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On the sets of Slumdog Millionaire
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'Slumdog Millionaire has a life of its own'

When you dial her cell phone, the haunting melody Sakhiya Aaj Mujhe Neend Nahin from Guru Dutt's iconic 1962 film Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam, directed by Abrar Alvi, wafts in your ears.

"The song comes almost at the opening of the film," says Loveleen Tandan, when she answers the call. "It's a courtesan song, led by Menu Mumtaz, Mehmood's sister. She is performing for the zamindar; they have a host of courtesans in the background, standing in front of windows. The song is shot in such a way the women are all in silhouette; they look like shadows. It was brilliant -- I get goose bumps when I think of that scene."

Goose bumps is not all she gets -- inspiration is another derivative from her favourite caller tune. Tandan is clear that she will one day, sooner than later, direct feature films. In the interim, every career move is a learning, a step towards that goal.

Some of those steps have been giant-sized, from the time she cast for Mira Nair in Monsoon Wedding, to her latest avatar as casting director on the multiple Golden Globe-winning Slumdog Millionaire.

Casting is part art, part process; get it right and you make a film, get the subtlest nuance wrong, and you can equally break that film. Tandan has mastered the art; additionally, with this film, she took another giant step when she received co-director billing alongside Globe-winning director Danny Boyle.

No one thought Slumdog would walk away with four Globes, Tandan says -- the movie has proved to have a life all its own, going in directions no one anticipated.

In the picture: Loveleen Tandan with Rubiana Ali, who plays young Latika in Slumdog Millionaire

Text: Ronjita Kulkarni

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