Anuraadha Tewari is a woman of many talents. Not only has she written the screenplay for films like Yaadein, Fashion and the recent, hotly anticipated Heroine, she has written and directed high visibility television and now has her eye on directing a Hindi feature. Recently Tewari wore the additional hat of being the Creative Director of Molecule Production's latest venture, Ticket2Bollywood where she gave aspirants insight into how to make it in the Hindi film industry. The writer who has made a place for herself in a tough business sat down with The NRI to tell us how she did it.
Who gave you the best piece of advice ...how to carry yourself, how to write?
That’s a lovely question. I’ve had two mentors. One was Javed Akhtar who said ‘Just write. Write everyday. If you’re not going to write everyday then it’s not going to happen’. The other mentor was Mahesh Bhatt, who said ‘they’ will try to take it away from you, put you down, meaning the system, and the biggest struggle will be for you to be yourself.
What was your struggle like trying to break into the industry?
My struggle wasn’t so much external, it was more internal because it took me a long time to fit in. It’s only as time has lapsed and other people have come in that I have found compatriots .
For aspiring writers who keep getting rejection, what is your advice for them?
Just keep at it. Remember, JK Rowling had 21 rejections before Harry Potter got made. There’s a 2-prong thing to it: you should definitely keep looking and really need to work a lot more. There may be something that’s not quite complete. Don’t give up on it, because who knows maybe they (those who rejected you) don’t know any better and maybe the 22nd person is the one. So keep at it, don’t give up.
After making a place for themselves, how can writers ensure a long career?
You have to keep growing. One is the preparation of entering and your craft, but more than learning your craft , you have to live more and you have to interact with the world and society, and you have to grow. What you did five years ago, you can’t be doing that now. Every year I check myself, where have I grown personally and professionally.
Qualities one must possess to make it in the film industry?
No matter what you do, you must have an x-factor that cannot really be defined, or learned. Which is just as true for a screenwriter as it is for an actor. What is unique, what is luminous within you that shines for everyone else to see?
Secondly, I’d say be honest with yourself. That is extremely important. And thirdly, it’s important to fit into a context. You must know your context. Don’t try to be anyone else. So once you understand your own personal context fits into the larger context, I think you’re fine. That’s when you have the big picture.
Tell us about the writer’s block.
The writer’s block is just a situation where your mind has gone a little empty. That means you’re drained. It’s not really a block, it’s emptiness. So what I do is completely take a break, which I didn’t do earlier. I used to fight it and get worked up about it. I just learned to zone out and give my mind a break and fill it up. You read more, watch more movies, go out and travel a lot, and get new experiences.
What do you love most about being a screenwriter?
The part when I’m not writing something, it’s writing itself out. It’s a very divine moment which is true for all artists, whether they’re sculptors, painters, dancers, there is a moment where you don’t know how that happened. You almost come out of a trance and say ‘Did I really write that? Wow.’
What do you dislike the most?
Often times your work isn’t interpreted the way you thought it would. Often your work is filtered into very different things. It’s not that it’s not the right perspective, but because of a different interpretation, some of the layers go.
How do you feel about that?
Initially it was very heartbreaking. I wanted to kill everybody (chuckles). You learn to let go. You learn to say ‘This is my job, I’ve handed it over now I’m going to watch it as someone else’s vision and see what they’ve done with it. I’m not possessive about it anymore. It’s more sharing now and I’m actually learning from the interpretation of somebody else’s work.
What is your advice for aspirants?
Be sure of who you are, don’t just be part of the crowd, don’t just say 'I have a desire.' It’s great to have a desire, but first chisel out what package you’re walking in with and don’t give up. When your time comes, it will. If it takes longer, there’s something for you to learn or unlearn. But don’t give up.