KANIKA DHILLON ON HER SUCCESSFUL JOURNEY AS A WRITER
by ASJAD NAZIR
A new generation of writers are changing the face of Indian film and television by using their creativity to introduce boundary-breaking subjects.
One of the writers blazing a trail is Kanika Dhillon, who is also becoming an impressive symbol of girl power. The award-winning scriptwriter and author has quickly risen through the ranks since working as an assistant director in Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om (2008) and smashed glass ceilings along the way.
Her impressive projects as a writer include television serials Ghar Ki Baat Hai (2009) and Ishaan: Sapno Ko Awaaz De (2010-2011) along with the acclaimed books Bombay Duck Is A Fish, Shiva & The Rise Of The Shadows (2013) and The Dance Of Durga (2016). She was also the screenwriter of films, including Manmarziyaan, Kedarnath and JudgeMentall Hai Kya.
Eastern Eye caught up with the ace writer Kanika to speak about her impressive game-changing journey and future projects.
Tell us, what first connected you to writing?
Creating an entire world from scratch; breathing life into characters and making them so believable that we can emotionally engage with them, laugh with them, cry with them, relate to them, learn from them and finally remember them. It’s nothing less than magic for me. There comes a point while writing, when these characters take a life of their own and sometimes dictate the narrative. You are not the lone creator any more. There is a lot of creation and conflict – merging of imagination and reality. As writers, we constantly go in and come out of real and unreal worlds. All of this was fascinating for me. And once I started writing, the thrill of it continues to draw me in.
Which of your projects has given you the greatest joy?
It’s an unfair question and like having to choose a favourite child. You know who it is, but you dare not say it.
Does your approach change while writing film, TV and books?
Yes, of course. As the mediums are different, you have to switch gears and respect the rules and audience of each. Books are a direct relationship with your readers where you create everything from scratch; it’s your job that they smell the grass and hear the laughter of your characters. As a writer you can indulge, question, challenge at your own pace. Now when it comes to films, it’s a different medium. The director interprets and leads the ship. A team comes together to put it together- brevity is the key. Rules of a screenplay need to be followed and the structure of a two-hour narrative comes into play.
What about television?
With television, you need to make them come back for more of the same thing over and over. Be it story hooks or characters, they need to make sure appointment viewing or binge-watching is happening. The medium will dictate the demand of the narrative that you need to create.
You also wrote Netflix-Dharma’s original film, Guilty that deals with rape. When you are writing about difficult subjects like this, does that affect you emotionally?
Yes. Not only rape, but any kind of violence, emotionally-conflicting situation affect your state of mind. In real life, you are responsible for the situations you create, many times. They say, life mirrors your internal state of mind; sometimes unknowingly you invite the storms in your life and they deeply affect you. Similarly, when writing and working through a character’s mind and its difficult situation, an intense moment created is also an intense moment lived for the creator. Now that may or may not reach the audience as successfully or with the same intensity, but there certainly is an emotional impact.
Is it easy or hard to disconnect from subjects you write about?
To make it easy for myself, I move on fast to other subjects and sometimes, work on two subjects at the same time, so I don’t get sucked in entirely. But it’s a choice; many make that work to their advantage and need to immerse to a point of exclusion.
What advise would you give to aspiring writers?
Develop a thick skin. And then, work on making it thicker. Rejection is something you have to live with and embrace.
Does that advice change for female writers?
Absolutely not. Perhaps they can go for an extra layer of protection to fight the stereotype ‘what female writer can-should write’.
Who is your writing hero?
Murakami. He is a magician. I felt sad while finishing his novel IQ84. It drove me to tears that it was ending. I stopped reading it just before the end as I was not ready to say bye to the magical and compelling world he creates. Emotional whirlpools and characters stay with you for a long long time.
Tell us, what can we expect from you next?
More films and stories. As of now, I am focusing on writing for the silver screen. So, see you at the movies.