She quips that she prefers ‘Ask mummy’ to the clichéd ‘No comments’. However, she she answers all the ensuing queries without resorting to either of them. The New York-based Sabrina Dhawan, who co-wrote the screenplays for Kaminey and Ishqiya and was a script consultant for Matru ki Bijlee ka Mandola, is in the city thanks to her association with Screenwriters Lab. In a tête-à-tête with us, the jovial film writer shares her thoughts on several topics...
Do you visit India often?
Yes, I do. I have a six-year-old son so it’s very important to me that he visits his country of origin regularly. On a professional level, it’s a basic necessity as well. If I don’t come back often, I won’t have anything to write about contemporary India. So I keep coming back again and again.
There many female screenwriters in the industry. Why?
It’s a historical fact but things are drastically changing now — not only in cinema but also in other spheres of life. The numbers are steadily going up. Something totally unheard of, say, about a decade ago.
How responsible is a writer for the outcome of a film?
I’ll tell you what, when a film works, the director takes all the credit but when it fails, the writer squarely gets the blame for messing up! Directors don’t direct blank pages, do they? It begins with the writer. Film critics rarely acknowledge the writers and their contribution. Having said that, everyone involved is responsible.
Would you call yourself a choosy writer?
I’ve worked selectively with a few people whom I’m very comfortable with. Besides, I don’t know a lot of filmmakers in Bollywood. But I’d love to work with Anurag Basu and Tigmanshu Dhulia. And of course Vishal (Bhardwaj) not only because he’s a brilliant filmmaker but also because he’s a wonderful human being.
Post-Monsoon Wedding, how come you haven’t worked with Mira Nair again?
Actually, we did once for a short film titled September 11. We are in constant touch and as of now, I’m working on the stage adaptation of the film which is scheduled to premiere on Broadway in April.
Your general observations on script writing — in television as well as movies — in India vis-a-vis the US?
Most of the good writers in US are moving towards television because of the money! That explains why they are having incredibly great TV shows lining up one after another. In India, it’s the exact opposite. Cinema, especially of the independent sort, is still on the rise while Indian television — due to the burden of daily dosage — has just plateaued, if not gone from worse to worst. I grew up watching Buniyaad and Hum Log but I don’t see shows like them happening anymore.
Lastly, do you believe workshop/labs really help in nourishing young talents?
Well, innate talent alone won’t do. You also require knowledge of the craft and other skills. A lab helps a lot by building a sense of community because writers by default tend to lead an isolated life. So it’s always nice to have a room full of like-minded people sharing ideas on what works and what doesn’t.