February 22, 2020
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Devika Bhagat

The young writer on her screenplay for the forthcoming film Aisha

Devika Bhagat
Devika Bhagat

How was Aisha conceptualised?

I was approached by Rajshree (director) to adapt Jane Austen’s novel Emma to a contemporary Indian setting and I loved the idea.

A Georgian-era novel in present India?

The period when Austen wrote Emma was characterised by rigid class structures. We set it in Delhi because we Indians are obsessed with marriages and social position.

Austen seems to be a Bollywood favourite.

More than Austen, it’s her Pride and Prejudice. There was a South Indian film on it and a Doordarshan serial back in the ’80s called Trishna. Austen’s characters transcend time.

Was casting a difficult task?

In fact, casting for Emma was the easiest as Sonam, our first choice, is an Austen fan. It was finding the producers that was the hard bit.

Why was that so?

Women-centric films don’t work in India. The producers liked the story and the script but wanted it all to revolve around a guy!

But it turned out to be an all-woman team.

It was great with an entire female crew including the producer, director, scriptwriter....

How is it being a woman writer in B’wood?

It’s a little difficult because it is a male-dominated industry. I started off writing in 2005 but today it has become easier.

You were an assistant director.

Yes, the work of an assistant director was very logistic and I was feeling creatively stagnated and needed to write my own script.  

You have been experimental in your work.

I prefer character-oriented screenplays. It is the story which decides whether it’ll be a small project like Manorama Six Feet Under or a mainstream film like Bachna Ae Haseeno.

Is creativity sacrificed for commercial considerations?

Not for me. When I write, I ensure I’m on the same page as the person I’m writing for.

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