Rohan Shankar is a popular screenwriter known for his work in Bollywood and Marathi film industries. He penned the script of Marathi film ‘Lalbaughchi Rani’. He also has popular Hindi films ‘Luka Chuppi’, Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari’ and ‘Mimi’ to his credit.
Here’s the excerpt from an interview with him:
What was your process of writing ‘Mimi’?
Maddock Films had the rights of a Marathi film titled ‘Mala Aai Vhhaychy!’ So, they approached director Laxman Utekar and asked him to make its Hindi adaptation. That Marathi film was based on a real-life case. And we wanted the Hindi adaptation to be made with the purpose of reaching a wider audience. We took the emotions and thought of the original film and created our own characters and storyline. We started writing in March 2019 and in 3-4 months, we were ready with our first draft. Later on, the actors came on board.
I can call it my toughest script because it was very challenging. It was based on surrogacy and revolved around the emotion of motherhood. We also had to take into account many factual things.
Do you face writer’s block? If yes, how do you deal with it?
What generally happens is that a writer sometimes has high expectations from himself or wants to tell a story very responsibly. While writing Mimi, there were a few things that I was unable to crack, for instance, when Mimi tries to explain to her parents about the kid in her womb. So, I was very unsatisfied with what I was writing. So, I went to Goa for 8 days, locked myself in a room of a resort and figured out certain things.
Sometimes a person has too many ideas and can’t figure out which way to go ahead with. It’s not like you don’t have a story. It’s that you keep finding ways to make your story better. So, it takes some time to figure that out.
I generally don’t face writer’s block and I hope that I don’t go through it also.
Talking about Mimi, a certain section of people have claimed that Mimi has misrepresented the facts on surrogacy and has ignored the surrogacy laws of India. What do you have to say about that?
The surrogacy bill under which commercial surrogacy was banned in India was passed in 2015. We have not done any kind of misrepresentation in the film. The film is set in 2013, it’s the time before the surrogacy bill was passed in India. In the initial scene, you see a surrogacy clinic where 10-15 surrogates are kept under one roof. So, before 2015, literally, there were ‘factories of surrogacy’. If you search on Google, you will find many videos from Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan where surrogates were kept together. Foreigners used to visit these ‘factories of surrogacy’, where they used to pick a girl to bear their child. These women used to stay there for 9 months, deliver the baby, take rest for 2 months and then again bear a child. This is how they used to earn. That’s exactly what we showed in the first scene of Mimi.
What we have shown in Mimi, is based on a real case which was shown in the Marathi film ‘Mala Aai Vhhaychy!’ The maker of that film is a lawyer. If you google for once, you will find many cases of how foreign couples misused these young surrogates. So, I don’t think that we have misrepresented anything. We have shot the scenes in an IVF clinic of Jaipur with due consultation of the doctors. We even gave special thanks to those doctors in the credits of the film.
Someone pointed out that the test for down syndrome is done at 4 or 5th month of the pregnancy and we have shown it in the 8th month. These allegations are completely false. If you watch the film, you will see that the test was done in the 5th month only. And that’s when the foreign couple flees. We later have a Godbharai seen in the 7th month. So, one must check the timeline of the story before putting such accusations. Someone also pointed out that how can a couple adopt a child so fast. If you listen to the dialogues, the actor says, ‘we are adopting the baby’, and not ‘we have adopted’.
We have made the whole film after discussing with the experts. But if someone wants to create an issue out of it, we can’t do anything. We have tried our best to show facts without any misrepresentation. It is up to the audience to watch the film, google the facts and then react.
Luka Chuppi was based on live-in relationships while Mimi was based on surrogacy. Your scripts touch upon taboo topics. What things do you keep in mind while writing such stories?
Firstly, one has to know what kind of joke or humor would work for the audience. I believe in telling stories via satire. And in satire, there’s a very thin line, if crossed the joke becomes offensive. My major focus is not on jokes, but on the story. It’s just that, I design my characters carefully, keeping in mind their religion, culture, financial background etc.
India has a vast variety of cultures. If you mix two of them, you’ll get a very good satire. It’s fascinating if you can bring that into your story. The one thing that you need to take care of, is that you shouldn’t offend anyone. You are making a film for the audience, so you shouldn’t hurt their emotions. And there’s no need for it as well. People should be able to relate to the story. I am a big fan of satire, so that’s why I have been writing my films that way as well.
What’s the one thing that you find fascinating about writing?
Creation is fascinating. When you create your characters and write a story, even you don’t know what may come up next! You start thinking like your characters and sometimes you recall something that was hidden in your subconscious mind. You begin to explore yourself while writing.
I like to write satire with middle-class people of small towns. There are many complexities in their lives but they learn to live with it with a smile on their faces. So, I enjoy the whole process of writing.
What happens if the director wants to change something in the script? How do you deal with the conflict of thoughts?
Director and writer are called Husband and Wife. I take his permission when I am writing something. If there’s a contradiction in thoughts, he convinces me as to why I should change that. On the other hand, I have to convince him on my thoughts. We do have arguments, but at the end of the day, it’s all about who can convince whom and whose idea is better. Cinema writing is an open democratic process. The writer and director have to mutually come together to make things happen. You can’t let your ego dominate. Your focus is to create the best product. So, if the director is suggesting something very good, I shouldn’t be egoistic. Same is with actors. If, while filming, the actor comes up with a better dialogue, we should consider it.
You have written three Hindi films so far- Luka Chuppi, Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari and Mimi. Two of them feature Kriti Sanon. Is it a coincident or a pre-planned affair?
I and Laxman Utekar (Director) took the script of Luka Chuppi to Maddock. Kriti was the first one who heard the script. She was on-board before Kartik Aaryan.
And when we were developing Mimi, Laxman Sir had Kriti in mind. He was comfortable with her. Dinesh Vijan Sir (Producer) also wanted her. And I too liked her for this film. We never thought of anyone else. She also liked the story and wanted to do the film.
Kriti is a very real person. She is very hardworking and committed.
What’s your upcoming project?
It’s a film called Helmet. The film talks about the taboo of condoms in a satirical manner.