After her debut movie Nil Battey Sannata (good for nothing) about a single mother who enrols in the same school as her daughter to improve her academic performance, Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari is all set to amaze the audience with her upcoming movie Bareilly Ki Barfi.
After working on more than 100 commercials and delivering creative solutions to national and international clients, Ashwiny gave up a long and successful career in advertising to switch to filmmaking. The director made a short film What's for Breakfast which won the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2012. Her debut Nil Battey Sannata in 2016 travelled to several international film festivals, garnered critical acclaim and she was praised for her direction and sensitive handling of the subject matter.
Ashwiny is the wife of the director of Dangal Nitesh Tiwari, who is shooting for an upcoming romantic-action drama. Good enough to engage anyone with her enchanting insights, Ashwiny spoke to us about Bareilly Ki Barfi which is releasing on August 18.
CtoI: Your debut movie Nil Battey Sannata is a comic drama about the relationship between a mother and daughter, and Bareilly Ki Barfi is a love-triangle. What was the process of going from one to the other?
Ashwiny Iyer: Nil Battey Sannata was a social comic drama where you talk about a very important issue in our country, but I would say Bareilly Ki Barfi is a little extension of it where I am not talking about any profound social angle but I do talk about real life story where it is about a relationship between a mother and a daughter, father and a daughter, two friends and how their stories intermingle with each other. So, I would not put it as a love triangle, I would still put it as how a girl wants to get that one guy who she would want to live her whole life with and it is about that complexity in a fun way.
CtoI: Nil Battey Sannata won a couple of International awards including Silk Road International Film Festival, China, and was recognised globally. what are your expectations from Bareilly Ki Barfi?
Ashwiny Iyer: I don’t have any expectation. I don’t know how it would get an ‘award-award’ per se, but I am very sure that people will agree and resonate with this film because of a certain culture. I don’t think this is a festival film.
CtoI: When and how did you decide to start making films? Please tell us about your journey.
Ashwiny Iyer: I was working in advertising as an Executive Creative Director for Leo Burnett in a Mumbai branch and I happened to work on a lot of international brands, plus I was working with Sony entertainment television where I worked on a whole lot of commercials. So, I think after working for 14 years, you tend to get the hang of it and I had this insight of writing stories and directing too. It was the right time; my kids were slightly older so i could take this plunge. My kids were three years old when I decided now is the time I’m going to do something which I really want to do. So that’s how it happened.
CtoI: In India, we hardly have women directors, so do you think the industry thrives on the gender divide when it comes to direction?
Ashwiny Iyer: I think we shouldn’t be tagging directors as men or women. A director is a director like we have doctors. The thing is, film-making was never a subject in our country for the longest time, in school or colleges. Right now, there are subjects as film-making, media is taught now which was not the case when we were there. Students are much more aware and parents are now open to it. Film-making is basically Bollywood, and middle-class parents would want their kids to choose architecture or journalism. Right now things have changed; you would see a lot of women who are Assistant Directors (ADs) would become future directors. Our job is to encourage more women to pursue a career in the industry like any other sector.
CtoI: Do you have any advice for other female directors?
Ashwiny Iyer: My only advice to young girls would be to never give up and pick up filmmaking as a course and to make their parents and themselves proud.
CtoI: What is your goal when making a film; critical acclaim, popular applause or artistic fulfilment?
Ashwiny Iyer: I think it is artistic fulfilment. For me, the story is the most important thing. Whether the film is big or small, it doesn’t matter to me; what matters is how I am telling a story and how it resonates with the audience. Because I make films from the heart and I feel audience come to see films spending their two hours in a theatre, so I want to entertain them in any manner. I want to make them smile, make them cry, but do it from the heart.
CtoI: What kinds of reaction do you get from the Indian diaspora across the globe?
Ashwiny Iyer: When we make a film, it is to make a difference and how true we are to the country we belong to. And when I make a movie, I want to be very true to the country I belong to. I want to make more and more films to resonate with Indian audience but also resonate with the diaspora.
CtoI: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?
Ashwiny Iyer: If you work on a tight schedule with a lot of actors and you have outdoor shoots too, how you manage is the challenge always. And it’s not just during the shoot but the most important challenge is that you are working with different characters. On a screenplay, you see everything together and when you are shooting you see everything separately, so my biggest challenge was to make sure all the fabric of characters is together in one whole piece, and it should look similar. The whole story should look as one.
CtoI: What are your upcoming projects after Bareilly Ki Barfi?
Ashwiny Iyer: I have something very exciting but I would not like to talk about it.