What Influences Kanika Dhillon’s Worksby Opinion Express September 14, 2018 0 comments
The creative influence on script writer and author Kanika Dhillon’s works can be attributed to her social environment.
While most authors almost see it as a right to be on board while their books are adapted for the silver screen, Kanika Dhillon is different. The screenplay writer and author prefers to keep both separate. “When I have written a book, I’ve done my bit and told it the way I want to. And I don’t want to do its script. I keep telling everyone to get someone else to write the screenplay if you want to make a film,” she says sitting at a five-star hotel in NCR. She is a part of the promotion team of Manmarziyan, the movie which will see Abhishek Bachchan after a hiatus of two years alongside Vicky Kaushal and Taapsee Pannu exploring the layers of modern relationships.
There is a reason behind her quirk. “When adapting a book to a screenplay, you need to know what to cut and get rid of. When I am so involved in the story I will always have my darlings as I will be attached to this or that and I will never be able to be objective. I need a different voice which is brutal and fresh. Maybe I can be a part of it but I can’t be the only one doing both the things,” says Kanika who has authored books like Bombay Duck is a Fish(2011), a satire on the Indian film industry, the young adult superhero novel Shiva and the Rise of the Shadows(2013), and the drama
The Dance of Durga (2016).
She adds that brevity is the key while writing a screenplay. “It is more alive in the sense that it can constantly evolve till the time that it is shot. My process as an author once I hand over the book to the editor is over. But in a film I am on the set and can see the words come alive. The impact can change because someone else is interpreting it. A line could sound great in my head but it might sound terrible when the actor is actually saying it,” says Kanika who started out as an assistant director on the sets of Ra.One.
She is very clear cut that though both involve writing, books and films are very different media in the way that the audience consumes them and also the way she writes. “How I am going to approach a book and a film depends on the way the audience or the reader approaches the two. Writing a book or a novel is a very personal experience as there is no interpretation from any director or the team or costume designer. I get to design every colour, stroke, paint and the feel as well as the look of it and present it to my audience and they can enhance it further with their own imagination. It is a very direct medium,” she says.
But the two do meet for Kanika in the sense that both books and the screenplays are a factor of the environment that she is in. “These are people that surround me. Perhaps we are these characters that I write about,” she says. For Manmarziyan particularly she felt a need to bring out a complexity or dichotomy that exists in the society. “Our culture, stories and lores and our entire system of cultural experiences tell us that love is everlasting. India goes mad on marriages. But when I actually experienced love, I realised its limits. They can actually disable you. We’ve always seen that love is empowering, it isn’t. It can destroy you. It is not a divine emotion nor set in stone as it comes and also goes away. Then you find it again. But I am not saying that I don’t believe in it. I do and so do the characters of Manmarziyan, but how do we negotiate love in today’s day and time? That is what the film is about,” she explains.
She says that the film evolved out of a need to express a love story which was free of any kind of judgement and gave us the perspective about a woman’s choice to fall in love, fall out of it and fickle about it. “I wanted to be honest and have the freedom to create those characters which went beyond the sanitised ones that we see on screen. Love is very messy and we never get to see that side. It is messy, fickle, selfish and not pure or holier than thou.”
She goes on to add that the film is a contemporary take on today’s generation. “Love has become a curse of this generation because there is dichotomy. There is instant gratification as we have Tinder, multiple sexual partners but at the same time there is this caveman need for a life-changing relationship. Earlier, happily ever after was possible as we didn’t have multiple choices.” So even when there is a movie about a girl meets a boy and falls in love, there is a way forward and certainly a change in its treatment and content. Kanika says, “Content is changing as well as the audience. They have access to such varied and strong content. One can’t take the audience for granted which is good as we have to work harder to get retention and to entertain them. The audience wants to hear different kinds of stories because the exposure levels have changed.”
She believes that societal evolution and internet accessibility have pushed thematic change in our storylines. “When we have a different kind of exposure to technology and your life interactions are changing, this will naturally impact the way you get entertainment and the way you consume it. Both mirror each other. The influence of internet and technology is huge. And it is finding its way in new kinds of storytelling which are new and fresh,” she says.
This, she believes, is also reflected in the kind of heroes that the films throw up. “We create the heroes according to the needs of the time. The angry young man of the 70s, who lasted through to the 80s, was about challenging the establishment after a nation went through its honeymoon phase, and getting your worth and identity justly. Today, the common man is the hero who can change his destiny on his terms. So we have stopped looking out for messiahs to save us. We don’t have to look at NRIs or global influences to find heroism because we are the country that is leading everywhere now. It has percolated down to the stories that we are telling,” says the scriptwriter author dressed in ripped jeans, which invites a lot of leg-pulling from Abhishek who is in the same room as her.
Kanika’s flair will be seen next in Mental Hai Kya starring Kangana Ranaut and Rajkummar Rao as well as Kedarnath which stars Sara Ali Khan. She admits that she doesn’t have a disciplined approach to writing. “Before I sit down to type, a lot of it has to be in my mind. I need to get into the emotional zone of writing. There is a lot of preparation involved. If I am writing a love story then perhaps I would like to listen to a certain kind of music to get into the emotional state to write. People think that it is procrastination, which it is not. I might be thinking about it while shopping and getting to the point of writing,” she says.
Usually she takes about a year to get a script and screenplay along with the dialogues in place. “I need to have my own independent voice. I can’t do dialogues independently because I feel screenplay and dialogues are interlinked. There is no concept of separating the two. In a year’s time, I can give you a wholesome story but then it could be faster like the way it happened for Mental Hai Kya as I was going through anxiety. I just wrote it,” she says.
What is also interesting about Kanika is that she is not even remotely connected with the industry. “I always wanted to be a writer. My mother is a professor and teaches literature in Amritsar. So stories were a part of growing up. And then in Amritsar our biggest outing was watching movies. I loved to see those beautiful stories come alive. No wonder I landed here,” she ends with a laugh.
Writer: Saimi Sattar
Courtesy: The Pioneer