‘I am a sto­ry­teller’

Direc­tor of Bareilly Ki Barfi, Ash­winy Iyer Ti­wari says “film-mak­ing and sto­ry­telling is also a form of spir­i­tu­al­ity”

HT Cafe - - Front Page - Prashant Singh

She showed sparks of bril­liance in her first film, Nil Bat­tey San­nata (NBS) it­self. So it wasn’t sur­pris­ing when direc­tor Ash­winy Iyer Ti­wari’s sec­ond out­ing, Bareilly Ki Barfi (BKB) had a lot of ex­pec­ta­tions rid­ing on it. Even though the film has gone on to be­come a sleeper hit, not much has changed for Ash­winy. “It’s just that now I sleep a bit more (laughs),” she says, as she talks about her life, ca­reer and more.

Did you find the BKB ex­pe­ri­ence any dif­fer­ent from NBS?

I treated it like my first film. But of course, when I started work on BKB, I was two films old as I had al­ready fin­ished the Tamil ver­sion (of NBS). And with ex­pe­ri­ence, you know what you should be do­ing but also, you know what you shouldn’t be do­ing.

Was there any pres­sure on you to live up to peo­ple’s ex­pec­ta­tions?

As a story and a film, BKB is very close to my heart. They say that with the first film, one gets es­tab­lished but with the sec­ond one, you need to prove your­self. Of course, things will keep chang­ing and even if you do 10 films, you should look at any film as your first one. So, I treated BKB like my first film. I will be like this in ev­ery film, so, ev­ery film will be sweet for me.

Do you feel it’s a great time to be a film-maker?

Not only as a male or a fe­male film-maker, I feel we are in a very good space vis-à-vis be­ing in the world of sto­ry­telling be­cause we are a coun­try of young peo­ple. Ev­ery­one is as­pir­ing to do dif­fer­ent kinds of things. Young audiences are will­ing to take risks. Plus, we have new thinkers, who are tak­ing fear­less de­ci­sions, pro­duc­ers who want to back it, ac­tors who want to be a part of it, and di­rec­tors-writ­ers, who want to make such sto­ries. Such an amal­ga­ma­tion will yield beau­ti­ful re­sults.

What would you rather be — a sto­ry­teller or a film-maker?

I am a sto­ry­teller. I don’t like call­ing my­self a film-maker. I feel I am a sto­ry­teller be­cause a sto­ry­teller tells sto­ries and film-mak­ing is my medium. Stay­ing cen­tered is the ul­ti­mate mo­tive. Be­ing joy­ous about what I do and know­ing why I do it is im­por­tant. If I am happy mak­ing sto­ries that make peo­ple happy then my job as a sto­ry­teller is done. Every­thing else — be­ing known, be­ing part of cof­fee con­ver­sa­tions — all that is a part of the job. To­mor­row if I fail to tell sto­ries, I fail my au­di­ence, then none of this mat­ters.

Do you think the power of cin­ema has grown man­i­fold?

For me, film-mak­ing and sto­ry­telling is also a form of spir­i­tu­al­ity and a form of un­der­stand­ing hu­man minds. There is a cause and ef­fect in every­thing so I feel in my sto­ries, the cause and ef­fect is very im­por­tant. To­day, if I can make a dif­fer­ence in so­ci­ety by the kind of sto­ries I tell, and cre­ate a larger au­di­ence then it will cre­ate a chain re­ac­tion and that is very im­por­tant.

How does it feel to de­liver a hit? What’s keep­ing you busy?

Noth­ing right now. I am chill­ing. I’ve fi­nally got time to do my own thing. So, I am sud­denly feel­ing that I should paint and I am go­ing to do that. Then, I am also mak­ing ad films and will spend more time – than what I usu­ally do – with my kids. Also, I think I need a break now so I think I am go­ing to travel. I am go­ing to Goa for 10 days to do a yoga course. Plus, I am also writ­ing a book.

Re­ally?

Yes, I have fin­ished about five chap­ters. It’s a life story and philo­soph­i­cal, about a re­la­tion­ship be­tween a fa­ther and a son. It’s in a Paulo Coelho kind of space.

Be it Nil Bat­tey San­nata or Bareilly Ki Barfi (BKB), your films are en­ter­tain­ing but also comes with mes­sages. Is it dif­fi­cult to strike that bal­ance?

Yes, it is. I would lie if I say it is not dif­fi­cult be­cause there’s a fine thin bal­ance that you’ve to strike. So, one mo­ment, you can be very funny but there can also be a sad mo­ment. In ev­ery­one’s life, there are ups and downs. Even if I am say­ing a real, slice of life story, the au­di­ence must take some­thing back. In that sense, what’s most im­por­tant for me is that who­ever comes to watch my film should iden­tify with my char­ac­ters and their in­sights.

In BKB too, you touched upon var­i­ous real-life and pro­gres­sive thoughts…

I think for me, the most im­por­tant thing was the pro­gres­sive re­la­tion­ship be­tween the fa­ther and his daugh­ter. I feel that a film is also like a hu­man be­ing and has its own life. Ev­ery story I say should be funny and en­ter­tain peo­ple. But I also need to give peo­ple some­thing to go back home with be­cause if I haven’t done that then I have failed as a sto­ry­teller and also as a hu­man be­ing. I am not say­ing this is the only way of sto­ry­telling but maybe, this is how I want to say it so I feel there is a con­nect be­tween me and audiences.

At this stage, how do you see suc­cess and fail­ure?

I have seen a lot of fail­ures in life. And I feel that you do need to put in rig­or­ous hard work and have the con­vic­tion to do what you need to. I feel a film has to be made from the heart and it must be as pure and real as your life be­cause that shows in your work. For me, BKB isn’t the end and I’m not like, ‘oh, I’ve made a hit film.’ I have to start again from scratch, work as hard and with the same pas­sion and pu­rity in head, and not think­ing of suc­cess or fail­ures. You should do your bit, kal kisne dekha hai?

Clearly, you cut your­self off from every­thing af­ter a point, and plus, you stay far away in Chem­bur. Does that help?

The thing is how do you tell good and dif­fer­ent sto­ries? Even when you solve a math­e­mat­i­cal cal­cu­la­tion like cal­cu­lus, you stop and think if you have done it cor­rectly. So, as a sto­ry­teller and a cre­ative per­son, you have to take a step back and have a dif­fer­ent point of view on things. So, for me go­ing back home, be with my own thoughts and things that I re­ally love, re­flect­ing [on things] puts me a lit­tle away from every­thing else and gives me a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive.

Do you ever get over­whelmed with the kind of praise that’s com­ing your way?

I feel that grat­i­tude is the most im­por­tant thing which you need to keep mov­ing with. I feel blessed that I have had some re­ally nice peo­ple who have al­ways been a part of my life. So, the idea is to just keep do­ing bet­ter work with­out think­ing of what it’s go­ing to be. As they say in Hindi, ‘karm karo, phal ki chinta mat karo.’ Be it pro­duc­ers or audiences, they are com­ing to me for a rea­son and I can’t let them down.

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