First-time director Sonam Nair says her film Gippi deals with adolescence

Amidst the many no-brainer action dramas and romantic-comedies, suddenly there’s a mint-fresh look at adolescence. Sonam Nair’s Gippi, produced by Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions, is about a teen coming to terms with the awkwardness of adolescence. Like many first-time screenwriters / filmmakers, Sonam culled out a story from her personal experience. “I was an overweight teenager and went through a period of insecurity and unhappiness. Gippi is a lot like me. I wove a story around her with nuances from my life,” says Sonam.

When she sat down to pen the story of Gippi, Sonam didn’t realise she was entering a zone very few filmmakers have explored. “I wanted some reference points; I wanted to see how other filmmakers have dealt with issues relating to adolescence. When I looked around, I realised there was nothing much,” she says.

The characters that are part of Gippi’s life are modelled on Sonam’s mother, brother and her best friend. “We are so obsessed about the way we look; most women, and even girls, have insecurities about their weight, height and skin colour. This film tells young girls to be proud of who they are,” says Sonam.

Sonam grew up in Kolkata, went to the U.S. to study writing and cinema, and took up odd jobs related to filmmaking in New York. “The jobs I took up — such as being a peon, did nothing for me as a filmmaker. I decided it was time to return to India,” she says.

Unexpected role

She moved to Mumbai and assisted Ayan Mukerji in Wake Up Sid. While Ayan dealt with quarter-life crisis in his first venture, Sonam felt the need to write about teens. “I wrote the script and showed it to Ayan for feedback. He, in turn, took it to Karan (Johar) and got him to read it. I wanted to be a screenwriter first and a director after I gain some experience,” recalls Sonam. But Karan Johar liked the script, asked her to direct it and told her he’d produce it. The news took time to sink in. “I was overwhelmed and even shocked,” says Sonam.

Next, Sonam hired assistant directors and the team set about auditioning youngsters for the lead role. “It was an arduous search that took us five to six months. We scouted schools, malls and cinemas in Delhi and Mumbai before I found Riya Vij. We wanted to shoot during summer vacations and had a few months in our hands. I conducted a filmmaking workshop for the young actors,” says Sonam. Gippi’s verdict will be out this weekend, and Sonam is anxious: “I haven’t made a preachy film. Childhood is the best part of our lives, irrespective of how tough it might have been. I hope people like it. I want to make films that people can relate to,” she says.