Lipstick Under My Burkha


“Four females, their fantasies & womankind’s freedom”

            CROP Lipstick Under My Burkha           STRIP Lipstick Under My Burkha

Story, Screenplay & Direction: Alankrita Srivastava Additional Screenplay: Suhani Kanwar Dialogues: Gazal Dhaliwal

One-Liner: Set in the crowded lanes of Bhopal, four women from 
different age groups pursue their definitions of freedom furtively.

Lipstick Under My Burkha is not a film about women’s sexual desires. It is not about their fantasies. It is about their freedom- sexual, financial, emotional. It doesn’t paint a rosy picture or promise a paradise, but that doesn’t mean it is grim, serious or heavy. On the contrary, it uses dollops of humor to drive home its point: Empowerment doesn’t come free. It’s like the color red, dangerous yet tempting, because that’s the only way out for its four repressed protagonists.

The movie begins with a narration of a girl named Rosy. You wonder if she is the burkha clad girl who is shown on the screen shopping for a perfume in a mall. But a minute later, you realize she is an 18-year-old girl named Rehana (Plabita Borthakur) who hides behind her burkha to shoplift articles.

The narration continues and we meet Shirin (Konkona Sen Sharma), another burkha clad woman, but unlike Rehana, she doesn’t steal things, but sells them. She is an expert saleswoman. She has all the tricks in the book to win over her customers, but for a woman of her substance, it is sad to learn she has to hide her profession from her utterly cold and terrifyingly frigid husband (Sushant Singh) for fear of insulting his manhood.

The narrative moves to introduce the feisty Leela (Aahana Kumra – Is it just me or anyone else also thinks she looks like Kathryn Hahn?) She is gorgeous, ambitious and totally unapologetic about her sexual flings with her photographer boyfriend Arshad (Vikrant Maasey), even as she is to be married soon with her fiancée, Manoj (Vaibhav Tatwawdi). She is a dreamer, a bird, a raging fire. She has nothing to hide; yet she has to be mindful for being who she is.

And finally, we meet the adorable Usha, more commonly known as Buaji (Ratna Pathak). A 56-year-old widow and the owner of a successful sweetshop who has her own, to use a sanitary term, biological needs. And she finds it in the taboo pages of soft erotica that only get accentuated when she meets a strapping swimming coach.

Holding their desires together is Rosy, the character from Buaji’s erotic novels, which is used as an interesting device to bring out their deepest feelings.

Now, to dissect its screenplay is to dissect its characters, and 
the process only throws a lot of questions than answers at 
the curious audience.

Characters –

Let’s begin with the youngest, Rehana. She might have been portrayed as a shoplifter in the first scene but as the story progresses, we see her as a girl who is afraid to be herself. Born to orthodox parents, she feels hesitant to express herself and finds solace in Miley Cyrus and Led Zeppelin’s songs. She aspires to be a singer in the college band, but her seniors wouldn’t have her. So what does she do? She tries to be like them. And what’s that? She becomes a part of their protests against ban on jeans and though a non-smoker, smokes with them. That’s how she gets into the fold.

Back home, she can’t even dance freely in an engagement because that irks her parents. She can’t raise her voice at them. She endures the denial of her freedom by mentally playing a Miley Cyrus tune, and dancing wildly alone in her room, suppressing her tears, her anger, herself.

She steals so that she can be modern, she smokes so that she can be a singer, she remains silent so that she can be accepted by her parents. What does she have to do to be herself?

Shirin, a mother of three and a dutiful wife, has a simple dream: Work as a saleswoman so that she can contribute to the family’s income. But is it so simple? Is it even possible when her husband sees her solely as a baby producing object who can be entered without any contraceptive at will?

Shirin is a silent victim of domestic abuse. She isn’t the ambitious kind; she isn’t the one who has big expectations from life. She has simple dreams, hopes for simple joys and pleasures, and seeks comfort in the mundane but the beautiful. She is all love. And it is this soft, delicate fabric that she is afraid to tear. She revolts towards the end, but is it impactful? Will she take a stance for herself and leave her husband? Will she tell the world, “I am free”?

Leela, the feisty Leela. She is everything that you would expect Shirin to be. And yet, is she free?

There is a scene in which she is having sex with her boyfriend on her engagement night. Her mother catches them in the act and slaps her. But she isn’t remorseful. In fact, she justifies her act as revenge for her mother forcing her to marry Manoj. Her mother isn’t angry. She simply moves over to another corner, gets a lipstick and applies it on Leela. Matter closed.

With no words spoken, it became clear that for all her big dreams, ambitions and plans to flee with her boyfriend, Leela is attached to her mother and she won’t leave her. Sure, they don’t share a typical respectful mother-daughter relationship, but the affection, though invisible, is still there.

It’s the same with Arshad. Leela thinks he is suitable for her because they are sexually compatible, but it is their love that binds them together. They go through cycles of break up and patch up only to realize in the end they love each other. But it’s too late by then. She has lost all ownership of her dignity. Plus, her mother’s dignity is under threat. She has transferred their right to live respectfully to her fiancée. What will he do with it? Will he be mature? Can he be mature? Is he really at fault? No matter what decision he takes, can we really blame him?

Leela, no doubt, is a complex character, but it is her story that forces one to see the hidden setbacks in the path of empowerment. Are we strong enough to punish the innocent to be empowered?

