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Komal Panwar

Blogger & Singer

Screenwriter Apurva Asrani Reveals How Kangana’s Persona Contributed To Her Character In ‘Simran’

  • JWB Post
  •  November 23, 2016


Click. We turn the television on. Skip through the channels, the Star Gold, the POGO, the Animal Planet and the FOOD FOOD. It is then that some films catch your attention like none other. You find yourself sinking into a couch, and falling in love with a movie.

Some movies are different from the others, and they leave you with a feeling that lingers for a long time.

And, that’s what we’re expecting from the upcoming Kangana Ranaut starrer ‘Simran.’ The film takes inspiration from the life of an NRI nurse who was sent to prison last year for robbing banks, only to pay her debts off.


I can proudly say I spoke to the national award-winning filmmaker/editor/screenwriter Apurva Asrani, who’s currently working with Simran. He is best known for editing films like Satya (1998), Shahid (2013) and CityLights (2014).

One of his movies, Waiting, which has Naseeruddin Shah and Kalki Koechlin in the lead, another off-beat film, really had me thinking, and so I asked:

Me:  Do you think the viewers would’ve expected to see a love affair between Shiv & Tara in ‘Waiting’? Did you, at some point wish the same? What stopped you from doing this?

Apurva: Not all love stories need to be romantic, and that’s the beauty of Anu Menon’s vision. She found love in companionship; In two people united by grief. When I saw the chemistry between Naseer Saab & Kalki, I did ask myself if this could lend itself to something more intimate, especially given how vulnerable the two were at the time. But I was glad that the feeling passed. What they have at the end is beautiful & beyond words & labels.

Me: Very often, the strongest of stories, just because they’re a bit off-beat, don’t make it big. As a scriptwriter, how do you try to find a middle ground?

Apurva: I don’t. I’m here to tell stories honestly, through the prism of my own sensibility. When you say ‘don’t make it big,’ you are insinuating that ‘big’ means box office. I think ‘big’ is more about the impact the film makes, over time. What questions did the film raise in society? What period, incident did it document, archive? Also how it fared on TV, DTH, Festivals. Besides, if a film is made on a modest budget, it rarely loses money. And most filmmakers I work with have the humility to budget the film according to the content & have only gained.

Me: How did you study about the emotional trauma Gay men suffer from when you were working with “Aligarh”?

Apurva: There was a lot of research. We spoke to many gay men, young and old. I also drew from personal experience. ‘Aligarh’ is not just a film about a gay man,  it is also about a senior citizen, a lonely man, an outsider in that society. There are things I learned from watching my dad, who is 65. Old age can make you lonely. You lose many of your friends and are not fit enough to get out there and start over. My dad also loves his old songs, and his glass of whiskey like Professor Siras did.

Me: Many successful movies with women in the lead were very cautiously scripted given the demands of the box office. If you were not bound by the financiers & the censor board, how would the women in Indian movies be different?

Apurva: Once again, I am not bound by anything. As a writer, I am free to explore a subject as I deem fit. My next film is about a woman who breaks all norms. She isn’t your quintessential perfect heroine; she has dark shades too. She is defiant & she is prone to screw up like any normal human being. 

I think a huge problem with our female protagonists is that they are etched in the image of Bharat Mata, Mother India, and/or Sita Mayya. This is a huge problem, because when men see women in real life, with all their flaws, they tend to become disappointed and then drop them from the pedestal they put them on. I want to see more films where women are real & flawed & broken. Just like men are. 

Me: How was the writing process of ‘Simran’ was different from your previous projects?

Apurva: Both Shahid & Aligarh were about ‘issues.’ Both were films that questioned the system. Both were born from news stories, and both were tragedies. Simran is none of these things. Yes, it is inspired by real events, but it is about a character who just wants to have fun. Who wants to explore life in a way not dictated to her by a husband or father.

Me: Knowing that Kangana Ranaut was in the lead for ‘Simran,’ did it affect the direction of the story?

Apurva: Not the story, but it inspired nuances in the screenplay. Kangana is a self-made woman. She is supremely talented and dedicated. She is also unafraid to take chances and to fail even. She has proved to herself that she can rise from the ashes and realize her dreams. I think subconsciously these qualities might have entered Simran.

Me: What secrets do your discarded drafts tell about you?

Apurva: No draft is a waste. Each one helps you shut some doors and then go deeper. Each draft also chisels the character till she finally becomes real.

Me: Are you a night writer/ day writer?

Apurva: I’m a day writer. I sleep at 10:30 pm and start my day early. 

Me: Share your “Ja Simran, jee le apni zindagi” moment with us.

Apurva: It was the day I won my Filmfare award for Satya. Until that day my father was uncomfortable with the career I had chosen. No one in my immediate family is connected to the film. So it was a bit of a struggle to pursue a career in the cinema so early on. But the day Satya’s editing was appreciated, my father knew that I wasn’t wasting my time. He hugged me tight with tears in his eyes after the award ceremony. That was my moment.

Me: How many cups of coffee did you have to deliver before you made it to the top? 

Apurva: I don’t drink coffee. I drink tea. During my editing days, I stayed up all night editing. My fuel came from sugary milky tea in studios. So yeah, it’s 22 years of tea in my system!

Me: What do you snack on while working on your scripts?

Apurva: I start off with a healthy snacking of almonds and cashews. By the time I reach draft 5, I’m eating gulab jamuns & cakes!

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