Reema Kagti’s creative arc that straddles worlds : The Tribune India

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Reema Kagti’s creative arc that straddles worlds

Reema Kagti’s creative arc that straddles worlds

‘Made in Heaven’ is about how India loves to put the best foot forward during weddings.

Nonika Singh

LIKE her work, her observations are cryptic, to the point and a heady mix of sweet and salty. Acclaimed writer-director Reema Kagti has no hesitation in calling herself a feminist; rather, she feels, “Why would I have any objection to being called a feminist. Feminism needs to be celebrated.”

Today, as she, along with co-creator and business partner Zoya Akhtar, basks in the glory of the second season of ‘Made in Heaven’, she refuses to add to the controversies surrounding it. “We have already put out whatever we had to say.” But she is more than willing to address a whole lot of questions about the series. First and foremost, she says, “I don’t see ‘MIH’ as a commentary on marriage per se. It’s about weddings and how Indians get married, how they go all out and put the best foot forward. In the process, some savoury and some unsavoury truths unfurl.” But, yes, her equally well-received series ‘Dahaad’, she admits, is heavily referenced around India’s grand obsession with marriage. “That is because it is seen through the lens of a woman cop who happens to be single. How often strangers in India ask you these intrusive questions and even badger you with queries like, ‘Doesn’t your mother mind?’”

‘Dahaad’ talks about the obesssion with marriages.

Unmarried yet such deep insight into the institution of marriage… what explains it? She reasons, “Just as I don’t have to commit a murder to write about it, the same goes for other aspects of life. Besides, don’t we see marriages all around us?” Indeed, much of what she writes has a bit of her. But, unlike Neeraj Ghaywan, who has gone on to say how Radhika Apte’s character of Pallavi Menke in ‘MIH 2’ is a leaf out of his personal diary, she would not say which character is her. “Let people guess,” she quips.

Reema Kagti wants to surprise the viewers and herself.

But those hazarding a guess that the Dia Mirza episode was batting for Uniform Civil Code, Reema emphatically disagrees. “Not at all, we just wanted to show that women need agency.” Among the many issues concerning women, ‘more women in the workforce’ figures highly on her wishlist. As both she and Zoya are hailed as game-changers in the industry where women directors are few and far between, all she would say is, “We did not set out to, but if it has led to a chain reaction, it is wonderful.”

On the power of two and her long-standing association with Zoya, she shares how it has been an organic partnership. The duo had been helping each other in writing the scripts long before they earned co-credits. We may think writing is a solitary process, but she reminds that writing collaborations have been a tradition in the film industry. “Now, with the long format that requires six to seven hours of content, it definitely helps to have different perspectives.” Of course, while many creative jugalbandis have not survived the test of time, theirs has.

Interestingly, as Reema and Zoya explore the enticing world of ‘Archies’ in an upcoming Netflix film, it’s this universal bond of friendship and the good old values of family that she thinks are relevant even today. She straddles different worlds — a realistic one in ‘Dahaad’ and ultra-glamorous in ‘Made in Heaven’ — but she reminds, “‘MIH’ is true to its space.”

“If you look at Zoya and my career, right from ‘Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd’ to ‘Luck by Chance’, from ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’ to ‘Talaash’ and ‘Gully Boy’ to ‘Dahaad’, we are not stuck in one space. We go where our stories lead us and try to be as authentic as possible to the storyline and the characters.”

But what and how their work is perceived is not their call, she says. “Inferences are for others to draw.” Yes, as writers and creators, it is their job to create meaningful and entertaining work, even when they dabble in more of the same. Reema agrees that working on a second season can be challenging, but believes that the process of infusion of freshness begins on the writing board itself. “There was a lot of brainstorming among the writers. And when it moved from the writing stage to the mounting stage, we wanted the second season to be bigger and deeper. Maybe slightly darker too.”

Among the various issues that the series dabbles in, conversations around transgenders are valid and much needed, believes Reema. As for roping in trans-actor Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju, she owes the idea of her character to another talented maker, Alankrita Shrivastava, and choosing Gummaraju to her team of casting directors. Casting choices, be it Aamir Khan or Arjun Mathur (a star they can take credit for creating), do not change her directorial approach. As she puts it, “You are writing or directing from the point of view of an idea. You are preoccupied with your characters’ arcs and how to engage with the audience.”

Time and again, her work exposes societal fissures, but is it celebratory too? She hopes it is, but feels that these questions can’t be answered by the creators. “I am not the best judge of my work.” Of course, when criticism comes calling, she absorbs the constructive one and won’t let negativity sneak in. Perhaps, controversies too are an indicator of success, but her journey neither started with ticking the right boxes, nor would she want to box herself or her characters into stereotypes. With a clutch of projects in the pipeline, she would like to continue in the same vein, surprising herself and the viewers.

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