbour’s daughter, Lianna Pressvala, who is always at loggerheads with Zizou for she feels she is sharing her mother’s affection with him.
Taraporevala confesses that she wrote the script with her children in mind. “I would not do this with anyone else. I had immense confidence in them.” It also helped, she says, that the children knew the script well and it came naturally to them.
Naturally then, the characters that Iyanah and Jahan play on-screen draw from real life. “Most film characters are inspired from real people but every director fictionalises them to suit the script. But that said, yes, there are little and cute things that I have used in the kids’ roles, like the fights they both have,” she laughs a hearty laugh.
“My daughter is a great mimic and one day, I heard her imitate Inspecter Clouseau in his French accent. I have included that in the film. And the way she glares at her brother all the time. Someone asked her how she does it and she replied that it comes to her naturally.”
I can't wait to see this film. Taraporevala is not only a gifted screenwriter, but a talented photographer too. Her beautiful book on India's Parsis is a treasure. Once I got it I couldnt put it down, went to her website for more information, then watched all her films! Someone is making a documentary film about her, the preview is lovely. I encourage readers to buy her book before seeing the film.