I’m a fan of ‘Michael Madhana Kama Rajan’, says Vidhya Iyer

Vidhya Iyer was shuttling between different cities long before she became a professional screenwriter in Hollywood. Armed with a degree in computer science, Vidhya went ahead to study screenwriting at American Film Institute Conservatory (AFI) that gave her a sense of writing and filmmaking. Her short film, Raksha, which she co-wrote with Jhanvi Motla, has been screened in over 16 film festivals. Particularly inclined towards sitcoms, Vidhya wishes to use comedy as a tool for narration. Excerpts from an email interview:

Tell us about your days growing up in Chennai…

I love the familial quality that Madras has. It’s a big city, but always feels like home. I knew all my neighbours and would play cricket and badminton with friends at West Mambalam. Eventually, I moved to Gopalapuram to be closer to school — I attended DAV Girls School. I found my passion for writing after I moved to Chennai and started with writing adult fiction.

When did you discover your passion for cinema and what have your major influences been?

I discovered my passion for cinema and TV in college. It started as an interest towards comedy. I wanted to make people laugh. I loved jokes that would have me in stitches — usually one-liners. I was very mainstream to be honest; I loved movies that were entertaining, larger than life and fast-paced — both Hollywood and Indian movies. My education at AFI allowed me to appreciate the subtleties of narrative cinema and helped focus on the intricacies of writing.

It’s no secret that there are very few women writers in Indian cinema. What drove you towards screenwriting?

I think I drove myself away from screenwriting for as long as I could. It’s something I knew I would do, but the so-called ‘practicalities’ always got in the way. And I knew my parents and family and relatives would be apprehensive to say the least. Growing up, I always wrote in some form or the other. With screenwriting, I found the perfect balance in the way I wanted to tell stories. And I knew that I had to tell my stories since there are very few women in Indian cinema.

mad about movies
  • A fan of Michael Madhana Kama Rajan, Vidhya Iyer recently caught up with Thanga Meengal and Mercury.
  • Currently, Vidhya’s working on a family-comedy set in India and is hopeful of more opportunities here.

You were born and raised in Nigeria and then moved to Chennai. Now, you work in Hollywood. Has this cross-culture helped shape your world view?

It has shaped my perspective. I see the world as a third-culture kid. Having spent a significant portion of my life in different cultures, it has made me empathetic and curious. I’m always trying to learn what makes people act the way they do and how those actions are shaped by their environment and culture.

Your short film Raksha has an eerie tone that makes an interesting statement about the concept of destiny. How did you conceive this idea?

Initially, when Jhanvi and I wrote it, we set out to explore the experience of an Indian-American woman straddling different cultures. Both of us felt the pressure of conflicting cultures that we grew up with, having moved to the US from India.

Apart from screenwriting and direction, you also occasionally perform improv comedy. Has this helped your writing process?

Definitely. Improv is a collaborative process. It’s a unique American artform where everything happens in the moment. When you speak the words yourself, you gain a better understanding of what works on the page and what works when actors say the lines.

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Printable version | Jun 12, 2021 6:12:38 AM |

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