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November 15, 2017

Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari On Delivering Clever Hits Like Bareilly Ki Barfi And Nil Battey Sannata

Text by Ranjabati Das

“I try to go deep with every film. And I do feel that we improve with every challenge and take our learning forward for the next one”

She is busy writing her next movie (her first sports film, on kabaddi) as well as a novella, and hoping to add yoga teacher and organic farmer to her skill set some day. Her last release Bareilly Ki Barfi (2017) matched up to the audience expectations – not a mean feat considering that the three-films-old director’s first two deliveries, Nil Battey Sannata (NBS, 2015) and the Tamil Amma Kannaku (2016) knocked it out of the park.

On pursuing film-making… “I had been in advertising for a long time before shifting to film-making when my twins turned three. I did not know anyone in Bollywood per se but when I decide I want something from the bottom of my heart, I make sure I find a way to do it. I found an opportunity to present producer Ajay Rai with NBS. As they say, you just have to think of how much you want something to happen and eventually, it will!”

On making women-centric films and working with a young crop of actors… NBS was a story about a mother and daughter but both men and women watched it and were moved by it. I wouldn’t call Bareilly Ki Barfi a quintessentially woman-centric film. It is a story about characters who are all struggling in their own paths. There is Ayushmann, who played the role of an alpha male along with Rajkummar, who essayed the dual role of someone who is submissive as well as a stud. Kriti has never played a small-town girl like Bitti. The young actors are fun to work with and they don’t come with any preset notions. They are open to new ideas,  are cooperative and learn quickly. It made for a nice maahol on set — it was like a huge family having a get-together every day.”

On the labels attached to different kinds of cinema“I believe that films are stories we want to narrate. NBS was loved for the story because the audience didn’t make demarcations between a commercial film and an indie film. A journalist once asked me to slot NBS into a specific category and I retorted with a quizzical ‘Why should we even do that?’ In the end, it did get categorised — as midstream cinema!”

On growing as a film-maker… “I am a learner. I try to go deep with every film. I believe that we improve with every challenge and take our learning forward for the next one. I have this childlike way of thinking and am curious about everything in film-making, which essentially makes me a learner for life!”

On cinematic aspirations… “I would love to work with Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts and direct a film written by Woody Allen (smiles). I look up to Sai Paranjpye and Satyajit Ray. It would be fantastic if I could collaborate with French producers since they make such amazing films. There was a time when I wanted to learn French because I wanted to watch their films the way locals do. One of my dream collaborations would be with Amélie (2001) actor Audrey Tautou.”

On lessons learnt… “You get one Friday to showcase your film to the audience so put your heart and soul into it and work like there is no tomorrow. You cannot fool your audience. They trust you and you owe it to them to follow your gut feeling and vision. The moment you stray from your focus and start looking at other things that are not important to the film, your voice and the telling of the story gets affected.”

On censorship in India… “I like to believe that if you have a good story, it will find the light of day, even if it takes some time. We are a country of young minds and everyone has the freedom to portray their sentiments the way they want to. I believe in the law of the universe where if you do something you are passionate about with all your heart, no one can stop you from presenting what you believe in. The process is difficult most of the time because we live in a society which has a point of view on everything. That being said, it’s changing slowly and I hope it’s for the better since the new generation may not be willing to listen to age-old beliefs.”

On future projects and different mediums… “My next film, which I am writing at the moment, is about kabaddi and will be produced by Fox Star Studios. Post that, I would like to explore a web series. For now, there is too much on my plate and I have other passions, which I want to excel at. I am also writing a book and have plans to pursue a teacher’s training course in yoga besides learning the art of organic farming. I care for the environment too much and eventually see myself in this space along with my first love, which is cinema.”

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