Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Sudhanshu Saria on working with Pooja Bhatt: ‘You don’t get lucky twice’

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National-award-winning filmmaker Sudhanshu Saria, who is currently basking on the success of Big Girls Don’t Cry, gets candid with The Pioneer over an exclusive video chat about the behind-the-scenes of making the series, working with Pooja Bhatt on back-to-back projects, and more.
Tejal Sinha
Sudhanshu Saria is undeniably having his top-of-the-range year with his back-to-back releases, be it as a writer, director, or producer. His recent much-talked-about project, Big Girls Don’t Cry, not only as a director and producer but also as a writer, has opened to critical acclaim. Starring a female-led cast, the series, which is currently streaming on Prime Video, has Pooja Bhatt, Avantika Vandanapu, Aneet Padda, Dalai, Vidushi, Lhakyila, Afrah Sayed, and Akshita Sood in lead roles, and Raima Sen, Zoya Hussain, and Mukul Chadda in prominent roles.
An ecstatic Sudhanshu begins this exclusive interview on a funny note: “I would apologise to all my collaborators (we laugh out loud); I got the label to be monogamous.” But he definitely feels fortunate, and why not? Writing the lyrics of Main Hoon from Article 370, Sanaa, Big Girls Don’t Cry, and Ulajh on the list. “I feel you get greedy when you get an opportunity to be a part of a good story. I know sometimes it looks like everything is happening in a year. Big Girls Don’t Cry is a four-year journey. We started this a week or two before the lockdown. We were learning how to deal with it while these episodes were being written. A year later, we were receeing, the world was figuring it all out, and casting took place. So, you know, it feels that way, but it’s all been a lot of years of work that it has sort of matriculated into sort of this. But again, I am definitely very grateful that the whole year is going to be full of love, with me needing lots and lots of love from my collaborators and friends. I can’t wait to see this.”
Well, a lot could have gone behind the mind, also as a writer. And it was certainly fear! “I can’t get it wrong and the terror that you’ll be called as a man writing and trying to try this. But honestly, that was a very small part of it. Mostly, there was so much love and joy with so many people around. I wrote it as part of a team; there were three other writers. All of them have been to boarding schools, and all of them have had their experiences with boarding life. Of course, Nitya, the creator of the show, was reading through everything and reacting to everything. Then, in a way, writing took its next step to production; we started to meet the actors, take all these parts, and sculpt them around these beautiful people that we had found.”
The national-award-winning filmmaker basically came to this with a perspective of service. “I do have tremendous respect for these characters, for what our society puts women through, and especially at that age when there are inherent bycies at play constantly in terms of opportunities and perceptions around what youngsters are going through, what boys are going through, and what young people go through. It’s easy to dismiss young people as if they are stupid; they don’t know what they want, their needs, wants, problems, and, on top of that, the cocktail cherry of being a girl. So I did come at it with an attitude of tremendous respect: we gotta listen, we really gotta pay attention, and we spoke to them like they were full-grown adults on and off set on the page. It is kind of mystical that the written credit is a composite of so many things.”
One doesn’t get lucky every time, and so it could have been for him as well. But well, he got lucky twice. How, you wondered? Not only did he get to work with Pooja Bhatt in this series, which also highlights some important aspects, but also in Sanaa, delving into the intricate theme of mental health trauma and narrating the journey of an ambitious woman grappling with internal turmoil stemming from unresolved trauma. Sharing his experience with the extremely talented and experienced Pooja Bhatt, he says, “You don’t get lucky twice, but that’s what happened. I got lucky the first time. It was very unusual for me, and for her to jump on it, I was really gratified. It’s not just because it’s Pooja the actor, but also Pooja the person—the producer, the director, distributor, marketing—she comes all in. It was such a great experience, and we wanted more of it. I knew on the side we’d been bubbling up with this, and when it came to casting this principal, we had a chat and we went through the names, and this was not something I could have done by myself. When the name was pitched, Nitya’s eyes lit up, and Karan jumped up, and everyone got excited, and then everyone looked to me and was like, “Alright, you know, go do  it.” I called her, and she was more than happy to be onboard. It’s not easy to do a series; it’s a big commitment, and she’s just come out of Begums, but yeah, she jumped in and read the material.” So as things worked out, he was no doubt very happy, and basically he was’ secretly excited’, heading towards the right zone.
“The idea of all the little women in our show, the young actors, and having the best cast that one could ask for. She was this actual role model because I know how Pooja conducts herself on set, and I knew she’d teach them good habits. For example, she’s a person who respects you no matter what position you hold and has the idea of making everyone feel seen and remembering them from previous experiences, being punctual, doing work, and not getting caught up in the bullshit of focusing on the craft. That’s the kind of thing you want on your project, and the other kids are figuring out what kind of diva they want to be, and we want them to be the best kind of diva, or be the Pooja Bhatt kind of diva,” signs off the filmmaker on a brighter note.
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