Buaji. She is Buaji until she is asked her name by her young swimming coach. As she writes her name on the admission form: Usha Parmar, she runs her finger on it feeling for the first time in many years her true identity. She has been long deprived of it, and this revival has also revived her biological longing. She no longer wants to delve into the erotic land of Rosy. She wants to be Rosy. She wants to have her passion respected and she goes for it.

Under the garb of a satsang, she goes to her instructor, feels the cool of the pool water and the warmth of her young hands. Her soul is revived but far from satisfied. She assumes herself as Rosy and engages in phone sex. She shivers and moans and titillates herself and in the throes of ecstasy, can’t see the impending tragedy. But when it hits, oh, can she endure it?

Questions such as these are manifold and answers none. To have given an answer would have meant a closure, but for a film that tries to be as real as the day, the non-closure is welcome.

The direction by writer-director Alankrita Srivastava is a blend of prose and poetry. Yes, there is the narration of Rosy to delve into the depths of her protagonists but that doesn’t mean she isn’t equipped with better narrative devices.

In the case of Buaji, she uses a mirror expertly to remind her of her real version before she can create the world of Rosy in her life. She sees herself and becomes conscious and finally ditches the mirror; Shirin’s angst is compounded through the innocence of her kids; Rehana finds closure in silence and dance and Leela…

There is a scene where Leela has to sell her scooter to make some money. As she leaves the scooter, she stops and turns back to look at it. Memories of her and Arshad travelling together come back and she dashes to him which, in the climax, becomes the decisive scene of her tragedy.

In the last scene of the movie, the four women, all broken and exhausted sit together. A mannequin’s head falls off from a sewing table. She has a burkha on and her lips are light red, not dark red- a poetic symbol of their faded spirits.

Speaking of red, there is almost everything red about the film. From lipsticks to nail polish to JNURM buses to disco lights to toys to Shireen’s night dress to her microwave… almost everything is red, perhaps a conscious decision on the part of cinematographer Akshay Singh to accentuate the struggles of the principal characters.

The dialogue by Gazal Dhaliwal have got some of the best lines you will hear in a long time. No, they are not witty or explosive. They are simple but make no mistake, they are sharp and piercing.

Of course, the movie isn’t without its flaws. Take Rehana’s impassioned speech, early in the movie, against ban on jeans for a news channel. Now, she is too afraid to be seen by her parents wearing jeans under the burkha. And here she is, making her voice heard with tops and jeans and even goes to the extent of ripping them, without any second thought of the possibility that she could be seen by her parents, or anyone from the neighborhood on TV.

Rehana’s shoplifting escapades are also unbelievable and the climax, though I personally liked it, seems a little contrived, given the way everyone’s truth is revealed in the same manner. In screenplay terminology, the device used is Setup-Payoff. The fact that all the setups are similar, except Shirin’s, makes you wonder if there could have been a different way to reach at the climax.

It may be a movie about 4 women, but the men too are not to be missed. Sushant Singh, Shashank Arora, Vikrant Maasey, Vaibhav Tatwawdi, Jagat Singh… though they may have less screen time and not much of a character arc, they play their parts to perfection.

Lipstick Under My Burkha takes a worm’s eye view of the closed lives of women in India. It is a film that doesn’t make any political statement, but simply urges you to be a part of a process. When none has participated in a process, how is a solution possible? And even if they do, the closure may take a long time. But nevertheless, it is a welcome breeze in the desert of Hindi films. We need a blizzard of Lipsticks…

 – Chiranjib Sahoo

Chiranjib_Profile pic
Chiranjib is a trained screenwriter from Whistling Woods International, Mumbai. He can be contacted at

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Lights! Camera! Patriarchy!

Lights! Camera! Patriarchy!

Population First celebrates the 12th Anniversary of Laadli with Screenwriters Association – June 9, 2017


The Laadli Day anniversary event was organised by Population First and Screenwriters Association at SWA premises in Andheri West, with an audience consisting of around 60 scriptwriters. The event, hosted by Ms. Veena Vinod from Population First, began with Mr. Sista, the founder and Executive Trustee of Population First explaining When, How and Why Laadli was started, “We thought about how 50% of our population is Women and we needed to do something to uplift them. Now even the National Agenda includes programmes like Beti bachao Beti Padhao, we thought of doing Laadli Media awards 12 years ago. We felt that this was the way to have a sustained conversation with the media and keep them interested. We are very glad that Laadli is now a well recognised event and has gone International this year.”

The Director of Population First, Dr. A L Sharada spoke about the fulfilling journey she has had since joining Population First 14 years ago. She acknowledged support of Ms. Dolly Thakore, Mr. Ramesh Narayan and SWA’s senior EC member Mr. Anjum Rajabali, and highlighted how SWA has been an important partner for Laadli. She opined, “There is a lot of stereotyping and reinforcement of Patriarchal tenets in Films and we wanted to create a non judgmental space to discuss it. We are often the victims of thinking in a particular way because of the social milieu we live in. One of the first steps in achieving a gender just society is making sure our communication does not reinforce social biases. A good movie can make a big difference.”

Ms. Dolly Thakore, veteran theatre actor, and National coordinator for Laadli spoke about how she joined Laadli and her long association with the cause.

Ms. Aranya Johar, an 18 year old spoken word artist, opened the event with her widely shared viral poem “Brown Girl’s Guide to Gender”.


