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Wordsmith

The writer of Kahaani Advaita Kala about her life and career

Background

I grew up in Mumbai, and then moved to Kathmandu in Nepal, before schooling in Dehradun. From there, I studied Liberal Arts in the US. The writer in me was slowly taking root but I didn’t know it then. So I returned to Delhi and began working in the hospitality industry.

Her First Book

My first book was a cathartic experience as I had quit my job and didn’t know what to do at the time. I began writing randomly about my feelings until I realised I had written 90,000 words. That’s when it dawned upon me that this could become a novel!

Almost Single was published in 2007 and the book became a huge hit, I started getting a lot of offers from various filmmakers to adapt the book into a film. This was about five years ago, when I wasn’t convinced about how a filmmaker would handle a chick flick. Would he execute it well? I was yet to come across a filmmaker who could handle female relationships in a non-stereotypical manner. I tend to think a lot. I was afraid that my interpretation would be messed with in the film.

On Anjaana Anjaani

I was at the Jaipur Literature Festival in January 2009, when director Siddharth Anand got in touch with me. I call him my ‘Godfather’. He told me he had read my book, although now, since I have worked with him, I know he hasn’t. Maybe he has just skimmed through it.

He met me after the Lit Fest and told me about the story he had in mind for his film Anjaana Anjaani. I quite liked the concept of a film which starts with a boy and a girl wanting to kill themselves. The challenge of pulling off something like that made it very interesting. I learnt a lot through film writing and how different it is from writing a book.

The craft is very different. Books give you the luxury to play with words, characters, scenes but films are restricting since they are primarily visual. I had a lot of difficulty writing the film as I had studied in a boarding school, where we were not allowed to watch too many films. I was abroad when Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge released in India, so I missed out on getting the real taste of Bollywood.

What I like about film writing is that it is an immersive experience.

On Kahaani

Sujoy Ghosh is a friend of Siddharth Anand, and he wanted to make a woman-centric film. I felt I could write this as I have a keenness for woman-centric subjects. A lot of research went into the film. It did not just deal with the turmoil a woman goes through but also the rivalry between the RAW and CBI. It was challenging because I needed to get out of that frothy rom-com space and into a hardcore, research-based thriller. This film made way for organic and creative growth. Stringing together the mystery, the suicide angle and the characters was quite a task.

Future Projects

I think I am done with my film sojourn. I am now interested in TV and might do some writing for television. But, again, in a very creative space. But, as you know, there is many a slip between the cup and the lip and so I won’t say any more till things fall into place.

I am also working on the Kahaani book. It will be quite different from the film and more elaborate. I am published in a lot of geographies like the UK and France, so I will have to go back to the drawing board to present this story to them. That’s keeping me busy, along with my hotel job!

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