Keep the coconuts, thanks

Keep the coconuts, thanks

When she says, “I was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Mumbai Film Festival, it’s impossible not to fall in love with the utterly delightful writer-director Sai Paranjpe – even more than once before Yes… I clearly told them that if you have shawls and coconuts, you can keep them. But yes, if there is money, it will be helpful. Initially I felt strange…(But) how many shawls and coconuts I have at home Can I take it?” This hilarious anecdote is from Anubha Yadav’s brilliant book Scripting Bollywood: Candid Conversation with Women Who Writes Hindi Cinema. Young veteran Paranjpe has scripted and directed 23 works, including Sparsh and Chashme Baddoor; his direction followed Raincontres. Won two awards at the Cinematographiques de Cannes and was in 17 film festivals. My interest continues in Yadav’s book, which focuses on 14 female screenwriters from Bollywood/Hindi cinema whose work spanned nearly 50 years, and Women Unlimited ( Kali’s Companion for Women, Rs.675). With insights on the crafts and lives of the authors, and brilliant conversations, it’s perfect for anyone interested in the genuine contribution of women to Bollywood, Indian cinema, and film. Would be interesting.

Okay, now which movie would you imagine Juhi Chaturvedi- the wonderful writer of Vicky Donor, Madras Cafe, Piku, October and Gulabo Sitabo- watch? Some Nora Efron-Valla movie? Aparna Sen’s 36 Chowringhee Lane? Bong Joon-ho’s parasite? No. “One film I wanted to write is Date; It is an excellent, crazy film,” she says, referring to the Kannada satire written by Ere Gowda and Rama Reddy for the first time—and you love them so much. “Juhi Chaturvedi is one of the handful of screenwriters whose name is enough to take a project forward in Bollywood,” says Yadav. She always goes to the sets, and even sits in editing the films she writes. She insists that writers have the confidence to tell an actor who suggests saying a line differently, “No, there’s a reason it took three years to write this line exactly like that.” ” Oooh! More power to you, Juhi, and may your tribe grow like Omicron. She also appreciates the director Shoojit Sircar with whom she has
Collaborated on all his films, even crediting him in promotions for October that “started the trend”.

I always feel a strange joy when journalists become successful film writers or directors. Bhavani Iyer, who started with Stardust magazine, wrote high profile films including Black, Guzaarish, Lootera and Raazi, and the web series Breathe-2 and Kaafir. The first film he wrote for Sanjay Leela Bhansali was Black. “He realized that I could look at things in a new way because I hadn’t seen a lot of movies, I didn’t have any baggage. I didn’t know the traditional way of storytelling in Hindi films,” she recalls. I was so young… I had no fear… didn’t even think with me that I should take a screenwriting course. I wrote the story as it was going through my mind. I would call it the valor of fools!” From there she has reached an even higher stage: “For Raazi, I started by writing a sketch of Iqbal’s character before writing the script… My characters are around me, they talk to me in my sleep. I am just a medium; I’m just keying in the words.”

“Writers create their best content when they don’t have a gun to their heads, when they don’t need anyone else to please,” says Iyer. She stresses that the films she has written are not populist. “I love a film like Chennai Express… but I can’t write it,” she confesses. Despite working with some of the best—including Bhansali, Vikramaditya Motwane and Meghna Gulzar—it’s clear she’s not going to be influenced by Bollywood unless impressed: “I’ve written a lot, about 47 scripts, but . .. I am happy to keep them,” she says. And all these are only a small part of the wealth of Yadav’s book.

Meenakshi Shede is the India and South Asia representative for the Berlin International Film Festival, a national award-winning critic, curator of festivals across the world, and a journalist.
Contact him at



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