The attraction of the evening was an interactive panel discussion centred around the main theme of the event. For this, the Screenwriters Association was represented by Ms. Anuradha Tewari who has been working for the last 18 years in the Hindi film industry and is well  known for co-writing screenplay of films like, Fashion, Jail, and Heroine; and Ms. Rajshree Ojha, director of films like Aisha and Chaurahen. Mr. Harish Iyer, equal rights activist, listed as one of the most influential LGBT persons in the world; and Dr. A L Sharada were the other two panelists. Dr. Ishmeet Nagpal, the Advocacy and Communication Manager at Population First, moderated the discussion and conducted the interactive activity. SWA’s Joint Secretary Manisha Korde and the Event sub-committee’s Co-chairperson Mr. Satyam Tripathy were also present as members of the audience. 

Video clips were played for the Panel and the audience, which contained clips from various Bollywood movies. The Panel discussion was interactive with the audience and panelists all asked to hold up cards identifying the damaging communication portrayed in the clips.

Audience and panelists identified ‘mansplaining’, ‘moral policing’, ‘sexism’, ‘slut shaming’, ‘objectification’, ‘homophobia’, ‘stalking’, ‘sexual harassment’ etc. An interesting discussion ensued where it was argued that though the aspects portrayed might have been the lived realities of the people who made these movies, it was also concluded that communicators need to look twice at their communication and feel responsible for what messages they send. While portraying realities is necessary, the way they are portrayed is equally important. The right messaging does not need to be boring and can be entertaining as well.

Audience was very interactive and asked many questions, and by the end of the discussion, were able to analyse communication from gender perspective on their own.

After the panel discussion, there was another performance by Ms. Ramya Pandyan, member of Sexonomics Band, presenting a spoken word piece called ‘My Feminism’. The poem was an important message at the end of event, and was well received by the audience.

Overall, the event challenged the perspectives of the script writers present and many of them stayed back to interact with the panelists and Population First staff.

About Population First: Population First (PF) is a communications and advocacy initiative for a balanced, planned and stable population.  SWA has been consistently associated with the gender equality agenda of Population First, conducting regular workshops and panel discussions.

(For more visit –

(Click here to see the photo album of the event.)

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Laadli Day

Laadli Day

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VINOD KHANNA (6th October 1946 – 27th April 2017)

Bollywood has bidden adieu to one of its most charismatic – and maverick – actors. Vinod Khanna passed away on the morning of the 27th April. He was said to have been suffering from bladder cancer, although this has not yet been substantiated by his family.

Born in Peshawar, Pakistan, his parents subsequently moved to India and he grew up between the cities of Mumbai and Delhi, along with his brother Pramod and three sisters.

Khanna had a meteoric rise to stardom. He started his film career as a villain, in Sunil Dutt’s ‘Man ka Meet’ (1968) and subsequently became a hero with ‘Hum Tum aur Woh’ (1971) He went on to become an extremely bankable star and did many films with Rajesh Khanna, Shashi Kapoor, Dharmendra and Jeetendra as co-stars. Women swooned over his tall physique, cleft chin and virile, Punjabi looks.

At the height of his success, he met and was influenced by Osho Rajneesh whom he accepted as his spiritual guru. Khanna then left the film industry to follow Rajneesh wherever, be it setting up the Osho ashram at Poona or to Oregon in America, leading the media to tag him as the ‘sexy sanyasi.’ While he was off finding his spirituality though, the physical world he left behind in the form of wife Geetanjali and sons Rahul and Akshaye started teetering under the pressure and the relationship ended in divorce. Much later, he married lawyer Kavita Daftary and had two children with her: son Sakshi and daughter Shraddha.

In 1987, Khanna suddenly became disillusioned with Osho and returned to Bombay, where Bollywood welcomed him with open arms and he was back in the saddle as hero. In 1997, he decided to join politics (BJP) and was elected to the Lok Sabha from Gurdaspur. In 2002, he became the Union Minister for Culture and Tourism and later moved to the Ministry of External Affairs as Minister of State.

Vinod Khanna’s sister’s daughter Namita was my junior in Chelsea, Simla. I remember once he came to school to meet his niece. (This was before the Osho phase, when Khanna was ruling the marquee.) Our school was a Catholic convent and we boarders were assiduously and zealously guarded by the nuns. However, on this occasion the nuns themselves were in a fair tizzy. Only the student concerned was allowed to go to the visitor’s room to meet with family, obviously, but many a time it was allowed that she take her best friend along. Suddenly, Namita found she had more “friends” than she knew! Girls were trying their best to hide behind strategically placed trees to catch a glimpse of the famous cleft chin. Team members who’d hitherto shirked basketball practice suddenly got enthusiastic about shooting a few baskets (the basketball field was below the visitors’ car park and sweeping driveway into the school, so one had to, of necessity, pass it.) Uff – the furore that was created! Many years later, I met him at the then Hilton (now Lalit) hotel in Delhi and found him to be a suave, well-spoken gentleman.

Vinod Khanna personified the quintessential Punjabi (read, north Indian) man. On screen, he symbolised the stuff rugged romance is made of…girls grew into women dreaming of just such a mate. His controversial alliance with Rajneesh only made him more desirable so far as the female population was concerned. Here was a real man who dared to do what he wanted, defying society’s fragile tenets.

