Urban Asian recently got an exclusive interview with Kanika Dhillon, screenplay writer for the upcoming movie Ra.One and author of the best selling novel Bombay Duck is a Fish! She discusses how she was first captivated by the Bollywood industry and her experiences working both on her book and film scripts. Keep reading to learn more about the stunning author!
UA: First question to ask anyone in the film business, how did you end up in this career? Was writing a childhood love or did you grow to enjoy it later in life?
Kanika Dhillon: Any Indian will tell you how he grew up on a healthy dose of Hindi films and Bollywood and in that respect, I was no different. The big screen, the family outings, and thronging the theaters to catch a glimpse of our favorite stars in the single screen in my small town was a usual occurrence. What was very unusual, however, was to chart a career course that led me to the Bollywood doorstep. Having said that, I would like to add here that ever since I can remember I was enamored by the way the silver screen captivated a huge audience. These stories made you laugh, made you cry, helped you discover in some way or the other the person that you wanted to be. I always wanted to be a part of this whole dream-weaving industry that gave hundreds of people their i inspirations and aspirations. So writing and seeing those stories come alive on the screen was a dream I had ever since I can remember.
UA: Your book Bombay Duck is a Fish is becoming more and more popular. What was it like writing the book?
Kanika Dhillon: If you have been following the course of Bombay Duck is a fish, it is a national bestseller today. I am grateful to God and the readers for being so gracious and accepting my debut novel with such love.
Writing this book was very special, not only because it was my debut novel but also because I wrote it while I was working on the film sets. I wrote it while I was watching many similar stories play out in front of me. Betrayal, dreams, desires, and burning ambition was something I came across everyday. The magical sights and sets never ceased to amaze me and neither did the intensity of emotion for the people involved – right from the bottom rung, be it a spot boy, the star, or anyone in between. Everyone was driven by passion and it was quite challenging to pen that whole gamut of emotion and bring it to the readers in the same bittersweet intensity that one experiences while living the gloriously notorious – Bollywood Dream.
UA: Your novel explores the life of a girl who moved to Film City to pursue work there. Where did you get the idea for your book?
Kanika Dhillon: Well as I said, I drew a lot of inspiration from real life. There were hundreds of these stories floating around in every street of Bombay. People from small town coming to the city in a bid to better their lives, live their dreams and sometimes live the failures too. So the idea of the book was to capture this sentiment, this journey that hundreds of us undertake to fulfill a dream. Especially the one with Technicolor Bollywood imprint!
UA: Is the reaction of your audience to Bombay Duck is a Fish what you expected?
Kanika Dhillon: The reaction has been overwhelming and humbling. I did not expect the book to be declared a best seller in less than two months. In fact, the feedback I got was more important than the figures because it was very emotional. People wrote to me about their lives, how reading the book reminded them of what they wanted to do in life at some point but then the bills and practicality took over. People write to me about identifying with NEKI, her bittersweet success, failure, humiliation or fame. My characters touched my readers and that was very fulfilling.
UA: Now on to your work as a screenwriter. What is it like working with some of the hottest stars in Bollywood (Shah Rukh Khan, Kareena Kapoor, etc.) and directors like Farah Khan and Anubhav Sinha?
Kanika Dhillon: They are all very interesting people to work with and as different as chalk and cheese from each other- now that you put them all in the same sentence. Shah Rukh is an inspiration and a very intelligent person. One can learn a lot by just being around him. His energy, and commitment to his craft are very inspiring. Kareena Kapoor was on the sets of the film, and one is always delighted to see her light up her scenes with sheer effervescence. She was a delight to watch in that sense. Farah again is a person with an indomitable will and energy; it was great working with her. Anubhav made the whole process of working on Ra one interesting. He is a team player and led the team through well.
UA: How do your upbringing and personal beliefs affect your writing? In other words, how do you add your own “personality” to the scripts that you write?
Kanika Dhillon: My scripts are definitely affected by my beliefs and perceptions to an extent. But when I am strictly working within the dimension of a character and story, the rules of that universe that I am trying to create are equally strong in shaping my writing. I tend to mix my personal interpretation to the demands and design required by a story and that is how each writer can evolve a distinct style of writing. Having said that, I love irony and satire while reading books and watching films. Woody Allen is an all time favorite. So my writing does lean towards that genre.
UA: How would you describe your experience as a co-writer for Ra.One?
Kanika Dhillon: Writing Ra.One was very exciting. It was a genre that hasn’t been explored and accepted in our industry until date. So it was a challenge to retain the intense emotional quotient of the script with a tight super hero theme running parallel to it. Creatively it was very challenging and satisfying, and I hope the film will have a great connection with everyone, given there is romance, action, emotion, comedy and thrills.
UA: Working on Ra.One is definitely a great accomplishment. Where do you plan on going from here? What are you hoping for?
Kanika Dhillon: For now I am enjoying the fact that my debut novel Bombay Duck is A Fish has become a bestseller. I am keeping my fingers crossed for Ra.One and then I have started work on my next novel, which should be out mid next year. And of course a couple of scripts. In the immediate future I see myself authoring novels and writing screenplays till I am ready to direct.
UA: If you had only 200 characters, how would you describe yourself, as a writer and as a person?
Kanika Dhillon: As a writer I would say I am versatile, I like to play with the language and the mediums I write for. I try and go around the conventional norms of writing and experiment with combining texts and sub texts. And most importantly a dash of humour and satire is something I cannot do without in my writing. As a person I am emotional, ambitious and above all – a compulsive dreamer.
UA: How do you manage your time between writing a screenplay and your book, as they are both time-consuming activities? Is it stressful?
Kanika Dhillon: I need to work 24/7, as I am a self-confessed workaholic. I need to work on two to three things simultaneously to keep the creative momentum going in my head. In fact, it helps me in a way because projects that I work on for longer durations never tire me or become stale as I always have different kind of stories to work on at a given time.
UA: Any last thoughts for your readers and fans?
Kanika Dhillon: If you have a dream, go for it, and most importantly never let anyone tell you that you cannot make them come true. I was told time and again that I was on a wild goose chase and I should perhaps take up a proper job and settle down in life…but today I am here, telling others to go for what they truly desire, just the way I did. It’s not easy but its not impossible either, and as they say no dream is worth pursuing – unless it seems impossible to begin with!
Keep it locked on Urban Asian for all the updates on Ra.One!