Scriptwriter Arsala Talks About What ‘Angry Indian Goddesses’ Do On A Romantic Date
- IWB Post
- September 22, 2017
I remember it was a wintery cold night when my girlfriends decided to have a sleepover party. We drooled over Nutella jars and indulged in hot chocolate. This would never make Indian Goddesses angry, right?! Of course, we had ‘chocolate’ hungover next morning.
It was one hell of a night and one heaven of a movie! Depicting women friendship in its utmost reality, layered with natural life happenings that every girl face, Angry Indian Goddesses is a path-breaking film filled with humor, realism, tragedy and, ultimately, hope.
Though nervous of how our conversation would turn out to be, I can happily sign in chocolate ink that Arsala Qureishi is not an angry woman at all! She is badass.
Well, she told me, “I look at myself in the Mirror and wonder was God totally absent when he/she created me. I am a work of madness!”
Now, do you believe me?
What attracted you to the film when director Nalin Kumar Pandya knocked your door with Angry Indian Goddesses?
Nalin and I chatted on SKYPE and he told me that the story is about seven girlfriends in Goa without a male protagonist. I thought he was crazy and has balls of steel, and I knew I was crazier – and I have gold-plated steel balls! So why not show them off! I signed up! The rest is film history!
What were those few lines or scenes that did not make the final cut of the film?
There was nothing sacrilegious on the sets of Angry Indian Goddesses. It was a no holds barred film. The actors said what they wanted and most of it was spot on! We adopted the cinema-verite style of filmmaking. We showed people in everyday situations with authentic dialogue and naturalness. There is certain rawness to Angry Indian Goddesses, which is unparalleled. We didn’t adopt the cookie cutter model that Bollywood is so used to.
Talk about the baggage of experience that you brought to the sets?
I always crave to be a student so I usually minimize the baggage I bring to any set. But on this set, the biggest challenge was that with Angry Indian Goddesses we didn’t follow the three a-act structure. We didn’t divide the narrative into the SETUP, CONFRONTATION and then the RESOLUTION. So we worked very hard to keep the audience engaged. Our film doesn’t have a payoff but it has a resounding epiphany.
Describe the Angry Goddess inside you?
I am an extremely sentimental person who gets carried away with emotion but I have a problem in showing it, so I let it bleed in my work! I get very angry if someone infringes upon my Freedom! That is an inviolable place!
Did anything change in your life post-Angry Indian Goddesses release?
I always loved women, and women empowerment has been a leitmotif in my work. The biggest change ANGRY INDIAN GODDESSES brought into my life was that I started respecting men who fight for women. My director Pan Nalin and Producer Nandish Domlur are two of those men. The bar has risen, my next film, ‘Scenario’ will be as good or better than Angry Indian Goddesses. I know that!
Well, we can’t be surer and excited about ‘Scenario’. So has any of your real life incidents reflected in the script?
Yes, there are many incidents of my real life in the film. But one that I’d like to point out is the lewd male gaze that we women endure on a day-to-day basis. It’s disgusting, derogatory and we as a country have to take more rigorous steps to prevent that. We have been given eyes to see not to invade or penetrate.
Yes, the angst for a better India for Women. I love my country and I know the power its women have, I want every woman to bask in the glory of their light. Not borrowed, not given, but earned!
Describe the girl love in your life and share a little about your girlfriends?
I am very thankful to all the women in my life; they have made me realize that LOVE can’t live in the dominion of gender. My favorite song has always been, To all the girls I’ve loved before, who travel in and out my door. They all bring something when they come and take a piece of me when they leave. My girlfriends have been crazy because they were forewarned that I am an absolute absurd but they still chose to be friends with me. At times I look at myself in the Mirror and wonder was God totally absent when he/she created me. I am a work of madness!
Reveal one non-sansakari secret from Girl’s bachelorette/ girl’s night out/ Pajama party:
One non-sanskari secret from a bachelorette is that we go skinny-dipping at midnight, not trying to find a shoe but to lose it!
One stereotype you want to break about girl friendship?
The biggest stereotype I want to break about girl friendship in real life and in art is that when we’re together we only talk about boys. The Bechdel test is a well-known measurement of gender bias in movies. Two female characters are always shown talking to each other about men. Very few films pass the Bechdel test. Female characters in films are typically not substantial. They are damsels in distress, desperate to be saved by a man. This ‘only a MAN can save me’ syndrome has to be eliminated for women to become truly empowered. Art reflects life, and life reflects art, they are mutually inclusive.
On that note, the way media portrays cat fights is very sexist.
At this point of time men rule the Media. No question about that! So they illuminate catfights. Let the tables’ turn and when women get the Media in their grasp they’ll talk about the Oedipus complex that all men suffer from, Mommy issues. Imagine the fun we’ll have. Men are obsessed with women and it always begins with their mother!
What is the Angry Indian Goddess doing when:
On a shopping spree: On a shopping spree I can scan the shop in a nanosecond and exit. I don’t care what I wear because I just have to like it. I never follow fashion, although I am quite often surrounded by my fashionable friends. I have never ever consciously followed a fashion trend.
At a wedding: In my entire life I have attended two or three weddings, and one of them was of my younger sister. I had cold feet and wanted to escape the wedding. I almost did but they hid my passport.
During her self-time: During my self-time, I usually gather a group of close friends and we usually sit up all night discussing possible scenarios over copious amounts of fermented water and billowing smoke. Wink Wink! That’s where I got the title and plot for my next film.
I always knew this satiation works! Hah
On a romantic date: On a romantic date I think I would fall on my face. Wear something that highlights my incongruity. Violate all the rules of dating by ordering a messy dish that leaves a long trail in my mouth and clothes that can only be cleaned by a French kiss. Involuntarily, I don’t adhere to conventions in real or reel life. Who wants to live by a Life Manual?
This idea of a romantic date is the best I have heard so far! Cleaned with a French kiss, writers be so imaginative, I bet!
How do you think the parents of such Angry Indian Goddesses are like?
The parents of such Angry Indian Goddesses are people living a simple life but waiting for a revolution to happen for their daughters. Even if they aren’t aware, they want one, they hope that a better tomorrow awaits all the daughters of the world.
Having written such a marvelous script, what voids do you feel still exist in Indian cinema that can be explored in films?
The biggest void that still exists in Indian Cinema according to me is that we don’t understand the power of different thinking. We don’t know how to differentiate between good or bad writing. We believe that gimmicks are what make a film successful. It’s become an incestuous industry. There’s a lot of inbreeding, and this can only stagnate growth. We go to all the film festivals in the world with much fanfare, we don’t take movies there, we take stars. This is a fundamentally flawed approach. This has to change. We are in the maelstrom of a digital revolution, we have to make movies that are relevant on an International Platform. My next film, ‘Scenario’ is a genre-breaking film; no rules are applied to it. There isn’t a template for it! You might hate it, but you can’t compare it!
If a film, similar to ‘Indian Goddesses’ is to be made on male friendship, how would you name it?
I would call it – Boys Do CRY!
Having confessed my love for Nutella earlier, I learned that the Angry Indian Goddesses share it equally. The cast of Angry Indian Goddesses gulped down 350 jars of Nutella during the shoot!
Btw, who counted them? *eyes rolling*
This article was first published in June, 2017.