 Here rests one of the original, macho males. Go in peace, sir.

  • Punam Mohandas


Punam Mohandas is a journalist and author who is also a film buff, accomplished travel writer and an expert on South Asia. She also writes columns on film personalities. She has lived and worked in India, Dubai and Bangkok.
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संध्या रियाज़ की तीन कवितायें।



अम्मा के जाने के बाद

उनकी पेटी से एक थैला मिला है

जिसमे मेरे बचपन का रेला मिला है


एक चरखी एक लट्टू एक गुडिया मैली सी

एक नाव आड़ी टेडी लहरों में फैली सी

एक किताब जिसमे पहली बार मैंने अम्मा लिखा था

लाल रुमाल में बाँधके अम्मा ने अबतक रखा था

हाँ तीन पेन्सिल उसमें मेरी टूटी हुई भी रखीं थी

डोर जिसमे अम्मा की साड़ी की बंधी थी


कुछ यादें जो बिना हाथ लगाये हाथ आती गयीं

अम्मा की दस अँगुलियों की गिनती का गिनना

चुपके से अम्मा का एक सिक्का ले लेना

अम्मा का तमाचा गाल पे पड़ते पड़ते रुक जाना

लाड से उनका दुनियां भर की बातों का  बतलाना

उनका मुझे खिलाना नहलाना सुलाना जगाना

सब याद आने लगा

लगा की काश कुछ हो जाए

जाने कहाँ चली गयीं हैं मेरी अम्मा

ढूंढ के वापिस ले आयें


उम्र से बचपन गया और बचपना भी

लेकिन अम्मा का नाम आते ही

रोने को जी करता है

और तब उस दिन मिला हुआ ये थैला

मुझे मेरी अम्मा सा सुख देता है


अकेले होते ही इसे छू लेती  हूँ

मैं उनकी जागीर थी  और अम्मा मेरा खजाना

जिनका मुझ पर और मेरा उन पर ताजिंदगी हक होगा 

ये थैला मेरी अम्मा ने मुझको दिया था 

सिर्फ मेरा ही होगा………….


एक छोटा लड़का

सड़क पर बोरा लिए

काग़ज़ बटोरता हुआ एक लड़का

अपने बचपन को छिपाने की चेष्ठा करता

अपने मन को मारे आँखों को ज़मीन टिकाता

इधर उधर ज़मीन पर नज़र दौडाता

चला जा रहा था।


सड़क पर सामने से आते हुए

उसके जैसे हमउम्र बच्चे

बचपन से भरे हंसते खिलखिलाते

साफ़ सुथरे उनके कपडे

और कपड़ों की जैसे  उनके साफ़ खिले चेहरे

झुण्ड में  स्कूल के लिए निकल रहे थे


लड़का उन्हें देख सकुचाता है

खुद को बोर के पीछे छिपाता है

और पसीने से भीगा चेहरा पोछ

आगे बढ़ जाता है


आगे खूबसूरत बाग़  रंग बिरंगे फूल

खिलौनों की दुकाने और दुकानों पर

अपना खिलौना चुनते बच्चे

माँ बाबा से अपना खिलौना लेने का हट कर रहे थे


लेकिन इस लड़के को कुछ भी नहीं दिख रहा था


वो देखना नहीं चाहता था

सिवाए कागज़ के टुकड़ों के

उसने कभी कोशिश भी नहीं की

कुछ भी देखने की

शायद मालूम होगा


चाहना और पाना दो अलग अलग बातें  हैं

अपनी उम्र से भी बड़ा बना दिया था उसे

इन् रास्तों और बिखरे हुए कागजों ने

वो जानने लगा था शायद

उसकी चाह सडकों और कागजों तक ही सीमित है

ये चलते भिरते सपने और सपनों जैसे रंग भरे

बच्चे बनना उसकी कल्पना से भी  परे  था


शाम होने से पहले इस बोर को कागज़ से भरता  है

बिकने पर २० रुपये कमाता है

उससे दो रोटी और एक चाय खरीद

भूखे  पेट को भर के सो जाता है

सुबह होते ही अपना बोरा लेके

फिर सड़कों पर जाता है

एक नयी आस के साथ

काश आज उसका बोरा जल्दी भर जाए

और आज रोटी खा के वो जल्दी सो जाए


देखेगा सपने उन सपने जैसे साफ़ साफ़ बच्चों के

जहाँ वो उनमे से एक होगा हाथ में बोरा नहीं बस्ता होगा

और बसते में माँ का दिया खाने एक डब्बा होगा

जिसमें पेटभर खाने को खाना होगा……


तभी एक डंडा उसकी पीठ पे पड़ता है

हबलदार उसे जगा के फुटपाथ से भगाता है

कब तक सोयेगा हीरों काम पे नहीं जाना हैं।



वक़्त के मानिन्द

गुज़रते वक़्त के मानिन्द 

कतरा कतरा पिघलती ज़िन्दगी के साथ 

कुछ ख्वाहिशों को पाने की खातिर 

कुछ ग़मों को भूलने की कोशिश के साथ 

किसी अपने के हाथों को थाम 

भीड़ में कभी अकेले गुम्म हो कर भी 

अकेले अकेले चलकर सालों बिता दिए अब तक 

किस किस से किस किस की बात कहे हम

तनहा ही होते है अपने हुजूम में भी हम 
कई रातों में बहे आंसुओं ने देखा है हमें 

कई राहों ने भटकते आते जाते देखा है हमें 

दिन रात पहर दो पहर पल दो पल सब जानते है 

ज़िन्दगी आसान न थी जो जी चुके है हम 

ज़िन्दगी आसन होगी या नहीं कौन बता पायेगा 

लोग हाथों की लकीरों के नक़्शे दिखाकर रास्ता पूछते है 

कौन अपने रास्तों को लकीरों में बदलने का हुनर देगा हमें 
नज़र बदलने लगी पैर भी डगमगाने लगे 

