Advaita Kala, the literary creator of the hugely successful "Kahaani"- in an exclusive conversation with Nishi Roy from B'khush . Read on to know more about what motivates and inspires Kala.
The stupendous reaction to your creation, Vidya Bagchi, how does it make you feel? How much of you is there in her?
Advaita : Very gratified that people found her believable and relatable. It’s a bit of a private endeavour for me – creating female characters that are in some way representative of women. Also the idea of pregnancy, vulnerability, strength not using her as a honey trap..these were things that were central to me when I wrote her. There are always bits of me in all the characters I write and stories I tell, so its not just Vidya Bagchi but also Aisha Bhatia (my novel Almost Single) who has some of me in her.
Though you turned scriptwriter with the movie Anjana Anjaani, it is Kahaani which has really captured people’s imagination. Were you anticipating it?
Advaita: No. I never have any expectations from my work. I am telling a story, I just hope that most people who read it or watch it are entertained. When the next one comes along, it will be like starting over. It’s only in the immediate that the writer is gratified or disappointed and gratefully its history pretty soon. So one can move on.
In literary terms, were there any particular nuances or characterizations which were developed with the directors inputs?
Advaita: I think in terms of the screenplay the novelistic form and the cinematic are different modes of expression. I wrote the story as a novel and that releases later in the year.
Any particular reason, the protagonist is portrayed as a hugely pregnant woman? It is a rarity in today’s times, where most movies have very sexual item dance numbers.
Advaita: Absolutely! There is a reason for that infact a very long reason that has to do with patriarchy, vulnerability, the idea of female strength. The resistance to being objectified and yet the pregnant woman being a sexual being. So many, many reasons – that its a long conversation. The female centric film had to succeed without the item songs or the dance numbers or the objectification and it finally has. I am proud to have played a part in the larger movement. I received more that twelve offers for my debut novel (Almost Single – its sold over 100, 000 copies in India) but I declined every one of them – because I was afraid that it might be translated into something I would not be comfortable with.
Another first for a mainstream Bollywood movie is the unspoken attraction between the hugely pregnant protagonist and the single young actor. As a womanthis facet is a personal favourite of mine. Do share your thoughts behind developing this aspect.
Advaita: Thank you for noticing, yes I wanted that. It’s a little more pronounced in the novel, there is a point when Rana calls her by her first name as opposed to Mrs Bagchi (the part when she runs up from the metro station - that is a distinct moment in the book), which is how he always refers to her. Rana has a past and that past makes him reach out to her also there is his relationship with his mother. Some of my pregnant friends have told me that the world viewed them as non sexual beings when they were pregnant and it was irksome. I suppose female vanity has a part to play in this. I wanted to explore this aspect and its one of those sub themes, very carefully woven into the narrative, so its great that people picked up on it.
In a recent interview you have mentioned that you would love to write under a male pseudonym. Why is that? Is the publishing industry tilted towards male writers?
Advaita:Yes I would. Not the industry in particular but perception as well. Very often I get called on television debates about women’s issues. I sometimes wonder if I should go on because its so gendered, just the fact that they are asking me to come in because I am a woman. These are humanitarian issues the violation of human rights – that take place all too often. Men are as much a part of the dialog as women are. So these are some of the questions I ask myself pretty often.
Post the success of Dirty Picture and Kahaani, do you think we will get to see better developed women-characters in movies?
Advaita: I hope so! That’s the idea. In my brief experience with the movies, I have realized that its very much a business and most only back projects when they can see some sort of ROI. So its very important that these movies make money and the fact that they did at the box office means – female driven films work and hence we will hear more such stories.
What is next we can look forward from Advaita Kala?
Advaita: Ah, the novel is next. And something else, I am always up to something!
You serve as an inspiration to numerous potential writers who want their writing voice to be appreciated and read, any advice for them?
Advaita: Don’t worry about appreciation, readers, publishers – just write. Every story has its destiny and will find its way to its audience. So just write.