Sunday, April 21, 2024

‘Big Girls Don’t Cry is extremely pertinent to the younger generation,’ reveals Ashi Dua

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Producer Ashi Dua, who has been one of the pioneering producers in the industry, speaks to The Pioneer about beginning her journey with anthologies, her newest project, an Amazon Prime debut of Big Girls Don’t Cry, and more.
Ashi Dua is among the pioneering producers who has produced anthology movies and television shows. In 2013, she premiered her debut anthology film, Bombay Talkies, at the Cannes Film Festival, honouring a century of Indian cinema.
In a conversation with us exclusively, the producer sheds light on, “Yes, I began with anthologies, but storytelling is storytelling, and Big Girls Don’t Cry is an episodic show. However, there are four distinct stories in this kind of storytelling where we develop various characters. I intend to stop making anthologies as there are a few other series that I enjoy.”
Her production firm has produced some of the most popular Indian original Netflix films to date. She is the producer of Ghost Stories, Lust Stories (nominated for a 2019 International Emmy Award), and Paava Kadhaigal, the first Tamil anthology film. In addition, she produced the movies Ghazi Attack and Kalakaandi. In 2023, Ashi launched Lust Stories 2 on Netflix following the success of the first film. “It makes no sense to choose an approach based on what audiences find successful or unsuccessful. Even now, having succeeding as a producer, I’m still unsure of the response! In the film industry these days, if something works, everyone turns it into a trend and follows it mindlessly,” the producer declared.
She is now preparing for the March 2024 Amazon Prime debut of Big Girls Don’t Cry, the newest project from her production company. The show is a coming-of-age tale that takes place in an all-girls boarding school that is tucked away in a picturesque hill region in India. The show honours adolescence, its problems, and the desires of teens trying to figure out who they are. She goes on, “It’s been ten years since I started, and even though it involved failure, the last ten years have taught me a lot of feelings. It was all about global movies when I first started, but over time, we have gotten down to domestic stories. To me, content is everything! With a dash of fun, I’m willing to change things.”
The show centers on a group of girls, ages 15 to 17, who are about to graduate from high school. They want to be independent and learn from their mistakes now that they are old enough, but sometimes the system breaks them first. As part of our exclusive conversation, we also brought on co-producer Karan Kapadia, who says, “The inspiration for the upcoming series is very simple—even I was a child from boarding school once upon a time. The years I spent at the boarding school were the best of my life! Therefore, it made perfect sense to me to create a series based on the same. We haven’t heard an all-girls story up to now, so it will be novel.”
The girls in the show are a representation of the nation’s wide-ranging and intricate socioeconomic structure. These are the daughters of India: from wealthy Delhi brats to the offspring of prominent bureaucrats, from staff children to scholarship children, from business families in Uttar Pradesh to Rajasthani royalty. “Judgment is turning out to be a huge issue these days,” the co-producer goes on. “Given how image-conscious our society has become, the subject we are covering with Big Girls Don’t Cry is extremely pertinent to the younger generation. You will thus learn to not judge people thanks to the series.”
The show explores a wide range of emotions that are an essential component of growing up, including sexuality, identity, body image, friendships, sisterhoods, and bro-codes, to mention a few. “The most thrilling aspect of the show is when Raima Sen or Pooja Bhatt joins the cast. Thus, the casting procedure was quite involved! More than four thousand girls were tried out. Indeed, we were in need of new faces. Pooja Bhatt blended in rather well with this firm, composed principle. Even Zoya Hussain, who has the softest touch and can follow instructions more adeptly than any actor, was amazing on-screen.”
The show, which is produced by Mangata Films, also stars a number of new-comers to the industry, including Aneet Padda, Avantika Vandanapu (of Mean Girls fame), Agra Sayed, Dalai Mulchandani, Akshita Sood, Vidhushi, and Tenzein Lakhila. Regarding this most recent offering, Karan makes the implication, “I have no expectations. It’s a show that was truly made from the heart. It’s a really genuine view of childhood; we depict actual problems that boarding school girls deal with on a daily basis. Whether the binge-watching viewers enjoy it or not is beyond my control. Just getting the show up and running is a huge challenge! From conception to production, every step presents a difficulty. The shooting environment and the weather are also major factors in this. It was a very pleasant and wonderful set, and the crew became my family.”
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