न जाने ये रास्ते कब खतम होगे


जो मंजिल पे पुन्ह्चा पायेंगे हमें 

खामखाँ भागते भागते सारी जद्दोजहद के बाद भी 

हाथ खाली है छोली खाली है 

अपने भी अपने कहाँ हो पाते है 

उनकी अपनी ज़िन्दगी की बेचारगी है 
एक छोर पे  पुहुँच  चुके है अब आगे जाने का दिल नहीं 

साँसे भी दिल से खफा हो चली हैं 

लगता है कोई आया है लेने 

दर्द सारे छू होने लगे सासें परायी होने लगी 

ये सुकून कहाँ था अब तक जिसके लिए 

उम्रभर ज़िन्दगी को हम रुलाते  रहे 

अब ठीक है दुःख नहीं दर्द नहीं मंजिल नहीं राहें नहीं 

आँखे बंद होते ही सारे बवालों से बच गए 

सांस रुकते ही अनजानी थकन से बच गए 
मौत क्या इसे कहते है तो यही बेहतर है 

न हम हैं न हमारे है न दुनियाँ की झंझट है 

एक रौशनी की मानिन्द एक वक़्त की मानिन्द 

हम गुज़रते गए और शायद कुछ लम्हे ही थे वो 

जो हमें साथ ले गए और कितने जाहिल थे हम  

उम्र भर जो न साथ जाना था उसके लिए लड़ते रहे 

खैर अब सुकून हैं संन्नता है कुछ ठण्ड है रवां रवां 

कहाँ है कहाँ जाना है इसका कोई गम नहीं 

ज़िन्दगी नहीं तो हम नहीं।



  • संध्या रियाज़
Sandhya Riaz
संध्या रियाज़ कवयित्री और कहानीकार हैं। टीवी, रेडियो,पत्रिकाओं, अख़बारों इत्यादि के लिए कहानियां, कवितायें और समीक्षायें लिखती रहीं हैं।आपका पहला कविता संग्रह ‘बदलती लकीरें’ नाम से प्रकाशित हुआ।वर्तमान में, मीडिया कंपनी क्रिएटिव आई में आइडिएशन हैड के पद पर कार्यरत हैं। संपर्क
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Shri Javed Akhtar is the new Chairman of revamped IPRS

Javed Akhtar

“A new chapter has started!” – Javed Akhtar

Mumbai, April 6th, 2017: Fresh elections were held after more than a decade in the revamped IPRS, in which both the authors (music composers and lyricists) and publishers (music labels) participated. These elections have the backing of the entire author and publisher community in India. Veteran poet and lyricist, Shri Javed Akhtar was unanimously elected as the Chairman of the new board.

The revamped IPRS has adopted a new working constitution and is fully in sync with the Amended Copyright Act. The primary objective of this constitution is to ensure rightful royalty flow to all the rights owner, while simplifying licensing process for the end users. 

Shri Javed Akhtar said, “IPRS has turned over a new page and a new chapter has started, where there is no WE and THEM, only US. Writers, composers and publishers have risen above the past conflicts and have a taken a pledge to work together for the enhancement of Indian Music Industry’s reach and prosperity.”

“This is a historic moment for the music industry, and will act as catalyst of growth for all stakeholders. We look forward to IPRS achieving new heights under the leadership of Javed saab” said Vikram Mehra, Managing Director, Saregama India Ltd.

The newly elected members on the board are Javed Akhtar, Shridhar Subramaniam, Aashish Rego, Kumar Taurani, Rajinder Singh Panesar, Devraj Sanyal, G.V. Prakash Kumar, Ganesh Jain, Anupam Roy, Mandar Thakur, Sahithi Cherukupalli and Vikram Mehra.

Background: The Indian Performing Right Society Ltd. (IPRS), which came into existence in 1969, is a representative body of owners of music — the composers, lyricists (or authors) and the publishers of music. It is also the sole authorised body to issue licences for usage of musical works and literary music within India by any person. IPRS represents Publishers, Authors and Composers of Music from all over India and is affiliated with similar Societies in other countries of the World to represent International Music as well.

Ever since music companies seized control of the governance of the organisation, leaving lyricists and music composers out in the cold, IPRS was seen as a society of very questionable motives, which did not work for all its members. After the Copyright Act was amended in 2012, it gave lyricists, writers and composers clear safeguards to secure and protect their rights. Thus, it was time for all that to change.

SWA congratulates all those who paved the path of the much-needed reforms at IPRS and made this historic day come true. Onwards, now!


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Women On Television


For years we have been lamenting rhetorically about the quality of writing on Indian television. Our most painful grouse has been about the way women and gender-equations have been portrayed on the TV screen. Our TV serials and soaps have been termed regressive, espousing conservative values, of being totally out of sync with the way Indian women actually are in our society. And, the complaints have not been invalid.

