e4m PLAY 2020: Decoding ‘Creativity That Works’
Alankrita Shrivastava, Nupur Asthana and Sandeep Modi share their methods and moments of inspiration on a panel chaired by Ashwin Padmanabhan
Creative minds behind some of the recent OTT hits came together to talk about ‘Creativity That Works’ as part of e4m PLAY 2020 - Streaming Media Conference & Awards, on Thursday.
Chaired by Ashwin Padmanabhan, President Partnerships & Trading, GroupM & Motion Content Group, on a panel were Alankrita Shrivastava, Co-director & Co-writer, Made in Heaven ; Writer-Director: Lipstick Under My Burkha, Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare , Bombay Begums; Nupur Asthana, Director-Four More Shots Please Season 2, Creator -Writer -Director-Hip Hip Hurray; Director- Mahi Way, Romil & Jugal, Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge, Bewakoofiyaan, and Sandeep Modi, Co-Creator & Co-Director- Aarya; Director-Chumbak. They were here to explore the topic ‘Creativity that Works: New Ideas for a New World’.
The Hotstar web series which saw the comeback of actor Susmita Sen has been a massive hit. Speaking on the idea behind the making of this story, Sandeep Modi said: “The tougher thing for us when we started writing the show was to see what is it about it, which makes for a story that needs to be told. We always turned back to Ram because this show has stayed with him for the last decade or so. We built up on choosing righteousness in a bad world and this became our core idea. The strength of the character was already there and it became easier for us since they were all surrounded by strong characters. Sometimes we take gender too seriously in the way we think. We do face the same dilemmas, it's the reaction to that that defines a strong character.”
Adding what makes for a successful story, Alankrita Shrivastava said, “For me it's more important that I should be passionate about the story that I'm telling. If it matters to me, only then will it matter to someone else. I was struggling to make ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ and get it out. It's always a battle to get this kind of work out because you don't get that kind of systemic support. One has to go with the conviction that if you believe in your story, you will start to develop your loyal audience bit by bit. There are not enough people who get the kind of stories you want to tell and I was really rewarded for all the hardship that I went through.”
She also spoke about getting a lot of love and appreciation that gave her validation and helped her fight all the battles in India, where getting permission and fighting the ban and censorship was an issue.
Romil and Juggal, the web series comprising one season on ALTBalaji, tells the tale of a same sex couple and how society treats them. Nupur Asthana said: “I have a lot of gay friends and to tap Shakespeare is a challenge in itself and then to do it with two boys was even harder. I didn't want to make it flaky and make the LGBTQ audience feel like I left them out. I just wanted to convey the message about celebrating love in any form. The love between two people was what I wanted to capture and celebrate on screen, more than the angst that these people actually face. It became the story which has heavy romance between these two boys before reality hits them. I wanted to make sure that everyone was able to watch it.”
Speaking about the gay character in Aarya, Modi said, “We were trying to understand what it means to be gay in India and there were a few people who were using snide remarks about his sexuality. We were very sure we didn't want to cast someone who had the typical traits of a homosexual, we wanted to break away from that. While we were casting the screenplay, we thought of this scene, which unfortunately was a European scene. Everything happened organically though and I'm very proud of it.”
Talking about the difference between a series and a movie, Shrivastava said, “In a series space, you get so many more hours of the story and you can get into many more stories of the character. A longer format gives you that and with ‘Made in Heaven’, it was the first time all of us were working in that kind of format and it was exciting to delve into that area. We knew what we wanted to say and everything emerged from there. Whether sexuality or complexity, we wanted to explore these stories like real lived experiences, adding that she had never been in the writer’s room before and that whole process was very collaborative.
“What I write and make is very personal. I cannot make something that I don't believe in and whether people like it or hate it, it's important for me to have a great conviction. Made in Heaven, we knew that we wouldn't have any censorship issues. The difference between a series and a film is that a series is much more collaborative.”
Speaking of the kind of stories she would like to work on in the future, Asthana said, “I have many stories in my head and in my laptop, but I love getting into the psychology of people and I have a list of a few dream stories that I want to be able to tell very soon.”
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