In Conversation with Author Mansi Aggarwal

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Interview Times is really excited to learn more about you and your work. It’s amazing to see how you’ve excelled in various creative fields like filmmaking, choreography, and now writing. Your short films “Raani” and “The Handbag” sound incredible! Congrats on the critical acclaim and awards they received. I’d love to know more about your novel “Oceanic Hearts” and what inspired you to explore writing alongside your filmmaking career.

 

 

 

  1. Can you tell me a bit more about the storyline or theme of your novel “Oceanic Hearts”?

A delayed flight makes Anusha meet Aman at the Delhi airport. Their paths keep crossing each other in different cities. Suffering from depression and torn by grief and personal loss they form a tender bond. It is a tale of love, grief and hope.

  1. How did you find the transition from filmmaking and choreography to writing? Was it challenging or did it come naturally to you?

My journey in creative field started with classical dance, Kathak. Kathak derived from “Katha” and “Kathakaar”, means “the one who recites ‘katha’ or story”. It involves both – the ‘Nritt’ (dance) and ‘Abhinaya’(act).Kathak brought me to Choreography and Choreography brought me to films.I shifted to Mumbai after choreographing Dev.D and Gulaal and working on films made me realise the influence of filmmaking as an art form. It is considered new art and the seventh art form combining the six previous arts of architecture, sculpture, painting, music, dance, and poetry.I have been journaling since the age of 16 so writing prose and poetry came naturally. Screenwriting I had to figure out.

  3. What inspired you to explore the world of writing? Was there a specific moment or experience that sparked your interest?

Hypocritical constructs propelled me into writing. I used to make peace with them by writing it out. Years later loneliness made me write to express myself. Oceanic Hearts is a culmination of some of my previous writings. Also, reading inspires me. During my childhood, apart from the school curriculum, I remember reading Panchatantra Tales, Arabian Nights, Enid Blyton and Sherlock Holmes. Later Oscar Wilde’s writings and Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “Notes from the Underground” made an impact.

 But, reading “Love in the time of Cholera” by “Gabriel Garcia Marquez”, was pure joy for me.

 

  1. As a filmmaker, what do you enjoy most about the creative process? Is it the storytelling, the visuals, or something else?

 

I approach filmmaking through writing. It is the first step – the script.

I have a basic idea about what I want to say through my work and then I explore it through the story and characters. Once I am satisfied with the script, the next stage starts – of finding the right visuals and treatment.Film is a visual medium and the visual should depict the text and beyond it.I relish each and every aspect of filmmaking – scriptwriting, visuals, art and production design, bringing out the characters via actors through direction, choreography, costumes and edit.It is a time taking process but enjoyable.

  1. Could you share some insights into your experience as a choreographer for films like “Mary Kom,” “Dev.D,” and “Gulaal”? What were the highlights of working on those projects?

 

Both Dev.D and Gulaal, working with Anurag Kashyap was a big learning experience. Also, the cinematographer Rajeev Ravi who shot both the films. I consider myself fortunate to get a chance to work alongside both of them.I was extremely frightened after reading the script of Gulaal. I was 21 years old when Gulaal was offered to me. My parents were protective so my mother accompanied me to Rajasthan where the film was shot. I was given the script and I read it overnight. It was hard hitting and reading the scene of ragging in the college gave me jitters. I visualised everything and thought it is going to be filmed the way it was written. Next morning, I expressed my concerns and asked my mother if I should leave. She neither forced me nor swayed me, and left the decision on me. 

 I was still terrified and asked Anurag Kashyap the next day – “Why do you want to make this film?”He gave me a death stare me and said – “Because I want to.”

 

I decided to stay, take the plunge and do the film.About Mary Kom, the persona is so big and inspirational. Being part of a film which portrays Mary Kom’s journey as a successful sportsperson was in itself a high.

 

  1. What kind of impact do you hope to make with your work as a filmmaker, choreographer, and author?

Ans .I don’t know about the impact. But as said before by others – I would like to “disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed.”

 

  1. How do you balance your different creative pursuits? Do you find that they complement each other or do you have to switch gears between them?

 

It is a paradox for me. Shifting keeps me well-balanced and away from perversion.

 All of the art and creativity is the pursuit of finding the truth and the ways of expressing it. It further helps me to know my unknown.

 8.What advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers, choreographers, and authors who are looking to make their mark in the industry?

Patience, Curiosity and Joy of Creating. Keeping these alive is difficult

 

  1. Can you share any memorable travel experiences that have influenced your creative work or inspired new ideas?

Ans I have travelled a lot in India – Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra,Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Kerala, West Bengal, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Goa, Daman and Diu and Karnataka. Nature inspires me. Culture motivates me.This year I went to Andaman and Nicobar Islands to freshen up my mind. I was stuck at a particular point while writing “Oceanic Hearts”. 

Sitting alone within an old gazebo surrounded by Banyan trees and looking at the sea, inspired me to write a few lines and shattered the block.I eventually slept there. Hotel staff came and woke me up.

 

  1. Lastly, what are some upcoming projects or goals that you’re excited about in your career?

I am working on a feature film script of mine which is based in a particular period and involves a lot of research. I am really excited and looking forward to direct my feature film “Dil Beparwaah”, an urban relationship drama.Also, I’m   working on a feature film script of mine which is based in a particular period and involves a lot of research. I am really excited and looking forward to direct my feature film “Dil Beparwaah”, an urban relationship drama.

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