However, it’s time we asked the question: Is no change possible, at all? As writers, what are our options? Is it not possible for our writing to become the torch-bearer of change, no matter how subversively or subtly executed, to make sure that our stories and storytelling is more in consonance with our social reality to reflect the real struggles of our characters (women and men), rather than reinforcing existing stereotypes? What are the obstacles and anxieties that we are likely to face in such an attempt? What is the creative space for negotiation available to us? How can we increase that? As writers, we are meant to be one of the thought-leaders of society. Then what are our own thoughts about the situation, and about changing the culture of stories and storytelling on television?

To delve deeper into all these questions, we cordially invite you to:

Woman On TV

It promises to be a stimulating and provocative discussion, but with a constructive objective. As writers, we have to continue to put our heads together for the future of our writing.

Expecting to see you there!

(Click here for the Facebook thread of the event.)


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Screenwriting Workshop by Anjum Rajabali witnesses tremendous participation!


“The vigour with which the participants interacted and questioned about the craft, sends a clear signal that we are taking our writing very seriously,” said Anjum Rajabali, at the screenwriting workshop conducted at Whistling Woods International

~ The five-day workshop organised in association with Screenwriters Association India saw a huge participation and witnessed the presence of renowned screenwriters from the film industry~

Mumbai, 09 March 2017: Whistling Woods International (WWI), Asia’s premier Film, Communication and Media Arts institute, conducted a five-day screenwriting workshop in association with Screenwriters Association India for its filmmaking students and other participants, from 1st March to 5th March 2017, at their campus in Filmcity, Goregaon East. Hosted by industry stalwart and Head of Screenwriting at WWI, Anjum Rajabali, the workshop aimed at developing and further enhancing the screenwriting skills of the participants.


The workshop was a golden opportunity for all the aspiring writers, and also a useful workshop for professional writers to further improvise and strengthen their understanding of the craft in detail, with the changing needs of writing for the movies. Some of the biggest and most celebrated names in the Indian screenwriting space, shared their valuable experiences with the participants and made it more interactive. The objective of the workshop was to build a confident grasp of screenwriting principles in the participants, which would further help free their original creativity.

There were several know names from the Indian television & film industry who participated in the screenwriting workshop. The professionals participating mentioned that it was an invigorating experience, as many of them came back to learning after working for several years in the industry.

“I’m excited to be a student again. I passed out in 1993, post three years of my acting training. And now after 1993, in 2017 I’m attending the screenwriting workshop. It is a great experience to be a student and just listen to an expert who is a well-read person and learn from him who knows a lot about scriptwriting. For me, it is a very thrilling experience”, said Anup Soni, film & television actor about the workshop.

In the last couple of years, the Indian film industry has witnessed a renaissance of sorts, in terms of content and screenplay. With the changing scenario of screenwriting, more films are breaking the conventional mould, relying confidently on bold scripts, which are widely accepted by the audiences. On the first day, the participants were given inputs by the professionals on the basics of screenwriting followed by a specific feedback given on how to turn stories into scripts, looking into the thematic issues and the script’s potential on the second day. The remaining three days were dedicated to improvise those scripts under the guidance of experts from the industry.

The workshop also witnessed the presence of well-known names from the Hindi film industry who shared their guidance with the participants attending the workshop. The guest speakers included renowned director & screen writers like, Jaideep Sahni (Chak De! India), Shakun Batra (Kapoor & Sons), Gauri Shinde (Dear Zindagi), Shridhar Raghavan (Dum Maaro Dum), Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari (Nil Battey Sannata), Juhi Chaturvedi (Piku) and Sriram Raghavan (Badlapur) to name a few.

Talking about the workshop, Anjum Rajabali, said, “The vigour with which 140 participants interacted with the screenwriting principles, and questioned about the craft, sends a clear signal that we taking our writing very seriously. At this rate, it should be only a matter of time before we see a continuous stream of wonderful scripts becoming available to the film industry, which will lead us towards great cinema! I feel extremely proud to be associated with WWI, as they always put their best foot forward in contributing to the film fraternity.”

(Click here to see the photo-album of the workshop.)
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And the Oscar goes to…

21 3

And so the Oscar frenzy slowly fades away for another year, although the 2017 awards will perhaps best be remembered for the near scandal unwittingly caused by Warren Beatty when he announced the wrong winner for ‘Best Movie.’ The Oscar’s are undoubtedly the most prestigious global film awards, a notion carefully built up and cultivated by the Americans who have anointed themselves the superior Big Brother at large and Warren’s gaga moment in grandly proclaiming ‘La La’ proved to the world’s shocked glee that even the Great White Massa (America) is capable of colossal boo-boos!

Some of the awardees have been hotly debated and contested. I have watched six of the leading films nominated in multiple categories – Lion, La La Land, Moonlight, Hacksaw Ridge, Manchester By The Sea and Jackie – and I attempt below to dissect the main awards and dispel some illusions….while also hotly disputing to myself that it seems more than just an one envelope mix-up!

Best Director: Damien Chazelle (La La Land)

Damien Chazelle

Nominees: Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge) Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester By The Sea) Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)

Although Barry Jenkins has crafted a sensitive story, the going is slow in the beginning, making the audience shift restlessly in their seats. Moreover, only someone who is familiar with or has read stories about what goes on in black neighbourhoods will be able to identify with the emotional trauma or the very fight for survival that growing up in such ghettos entails.

