On a laid back afternoon when the monsoons spared us, I managed to fix an appointment with Aparnaa Singh, the director of Irada. With an unexpected delay, we finally met at a coffee house in Mumbai where a rather busy crowd welcomed us with their hyper loud voices. However, that didn’t bother me from asking some in-depth questions to which Aparnaa gleefully answered.
1. Why you chose Irada as your first feature film ?
As they always say reality is stranger than fiction. It is something about reality. So it’s empowering, engaging. Something you would really want to be a part of. So when the idea was told to me by my financer, it really got me thinking that this subject needs to be projected, shown.
2. Is there a reason you kept Irada as the title of your film?
Irada is a word we all identify with. Sometimes we use it in our daily regular life but we don’t realize how loaded and powerful that word is. Which is ‘Irada’, which means your freedom to intent, your freedom of all kinds yet it has a very positive and a noble feel around it. So that’s why I think when Irada was spoken by my financier, I quite liked it. It gives you the feel that you are going to take the story forward and you will engage it with everybody. It’s a Hindi-Urdu word and it has a lot of connotations. So you can use it as my Irada is this, my Irada is that. But you don’t realize that to have an Irada in itself is such a powerful tool and when you combine it with a good cause, it takes to another level.
3. How was it working with Naseeruddin Shah and Arshad Warsi? How different or similar are they?
I think they are legendary actors in their own right. And they are so powerful, they are so tuned into their job. I mean both of them have their own skillsets, and their own advantages, their own charisma. With Naseer sir, the minute you say ‘action’, he gets into action the character without a blink. The word ‘action’ transforms and changes him. Such a learning experience for me to see this (Naseer perform). He has really mastered it.
Arshad sir – he has been is such a creative driving sport for this film. He is so spontaneous, so brilliant, you don’t know where he is going to take your scene. He is such a blessing to have around. He has contributed immensely. And he is so effortless, he got a great understanding with every aspect of filmmaking. In my first film I had these two people. I couldn’t have asked for much.
4. Tell us something more about your film Irada.
Irada is in a very real space. The premise is beautiful. So there is a man who is avenging his daughter’s death, and there is a NIA officer who walks in, who is Arshad sir. And their paths cross.
5. Do you think it is important to have a superstar’s clout associated with a film for it to be successful in today’s time?
I think success is relative. I think times are changing. Even a film like Sairat with no face but has a great story. I think the star power lies now with the content yet you cannot deny the importance of stars and the whole thing that comes with them. It depends. I mean if you are looking into going into 500 crore or 200 crore, then you may need an engaging man who can do that bit. I think times have changed, I’ve been a part of that.
6. What kind of films do you like to watch personally?
Drama, thriller, emotional stories. Romantic not so much. I enjoy horror movies only when I am out with my friends. But I like horror, it’s a different way of telling you what you want to hear. But mainly I like classical movies, thriller, and something in realistic space like Blood Diamond. Movies which are really big on research. I mean when you are doing the research, you can actually see the film. There are so many things that you get. Whatever the film is, if it’s beautifully researched it brings in credibility. It could be a diehard film, it could be a futuristic film or something about augmented reality. It should have some hold on the ground. When you make a film with that credibility, it could be any genre as long as it speaks to you and it’s pure in its intent and its soul. Like pure in Irada.
7. Would you like to make a horror movie in that case?
I would not say no to it. Sometimes maybe I could. Horror need not be treated as horror, the genre is changing like my close friend Pawan Kriplani made this film Phobia and I quite liked it. And it’s got Radhika who is wonderful, so I think I would take Radhika. It is the potential of an actor that makes you walk through any genre effortlessly. That’s what a director ask. And we have some of the best actors.
8. Can you tell us one trait that every aspiring writer and director should possess?
I think it is sincerity and honesty that takes you long way. Nothing is a bigger asset and value you could have than honesty.
9. Do you concentrate more on content because you are a writer first?
Yeah I think. Researcher first. I’ve been a researcher for Black Friday and a few more. But for me research is more important than anything. Especially if you are looking at intense political thrillers, then you need to be strong on research and writing. Writing is the soul. Great scripting can take you to any places.
10. When was the time you realized that you want to pursue writing as a profession?
I think the first time Anurag Kashyap asked me, “do you want to write”. And I said “write?” He had given me enough material and support and I worked on it and went back. He liked it. He’s very encouraging.
11. Before writing, what were you into?
Before writing, I was studying finance and worked as a financial analyst. And then I joined NSD (direction) and came to Bombay and I joined Farida Mehta, Farad Bala and then Anurag. So it’s just life took me to this direction. I was supposed to do financial analyst. My real training happened under Farida Mehta and Anurag Kashyap.
12. You have written many scripts so far, which one of them is close to you and why?
I think Shaurya. Whatever I wrote it just came out in a flow and I really loved it. I wrote this script without any effort. I feel good about it.
13. Having worked closely with exceptional filmmakers like Anurag Kashyap and Tigmanshu Dhulia, what is your opinion on today’s cinema?
So I think Anurag is a torchbearer in many ways. And I’ve learnt a lot from him. Tigmanshu is so brilliant. I mean he has an incredible knowledge about politics and everything, and he is so well-read. And that shows in itself. Yet he is so sensitive, he is a musician at heart. One of the finest and most honest directors of our time.
14. How was it associating with IRADA, the production house? Was there a lot of do’s and don’ts or they gave you liberty?
It was wonderful. On the contrary, my production house supported me.
15. Being an outsider, how was it getting into the industry? What advice would you give to the readers out there?
Somehow I’ve been not a networking person. Contact and networking I don’t know. But yes, it’s just your work. It’s just who you are. Somehow that picks you up. I believe more on that.
16. Do you think seeking professional courses on film writing helps or raw talent matters the most?
When you have a good director who shapes you. Though I am not against the courses, I think the technical knowhow is important. But at the same time, it is not a rocket science but you should understand the characters and the intent of the story. And if you have the passion which is what I saw in all these mad directors. They are just so passionate about what they are doing. If that is there then you do create stuff. Passion is mandatory. But working under a good director really gives you an upper hand.
17. How do you balance your personal life with your professional life? How supportive were your parents when you first told them about your wish to become a writer-director?
My parents are very liberal and supportive. To have a career like this, there were a lot of eyebrows that raised. But my father, my mother shielded me. And now I can say my husband supported me a lot.
18. Which one do you prefer—screen writing or direction? Screen-writing does provide you with a lot of liberty whereas direction is lot of people management, execution etc.
Screenwriting you write and leave it up to the director. Screenwriting is my first love and direction is my profession. So direction is far more fulfilling.
19. After Irada, what is your game plan?
There are a couple of stories I’m working on. Let’s see…
Well, that’s all folks. Stay tuned to this space for some interesting interviews and updates. Also Irada is coming to a theater near you soon. Don’t forget to catch Naseeruddin Shah and Arshad Warsi back again.