Art & Entertainment

‘Laapataa Ladies’ Writer Sneha Desai: Kiran Rao And Aamir Khan Approach Collaboration Democratically, Valuing Creative Input From All Team Members

Sneha Desai opens up about working with stalwarts like Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao. She reveals about how these biggies approach the subject, go around taking ideas and feedback and then eventually make it a democratic decision on what should be the best way forward.

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Sneha Desai Photo: Instagram
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‘Laapataa Ladies’ has been one of the most talked about films of the last month. ‘Laapataa Ladies’ will soon release on Netflix, after having a decent run at the theatres. The film, which is Kiran Rao’s second directorial after ‘Dhobi Ghat’, went on to get some of the best reviews of this year. The film was back by her ex-husband Aamir Khan, who also wanted to be a part of the film, but sadly, Kiran Rao put her foot down, and said that Ravi Kishan would be a better fit for the character. Indeed, she was so right. The film was written by Sneha Desai.

Talking to Prateek Sur, Sneha Desai opens up about working with stalwarts like Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao. She reveals about how these biggies approach the subject, go around taking ideas and feedback and then eventually make it a democratic decision on what should be the best way forward. Not only that, Sneha Desai also reveals that Kiran Rao gave in some great inputs which helped her also in the writing.

All this, and lots more in a candid conversation with Sneha Desai. Excerpts:

Q

Can you share some insights into the inspiration behind ‘Laapataa Ladies’ and what motivated you to write it?

A

‘Laapataa Ladies’ was a story too tantalizing to resist. The sheer depth of the narrative drew me in effortlessly. What really fuelled my enthusiasm was the challenge of diving into unfamiliar characters and settings. As an urban girl, immersing myself in the heartland of India was an exhilarating journey, offering rich fodder for my creative instincts.

Q

What were some of the challenges you faced while developing the characters and plot for the movie?

A

Crafting the characters and plot for ‘Laapataa Ladies’ posed its own set of hurdles. Primarily, it was stepping into the shoes of characters rooted in the heartland of India, a world quite alien to my urban upbringing. Understanding their mindset, societal norms, and challenges was a daunting task, requiring meticulous research and empathy.

Q

‘Laapataa Ladies’ deals with themes of female empowerment and solidarity. How did you ensure these themes were portrayed authentically in the script?

A

From the outset, we aimed to explore themes of female empowerment and solidarity in ‘Laapataa Ladies’. However, we were keen on avoiding preachiness, opting instead for a subtle, tongue-in-cheek approach infused with humor. This ensured that the audience could draw their own conclusions and take away valuable lessons without feeling lectured.

Q

Could you discuss any particular scenes or moments in the movie that were particularly challenging to write, and how you overcame those challenges?

A

While there weren’t specific scenes that posed immense challenges, capturing the essence of the film’s message proved demanding. Balancing various themes such as organic farming, female empowerment, and solidarity without veering into preachiness required constant fine-tuning. Maintaining a delicate narrative balance was key to overcoming these challenges.

Q

In the competitive landscape of the film industry, how do you navigate the balance between staying true to your creative vision and meeting commercial expectations?   

A

Balancing creative vision with commercial expectations in the film industry is a tightrope act. It’s crucial to gauge audience preferences while staying true to one’s artistic integrity. Adapting to market dynamics while pushing creative boundaries is essential for creating impactful cinema that resonates with viewers.

Q

As a writer, how do you approach incorporating social issues and commentary into your storytelling while still ensuring the narrative remains engaging and accessible to audiences?   

A

Storytelling offers a powerful platform to address social issues subtly yet effectively. By drawing inspiration from everyday experiences and weaving them into narratives, storytellers can engage audiences while imparting meaningful messages. It’s about striking a delicate balance between entertainment and social commentary.

Q

‘Laapataa Ladies’ addresses societal stereotypes and norms. How do you believe storytelling can contribute to challenging and changing these norms?   

A

Art, including storytelling, mirrors society and has the potential to challenge prevailing norms. Through diverse mediums, storytellers can influence societal perceptions and foster positive change. By portraying diverse characters and narratives, storytelling can shape collective consciousness and promote inclusivity.

Q

How much of the writing part was from Kiran Rao? Was she helping out in giving you ideas?

A

Kiran Rao played an integral role in the writing process, offering invaluable insights and ideas. Her hands-on approach as a producer and director enriched the narrative, with some characters even originating from her vision. Collaborating with her was both inspiring and rewarding.

Q

When someone like Kiran Rao is the director and Aamir Khan is the producer, do you have to always listen to their ideas or can you put your foot down and say ‘no, this is how it’s supposed to be, and this is how it will be’?   

A

Working with industry stalwarts like Kiran Rao and Aamir Khan was a privilege. Despite their vast experience, they approached collaboration democratically, valuing creative input from all team members. Their openness and support enabled a cohesive, democratic process, resulting in a fulfilling creative endeavour.

Q

What advice do you have for aspiring writers looking to break into the film industry, especially those who want to tackle similar themes and topics in their work?    

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A

For aspiring writers, reading extensively and honing their craft is paramount. Authenticity and sincerity are the currency of storytelling, so never compromise on your artistic vision. Crafting a compelling narrative that resonates with audiences while staying true to your voice is key to success in the competitive film industry.

Q

How important is collaboration with other creatives, such as directors and producers, in bringing your vision to life on screen?

A

Filmmaking is a collaborative endeavour that thrives on synergy between creatives. Collaborating with directors, producers, costume designers, casting directors and other professionals enriches the storytelling process, breathing life into characters and narratives. Each contribution adds depth and dimension, culminating in a cohesive cinematic experience.

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Q

Lastly, now that the film is soon going to release on OTT, what do you hope audiences take away from ‘Laapataa Ladies’ after watching it, both in terms of entertainment value and deeper messages or themes?  

A

I hope ‘Laapataa Ladies’ leaves audiences with a sense of warmth and hope. Beyond entertainment, I aim for the film to inspire introspection and encourage viewers to embrace change. If even a fraction of the audience emerges from the cinema hall with a newfound perspective, it would be the ultimate achievement.

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