Kenneth Lonergan’s best moments are when dealing with overt emotion, otherwise, Casey Affleck is fairly sullen and withdrawn most of the time, while Lucas Hedges ably holds up his end.

Undoubtedly, Damien Chazelle has done a marvellous job. ‘Chicago,’ while being a hit especially with the sizzling, pouting Catherine Zeta Jones, was still a bit much for audiences not overly fond of musicals as their movie choice. Chazelle got it just right, bunging in a few numbers but keeping the momentum of the movie going with realistic scenes, well-defined dialogues and nifty performances from his lead pair.

But what was the jury smoking?! With Mel Gibson in that list, who earlier directed ‘Passion of the Christ’ with such compelling ardour that it gives me goose bumps even now just to think of it and who has now, with ‘Hacksaw Ridge,’ directed one of the most genuine, potent war movies ever, showing battle to be as ugly and grim as it is and shorn of any of the bunkum around it – with this, a song-and-dance routine walks away with the award?? Blasphemy! ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ is gritty and real, with extremely credible performances all around. It could not have been easy directing a war movie of such epic proportions – the cost, the cast, the crew…it’s mindboggling even thinking it! Gibson has pulled off this script based on a true story so ably – there is not a single loose moment anywhere in the film. Blasphemy!

Best Movie: Moonlight


Nominees: La La Land, Manchester By The Sea, Hacksaw Ridge, Arrival, Hell or High Water, Fences, Lion, Hidden Figures

I’m just wondering whether personal prejudices affect the minds of the jury members at the Oscar’s too – or whether they can be bought over, same as happens in India! Mel Gibson has quite a colourful personal life and may have earned himself a few enemies in Hollywood, especially during his alcoholic phase; his ‘Passion of the Christ’ too had put him in the eye of a very controversial storm. So is that the reason his movie was passed over?! If it was up to me, there wouldn’t even BE any other film nominated beside the powerful, graphic, commanding ‘Hacksaw Ridge.’

Although ‘La La Land’ and ‘Moonlight’ are both undoubtedly above par movies, I don’t think ‘Manchester By The Sea’ quite cuts it. If ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ was to be bypassed – as indeed it was – then, in my opinion, ‘Lion’ should have got this award.

Best Screenplay (Adapted): Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)

Barry Jenkins

Nominees: Eric Heisserer (Arrival) August Wilson (Fences) Luke Davies (Lion) Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) Allison (Hidden Figures)

I am surprised to see that ‘Jackie’ did not feature in this list; I suppose one could argue it is an ‘adaptation’ since it did incorporate real life events into a reel story. ‘Lion’ did not deserve to be in here at all – the screenplay is almost a direct lift-off from the book, so I fail to see how it can be called ‘adapted.’ For once, I am in agreement with the judges; if these were the nominations, then ‘Moonlight’ did indeed deservedly get the award. The screenplay is written by Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney, based on a play written by the latter, titled: ‘In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.’ Although widespread speculation would say that the movie is about a gay protagonist (which in fact, it is) that is not the focal point of the script; rather it presents three stages in the life of the main character, i.e. childhood, adolescence and adulthood. It has been sensitively handled and the only sexually explicit scene on a moonlit beach is more suggestive than graphic.

Best Screenplay (Original): Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester By The Sea)

Kenneth Lonergan

Nominees: Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water) Damien Chazelle (La La Land) Mike Mills (20th Century Women) Yorgos Lanthimos (Lobster)

‘Lobster?’ What was ‘Lobster’ even doing in the nominations?! ‘Manchester By The Sea’ is a bit of a tearjerker script, however, I think ‘La La Land’ fairly deserved the Oscar here. It is not easy to marry a musical with a script that has spoken dialogues, apart from which, almost every scene has been realistically scripted. Damien Chazelle wrote the script himself, way back in 2010, but was unable to find a studio to finance it. Romance, dance, drama – ‘La La Land’ is a well-knitted script that has it all.

Best Actor: Casey Affleck (Manchester By The Sea)


Nominees: Ryan Gosling (La La Land) Denzel Washington (Fences) Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge) Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)

This one has got to be the biggest laugh and, judging by the reactions of some of Affleck’s contemporaries, I’m not the only one to think so. Except for being slightly hunched over, bad physique, morose and sullen most of the time, not particularly demonstrative or empathetic with his recently orphaned nephew, what has Casey Affleck done to merit an Oscar?

Now, Ryan Gosling brought not only softness and sensitivity and a love of jazz to the fore, he also put in some pretty nifty footwork. It was a joy to watch this tall, manly, bearded man dance so effortlessly and the look in his eyes as he sees Mia walk in with another man – priceless!

And how can one leave out Andrew Garfield and his absolutely marvellous, gut-wrenching performance, be it his unshaken belief in being a conscientious objector, to running back in battle time and time again to save wounded comrades – 75 in all – singlehandedly! ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ is based on a true story and Garfield brought alive for us the young medic Desmond Doss, putting his heart and soul into this performance.

Although I am an unabashed Denzel Washington fan – that towering talent! – I haven’t watched ‘Fences’ therefore, it would be a toss between Gosling and Garfield and I think Doss would win the toss.

