Filmmaker Shonali Bose says that she spent a year writing and rewriting the script of The Sky is Pink because she didn’t want to show only the happy moments but the tough times too. By Team Viva
How did you end up selecting this story? Did you know the family personally?
I had never heard of Aisha Chaudhary and I didn’t know the family at all. Aisha watched the trailer of Margarita with a Straw at least 30 times and told her parents — ‘I hope I live to see this film’. But she passed away two weeks later. In April, when our film released in theatres, the parents, Aditi Chaudhary and Niren Chaudhary, went and watched it. They saw that I had lost a son and dedicated the film to him. They felt the need to do the same. Aditi always believed that ‘when life sucks, you should look like a million bucks’. So she made her daughter attend makeup lessons as she didn’t have much time. And I think that was very inspiring and amazing. She’s always glossy and put together because that’s exactly who she is.
In November 2015, they approached me. They narrated me the whole story and said that they wanted a film putting their daughter on the pedestal, rather not on a pedestal, that’s a harsh word. They wanted a film showcasing how heroic and inspiring their daughter was. But I had no interest in making such a film. I am sure that it would have been a superhit but the story didn’t interest me as a filmmaker. I was rather fascinated and more interested by the parents, who came up with a thought that it doesn’t matter if you have five years to live, how you live matters more. ‘One should live each moment to the fullest. Laugh at death and come up with that’. I just loved it. It was beautiful to see how through the thick and thin and all the decisions that they had to make, the huge fights in between, they remained in love and stuck together. I told them that I am inspired by them and not their girl.
I spent two weeks with them in Delhi. I recorded everything but I never referred to it because the way Aditi narrated was so vivid that it stayed in my head. For two weeks, eight hours a day, I would be exhausted because she narrated me everything, since they were 16 to when they were 52. I heard every single detail of their lives.
How did you manage to script it in a tight frame?
I started writing in January 2016 and by June, I was pretty happy with it and so were they. Then some months passed and I was bored by it so I decided to change the angle completely. That time, I had written eight to nine drafts which were linear. I started from when they met and went on till Aisha’s death, followed by its aftermath. It’s a non-linear story now so the time is mixed up. By December, it was complete. I spent a year writing and rewriting and changing things, deciding what stays in the film and what goes out. I didn’t want to show just their happy moments. So I have showed the tough times too. And for that, I had to make them comfortable. They told me they never fight so how will I show such stuff? I insisted and explained them that it wouldn’t show their love in any lesser way. It’s okay to fight. And it’s lovely that despite a big fight, you just stay together. I understood their point too. Even I wouldn’t be comfortable having my whole life out on a big screen. I think, it’s very courageous of them. Somehow, I managed to figure out how to tell the story.
How did the casting happen? Why did you go for mainline Bollywood actors?
If anybody asked me which actor would fit this role perfectly, I would have chosen Priyanka Chopra. She was Aditi for me. I watch all Hindi films so I am well versed with it. I love her and Farhan (Akhtar) as actors. They are stars who are actors as well. Hence, you get a bigger release by casting them. You can do difficult stuff with them. I felt there is a similarity in Aditi and Priyanka. Whenever I cast, it has to fit the character. If you tell me that Priyanka can play the lead in Margarita... and even if you throw millions of dollars at me, I’ll say ‘No’. She can’t be an 18 year old girl. I am never going to agree to it. That’s why Kalki (Koechlin) was absolutely perfect for that. She’s a brilliant actor and she looked 18. Priyanka is someone who can do the age range, going from their late 20s to mid 50s. She is perfect for that.
Your films have been inspired by real life experiences. Do you think the industry has opened up now? There is a content explosion. Where is this all headed?
I think we are headed to more exciting times because of the digital revolution. There is so much content. Look at the amazing stuff that’s on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
Do you think as a filmmaker you can push the boundaries now?
I have always pushed the boundaries even when they couldn’t have been pushed. It’s easier now. And I feel it’s a great time to be an Indian filmmaker.
(The film releases on October 11.)
Photo: Pankaj Kumar