As Article 15 continues to collect praise from all sections, writer Gaurav Solanki speaks to Team Box Office India on the idea behind the film, his journey from being a songwriter to a scriptwriter and his web show for Amazon Prime
You have written lyrics for popular songs. How did you transition from being a lyricist to a screenwriter?
There was no transition as such for me because I have always been a fiction writer. I have been writing screenplays for a while now. But the films for which I had written songs came out first and the ones with screenplay took a lot of time. That’s why it might look like a transition but while I was writing songs, I was writing screenplays too. Some projects were about to start but because of some reasons they didn’t. And eventually, after a few years, Article 15 happened to me. When I started writing, I started with poetry and then got into fiction. I think I need both to express myself.
Do you plan to translate your own work on the big screen as a director?
I do plan to do that. We were in talks of doing it for one of my stories called Hisar Mein Hahakar. Anurag Kashyap wanted to make it but it didn’t work out. But I want to go ahead with it. I have already penned a screenplay adapted from that and I am planning to revisit that by making it maybe into a series or a film because it is a long story.
We spoke to Anubhav Sinha earlier about Article 15 and he told us how the script was inspired from newspaper headlines. Tell us about the research that went into writing this film.
We have mentioned this in the film that news of this kind keeps appearing in newspapers, sometimes on the first page and sometimes on the seventh page. But people are not affected by it much now. People have become desensitised towards this kind of news. And how long can one be sensitive about this? If you keep reading about rape and murder every day then one gets used to it because otherwise we won’t be able to live. And for the people who are affected, a lot of that anger does not turn into anything constructive. We have stopped coming out on roads to protest against things. What happens is that the anger that we have now, is often vented out on Twitter or Facebook. By doing so, we feel that we have done our bit and we can sleep peacefully. And yes, there have been a few times where that has worked but most of the times it does not amount to anything. There is need for social change, and for better people to go into electoral politics. This film, I think stemmed from that need. We wanted to remind people that there are still rapes happening based on the caste system. Somebody has said this rightly that a Dalit woman is the last person in the entire social hierarchy. Dalit men also abuse these women and of course there is the upper caste. Police don’t even file FIRs when they are approached by these women. These are some of the facts which we wanted to relay through our story.
In the film, there are so many situations that just bring out a sporadic laugh from the audience even though the scenes around it are serious. Was it intentional to give the audience a breather?
Yes, it was actually intentional. And these light moments in between, I believe they happen in real life too. It is more life-like. Life doesn’t have only one tone and one emotion to it. Even though you are sad today, if someone cracks a joke, it is possible that you may laugh out. Life is sometimes kind and sometimes cruel. There are two reasons we put these slightly humourous situations in between. One is that since this is a very intense story, these moments, as you said, work as a breather. You can be prepared for the next thing that is going to happen. And the other reason is for things to look more natural.
Anubhav Sinha has written as well as directed the film. How did you collaborate with him during the writing process?
I was there on the sets with them. We did a lot of rewriting on the sets too and the responsibility of writing on the sets was often on me because he was handling direction. He was very receptive towards what I was bringing to the table. We collaborated well because the anger regarding these issues that are happening was common between us. We did not want to be neutral while writing the script but we wanted to be objective. We were criticising ourselves, the people who are strict adherents of the caste systems and all kinds of castes, we also criticised the public because directly or indirectly, we have all have a hand in this.
Did you have to customise any scenes for Ayushmann Khurrana?
We didn’t have to change anything for Ayushmann and thankfully so. When we were writing the first draft of the film, we had Ayushmann in mind because the talks with him had already begun and he was very excited about it. So, while we were writing, we kept him in our minds. When we were writing Brahmadutt’s role, after a few scenes, we were excited to bring in Manoj Pahwa for it. After a point, we were sure about the actors who would fit in the roles and kept them in mind while penning the story. And coming to Ayushmann, as I said, we had him in mind but we did not have to change anything for him. In fact, he is one of those few actors who asks his lines to be cut when he feels it is too much; quite opposite to what certain other actors do. He gives suggestions that are brilliant because he wants the script and the film to work in its entirety.
What projects are you working on currently?
I am writing a show for Ali Abbas Zafar for Amazon Prime. I am writing a feature film with Dibakar Banerjee and that is also a very exciting subject. I also want to get into direction but maybe in a couple of years.