Best Actress: Emma Stone (La La Land)

Emma Stone

Nominees: Natalie Portman (Jackie) Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins) Ruth Negga (Loving) Isabelle Huppert (Elle)

Nope, nein, nyet. This award hands-down belonged to Natalie Portman. Emma Stone has turned in a very decent performance, no question, but Portman brought the real Jacqueline Kennedy to life again in a no-holds-barred portrayal, be it the touch of hauteur, the stoicness, or the raw, primal anguish on her face. She worked very hard to get Jackie’s mannerisms right. It is a crying shame that someone else quite literally waltzed (sic!) away with this award from under her nose.

Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)


Nominees: Dev Patel (Lion) Lucas Hedges (Manchester By The Sea) Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water) Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)

Ah, no. Mahershala Ali was good in the hood, a drug dealing gangster who has a vulnerable side to him as shown when dealing with the little boy. Hardly an outstanding performance though, lending credence to the buzz that, after the animosity and controversy last year’s Oscar’s generated with allegations of racism, the powers-that-be decided to award Ali – the first Muslim to get an Oscar. Like I suppose it’s just coincidence that ‘Moonlight’ is also the first film with an all-black cast and this factor had no impact on the jury!

In my opinion, the tall and gangly 20-year old Lucas Hedges turned in an Oscar-worthy performance, with the conflicting emotions a high-schooler goes through when his personal life is up in flames flitting effortlessly across his expressively mobile face.

But – a moment, sir. The Oscar in this category undoubtedly belonged to Vince Vaughn. Surprisingly, he didn’t even make it to the nominations, although, as Sergeant Howell in ‘Hacksaw Ridge,’ he was an absolute delight to watch and had all the Army mannerisms down pat.

Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis (Fences)


Nominees: Naomie Harris (Moonlight) Nicole Kidman (Lion) Michelle Williams (Manchester By The Sea) Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)

Not having seen ‘Fences’ it would not be fair of me to dwell overly on this, except to say that Nicole Kidman did nothing outstanding to merit a mention in this list. I would have narrowed it down to Michelle Williams or Naomie Harris and, if I were the one giving out this award, it would be a no-brainer to pick Harris, who has portrayed a whore high on alcohol and drugs, sometimes sobering up to remember her responsibility to her son, never ceasing to love him but acknowledging in her old age her failure to have shown that love, from the gut.

Conclusion: This would appear to be the season of child actors. Hollywood should consider lowering the age requirement for the Oscar’s and, if so, without doubt I would be hard pressed to say whether Sunny Pawar of ‘Lion’ or of ‘Moonlight’ would be the more deserving of the win.

Sunny PawarAlex-Hibbert

Sunny beautifully essayed the role of a five-year old, slightly cocky child from the slums, albeit secure and much-loved in his little world, to overnight waking to find himself lost in a city thousands of miles from his home, fending off sexual predators and learning that the world at large does not love him so much. From a dingy, oppressed government orphanage to then find himself on an airplane to Australia, Sunny handled all the emotions with aplomb. Alex, intimidated and largely ignored by his crack-addict mother, the target of school bullies, conveys so much pathos, angst and vulnerability through his eyes and bowed body language. This is a boy beaten before he even starts on the race of Life. The vulnerability and growing confidence as he learns to trust Juan and Teresa, the only semblance of ‘family’ that he knows, is heart-wrenching.

With some careful mentoring, these Little Men are here to stay.


– Punam Mohandas
Punam Mohandas is a journalist and author who is also a film buff, accomplished travel writer and an expert on South Asia. She also writes columns on film personalities. She has lived and worked in India, Dubai and Bangkok.


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Rest In Peace Shri Raajesh Johri

Raajesh Johri

Shri Raajesh Johri

Accomplished lyricist Shri Raajesh Johri passed away on Wednesday, March 1st,  2017. He was 63.

Johri had come to Mumbai as a 20-year-old from Uttar Pradesh in 1950s. Today, most of us are familiar with his work from the 1990s, both in Indipop and advertising jingles. He had penned popular songs like Suneeta Rao’s ‘Pari Hoon Main’, ‘Sa Ni Dha Pa’ by Colonial Cousins and the album Tere Bina by Abhijeet.

Along with soulful songs, the gifted poet also wrote jingles for many memorable AD films. The famous Prestige pressure cooker jingle, ‘Jo Biwi Se Karein Pyaar, Woh Prestige Se Kaise Karein Inkaar!’ was written by Johri in the 80s. Interestingly, Johri also gave his voice to it, like he did to a lot of other jingles that he wrote over three decades. The Nirma bathing soap song, ‘Tum Husn Pari, Tum Jaan-e-Jahan, Tum Sabse Haseen, Tum Sabse Jawan; Saundarya sabun Nirma,’ was another popular jingle written by Shri Johri in the 90s. Recently, Johri had been working on an album with the ghazal duo Bhupinder and Mitali.

We at SWA, deeply mourn the demise of Shri Raajesh Johri and pray for his soul to rest in peace. We bid him a goodbye with the following lines:

“वो फूल ना अब तक चुन पाया, जो फूल चढ़ाने है तुझ पर!”

Note: The Prayer Meeting will be held on March 4th, Saturday.

Address: Ajivasan Hall, Next To S.N.D.T Women University, Juhu Tara Road, Santacruz (W), Mumbai, Maharashtra-400054

Time: 4.00 pm – 6.00 pm

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