It took courage to script a story that may not have gelled with the Indian audience. But she scripted it anyway. It was an even greater challenge as her experience had thus far been mainly in the commercial arts and advertising. But the risk paid off. Juhi Chaturvedi, a Lucknow girl who moved to Delhi and then to Mumbai, is now revelling in the success of Vicky Donor. And she has a lot more on her plate.
What was Shoojit Sircar’s reaction when you told him you had a script on sperm donation?
He was taken aback and said he would call me back. After a week, he did, and we started working on the screenplay. I wanted to call the film Phool Khile Hain Gulshan Gulshan, but we changed it to Vicky Donor.
Tell us about your journey while making the film?
I was very clear that I didn’t want the film to be cheap or with sleazy jokes. Shoojit agreed. There is a very thin line between vulgarity and humour, and it was tough toeing it. See, sperm donation a very touchy concept and only couples who don’t have kids know what it feels like. I had to respect those sentiments.
What is the kind of response you’re receiving to the film?
Great!!! I have received a response not only from India but worldwide. People loved the film and are talking about the saas-bahu drinking scene and the Punjabi and Bengali wedding.
But the best compliment was meeting Salim sahib. He watched the film and told me that if someone had asked him to write a film on such a concept, he wouldn’t have been able to. He gave us his Filmfare awards. I was so thrilled. That’s the best experience to date.
How did the saas-bahu drinking scene come to mind?
Everyone portrays the saas-bahu relationship from a different angle but I wanted to show the khatti-meethi relationship between them. So I thought of the drinking scene. Everyone knows the bitter part but I wanted to show the sweeter side of the relationship.
The Punju-Bengali wedding was drafted from my own life. My brother married a Bengali girl. So I have seen the differences we have in wedding cultures.
I wanted to give the story an emotional touch too. You know, the scene where Biji says, ‘I could have got my daughter-in-law married’ or Mrs.Aloowalia letting Ashima go when she learnt that her son was a sperm donor. And the scene where Aloowalia is drunk and sleeping on Vicky’s bed and Vicky asks, ‘Ek aur drink bana du?’ So incorporated some emotional scenes along with the funny moments.
Did you meet any real sperm donors?
Yes, but only after we finished the final script. We met a few of them and realized that they all have different motives to donate sperm. Some do it for money; others for charity. I have seen people pulling up in cars to donate and going back without taking a penny. I met a father-in-law who donated his sperm to his daughter-in-law as his son couldn’t conceive.
Were you also involved in the making of the film?
Yes, Shoojit gave me the freedom to incorporate whatever I wanted. So from zeroing in on the characters, shooting every scene, dress designing… I was there every single day. But even the actors contributed a lot. For instance, Mrs Aloowalia and Ashima’s father in the film are theatre artists and very experienced. Sometimes, they came with their own ideas and it Shoojit decided how to implement them. When you work with a mind like Shoojit’s, it brings out the best in you.
Your favorite character?
Every character is my favorite. From Dr Chaddha to Vicky, Mrs Aloowalia, Biji, Vicky, Ashima Roy, evens the padosis. I had created every single character, so they are all close to my heart.
Tell us something about you.
I never dreamt I would be a scriptwriter one day as I come from a commercial arts background, then advertising and photography. My background is the arts. Then I joined an advertising company, where I worked with Shoojit on a few ads, one of them being Aamir Khan’s ad. I’ve known him for five years. Actually I wrote the screenplay of Shoebite but since it hasn’t released, people were not aware of me. And then Vicky Donor happened.
Before this film, I used to script for ads, so there was always a hunger to write more. Ironically, my boss used to tell me, ‘Chhota likho, feature film nahi, ad film banana hain.’
What’s keeping you busy after Vicky Donor?
I will start writing the dialogue for Jaffna and then the script of Hamara Bajaj. So in a few weeks, I think will be back on track and start working.
What was it like working with John Abraham?
Oh, that was the best experience! You know, when he heard the script, he agreed that we needed a new face. He has done a fantastic job of promoting Vicky Donor. And without him, the journey would not have been possible.