Anjali Menon Revisits Writing Ustad Hotel During Her Pregnancy

The director speaks to Anupriya Raj about her experience writing a film during pregnancy and how she managed to make a commercial film with its soul intact
Anjali Menon Revisits Writing Ustad Hotel During Her Pregnancy

Director Anjali Menon was pregnant when she wrote the script for Ustad Hotel (2012). Shortly after completing the first two acts, she had to get an emergency c-section and deliver her baby. But ten days later, she was back to writing the third act of the film. Having written a film about six pregnant women and their journeys in her latest Wonder Women, Anjali Menon opens up to Anupriya Raj about writing a script when she was pregnant, and takes her through how she learnt to marry two styles while writing commercial films.

“More than anything, it is the physical difference during pregnancy that affected me when writing the script of Ustad Hotel. I started working ten days after my son’s birth and no one knows these things. People in my house would ask me to rest but I had to finish the script. And when you notice Ustad Hotel, the film begins with a pregnant woman and her dreams for a child. Anwar (Anwar Rasheed) had put it forward very beautifully; there is also a bit of dark comedy in that,” recalls Menon. 

Be it Bangalore Days or Wonder Women, the cast of Menon films are always a highlight. She reveals that she doesn’t narrate the story to her actors, and instead gives actors the script to read. “Story narration is a weak area for me. My script will be better than my narration and the film will be better than the script. So I give everyone my script. And most people here have seen my previous work and trust me. I have been really fortunate with actors. They have stood by my side and have shown interest in my process and that is very encouraging for me.” 

Menon credits director Anwar Rasheed, who directed Ustad Hotel (written by Menon)for influencing her in treating her scripts with a commercial touch. She says his style of filmmaking inspired her to make a full-on commercial film with Bangalore Days (2014). “When Anwar directed Ustad Hotel, I learnt that my material could be treated in a commercial and entertaining way. So, while making Bangalore Days, I wrote the material in the same manner and it was inspiring to know that my materials could be treated commercially. But I struggled with the writing part and I was not completely happy. Once when Anwar visited my home, he saw that I had written on my board, “Where is the soul?” He laughed a lot and told me that commercial films won’t get the soul. Luckily by the end, I managed to get the soul of Bangalore Days. I learnt that while giving commercial treatment to a film, one should not give up on writing. I think it is the marriage of the styles,” says Menon.

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