Here’s how Bollywood writers are struggling to weave fiction amid coronavirus pandemic

Written by Priyanka Sharma
| Mumbai |
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Published: April 10, 2020 9:28:23 am

bollywood writers coronavirusAtika Chohan, Gaurav Solanki, Mrunmayee Lagoo and other writers share how they are coping with the pandemic. (Source: Atika Chohan. Gaurav Solanki, Mrunmayee Lagoo/Instagram)

Solitude is their friend, writers have often claimed. It gives their imagination the quietness and the freedom it needs to fly. But now confronted with an imposed isolation, courtesy the coronavirus pandemic, writers are struggling to take off their flight of fancy.

Six Bollywood writers and lyricists share with indianexpress.com how they feel overwhelmed with the harsh reality that surrounds them, to an extent that writing fiction makes them feel guilty.

Gaurav Solanki (co-writer, Article 15): It seems that all of us have a lot of time but it’s really challenging to immerse yourself in a story and write fiction these days. There are so many people out there migrating back to their villages, they are scared how they’ll survive this time without a job or money. Doctors and health workers are working like soldiers at the border. And it has forced all of us to stay away from each other in an unprecedented way.

I keep on wondering how this period is going to change how we live, how we work and how we deal with our health, relationships, politics and climate. Will it change our priorities and concerns for a long time? Everything is uncertain and a lot depends upon exactly how long it will take before we feel safe again and come out, meet each other and roam around. A lot depends upon how this time of solitude changes our relationships with ourselves and how much we actually face in the next few months. Songs Lyrics 4 you

All these things are going to affect the characters and stories. This might or might not be a period of sudden transition. I wish we stay together, survive it and come out of it as more compassionate human beings.

I have written two pieces on current situations but have been able to write only one fiction scene during this lockdown so far. I am just looking around, looking into myself, contemplating again what I want to say and why.

Mrunmayee Lagoo (co-writer, Thappad): The honest truth is, as far as writing is concerned, I am as distracted as a bird trying to live in a tree that’s been lit up for Diwali. I have bursts of energy mostly fuelled by guilt and get into writing mode and then, puff, it’s gone. Also, almost everything I am working on feels so alien that it’s a real effort to get into that headspace.

Thankfully, I have one deadline (set in the time when we thought we were in control!) that seems to keep me going a little right now. Even in normal times, I need deadlines to propel me so in the times we are living in, my propellers are demanding some seriously heavy duty fuel which I don’t have! So… that’s me.

Atika Chohan (story and screenplay for Chhapaak, dialogues for Guilty): Doom has hit us right between the eyes and it has certainly paralysed me into a beat of inaction, for one. Honestly, on one hand it feels guilty to be super productive at a time like this, and on the other, it feels equally useless and puerile to add to the internet noise about a situation nobody can help. I certainly can not. I am neither a medical practitioner, nor a policy maker, or a journalist.

I am only a citizen with a flagging conscience, deeply emburdened with the guilt of my privilege. What is really eating me up is that someone somewhere is in deep mess at this moment and they could have been saved from this misery if the government was more effective in its communication about the lockdown… I don’t know what to do with my loud mouthed conscience especially in the nights which now seem very, very long.

The lockdown has also forced me to come to terms with private emotions I thought I didn’t need to deal with anymore. Processing heartbreaks, betrayals, difficult emotions, things I could easily evade in normal times have now come home to have tea with me since I can not distract myself with meetings and work anymore.

That aside, as an industry writer, I have professional commitments to keep and deadlines to meet so I am soldiering on by doing some work everyday. I honestly don’t know when will these films be made and who will watch them because I don’t know what sort of world awaits us on the other side of this lockdown, but I suppose my patience is my contribution to the world peace and keeping myself sane, safe and useful for the world is my job at the moment. So, I am on it.

Shelle (Lyricist for Dev D, Manmarziyaan, Udta Punjab): I am not writing fiction, but thinking about it for sure. I spend the nights awake. As Mirza Ghalib says, “When for death, a day has been ordained, what reason that I cannot sleep all night?” It saddens me that youth and children have to face this…

I have also been working on four new poems. I am watching a lot of YouTube videos of Jaun Elia, Ali Sethi, Hassan Nisar, Bipul Chettri and thinking about poetry, conference calls with friends.

Ritesh Shah (story and screenplay for Batla House, Pink, Arjun Patiala): It may well be a part of the standard excuses that some writers give for not writing but unless one is writing a life defining or an extremely personal and introspective work, it is difficult to not think all the time about what is happening around you and seek escape in your work – especially if the work itself is escapist in nature.

From getting up till sleeping, that is if you can sleep, we are living a different life. So, until one has something to say actually, it is difficult to immerse yourself into writing.

You must also accept that a writer’s empathy levels and sensitivity levels are unusually high, that is why they write so honestly. I am struggling with myself. So much to think, feel, introspect because each morning when I wake up to walk my dog I feel like Will Smith in I am Legend. It is a different world I wake up to each day.

Swanand Kirkire (lyricist for Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, Fitoor, Kai Po Che!): For me, it’s not a very good time to write. I am trying to write but creation only happens if your mind is without fear. But right now, there are a lot of things that are going on in my head. I am not writing new stuff. But if stories have to come, they will. I don’t function like, ‘I am in solitude so let me create.’ I am anyway a different kind of writer.

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