You are the Vice President, Screenwriters Association India (SWA). What kind of a thrust does a body like this need?
It requires a lot of commitment, both in terms of time and emotional bandwidth and because it’s an honorary job, only people who are passionate towards the cause can handle it. It takes years of dedicated efforts before you can bring about an actual change, but it does give you a different kind of satisfaction, when you manage to do that. Like any other organization, SWA functions smoothly because of team work that goes into it. I am immensely grateful that I got an opportunity to work with stalwarts like Anjum Rajabali (who was also my screenwriting teacher at FTII), Robin Bhatt and other seniors who had already streamlined a lot of things before we came in and continue to inspire us.
Is the Hindi film industry in the writing department gender-neutral or not?
I think the industry is pretty gender neutral, at least in the writing department. I have never faced any kind of discrimination on the basis of my gender so far. Yes, there are boys’ clubs and there’s some stereotyping that happens but that’s mostly based on the kind of work you’ve done before. If you can give the industry stories that can sell, you’re here to stay, irrespective of your gender.
What are the scripts, projects you are working on?
I am working on two films right now. One is a high concept love story and the other is a heist film. I am also developing a web series but it’s still in the preliminary stages.
From your talk, interviews you come across as someone with a political mind, as also very liberal, progressive and secular. Our industry-folk appear vary of voicing political opinions that are contrarian to the ruling regime. Do inform of your worldview.
I am reminded of my Miranda rights (anything you say can and will be used against you) as I type this. But jokes apart, I am really sick and tired of what’s happening around us. Yes, I am sometimes critical of the present regime and its ultra-right ideology, as I am of Congress because of their dynastic politics.
Although, you’ll be surprised to know that I come from a family of BJP loyalists and have grown up seeing and interacting (on rare occasions) with stalwarts like Sushma Swaraj, who contested from Karnal several times in the initial few years of her career and was one of the finest politicians BJP had. I think every party has good and bad people/politicians and BJP needs to decentralize its control, just like Congress needs to think beyond Gandhis. When a political party becomes the fiefdom of a few, it only gets worse from there.
Haryana like Punjab has been an agrarian economy hub for India. You have lived in Haryana and Punjab. What does the current Farmer agitation for their very legitimate demand mean to you? Read this on your Facebook—Jiss kisan ko aandhi aur toofan nahi daraa sakte, baarish aur oole nahi dhamka sakte, usko tum kya daraoge?
It can’t get more personal than this for me. I remember when we were still kids, visiting our village during April vacations, which is also the time of wheat harvesting. Papa and Phaji (my dad and grandpa) would be pacing up and down at any hint of untimely rains, because that would mean a washout of six months of efforts. Beeji (grandmom) and mom would be trying to comfort them, while equally scared deep down. The anxiety obviously percolated down to kids; and in order to distract us, the adults would ask us to do our bit by cutting the hailstones (ole in Panjabi) with a knife (an old superstition) so it stops raining havoc. So, while our friends in city were rejoicing due to welcome showers in summers, we would be shitting bricks.