Debut director Raj Singh Chaudhary’s Shaadisthan is an intimate portrait of two colliding worlds — one, a conservative middle-class family, the other a rebellious but self-aware group of youngsters — as they grapple and reconcile with their inner wounded, unfulfilled spaces and conflicting ideologies.
Powerful performances all around support Shaadisthan‘s emotionally resonant writing. Kirti Kulhari, known for her performances in Pink and the very recent The Girl on the Train, is both fierce and tender and impeccably inhabits Sasha. Nivedita Bhattacharya as Kamla gives one of the quietest, yet most powerful performances I’ve seen in a long time. Arshi nails her part with careful restraint. Rajan Modi, as the parochial patriarch, bound by societal norms, is spot on.
On writing Shaadisthan
The film creates relatable characters brought alive by Singh’s eye for depicting the mundane. For instance, the little behavioural quirks like how Rajan Modi hangs his phone around his neck. Or how he nudges his wife away when she dozes off on his shoulder.
“When writing your characters or their conversations I think it’s important to get the milieu right. I could give you examples of Dum Laga Ke Haisha or Ankhon Dekhi. Or look at Shoojit Sircar’s films. If you could get the milieu right, a lot of your dialogues and inherent humour and characteristics come from there,” writer-director Raj Singh Chaudhary tells Flickside.
Shaadisthan creates some sparkling moments of humor, while never taking itself too seriously. That’s what adds to its charm and the free-spiritedness of its characters. “The most difficult part of dialogue writing I feel is the humor but that I think has a lot to do with the performances of your actors,” says Raj.
Whereas, in some of the more intense scenes, the film uses dialogue sparingly. The silences provide enough subtext, and evoke emotion more eloquently than words could.
Chaudhary graciously thwarts the perception that women screenwriters can write better female characters. “I have seen both these worlds, I know what Kirti’s and Nivedita’s worlds entail, I’ve heard these conversations, so it was easier for me to relate to them… the undergarment analogy, for instance, at the end of the film, these are things I’ve seen growing up,” the Rajasthan-born writer adds.
My minor grouse with the film was the resolution. Was it tad too simplistically handled? “I’m getting that feedback from a lot of people,” says Chaudhary. “So there are two ways of resolving things. One is you go the dramatic way. While writing this, there was a lot of thinking we did. I, personally, wanted to keep it very simple. May be it did not come across the way I wanted it, but it was sort of an internal decision,” says Chaudhary, who also wrote Anurag Kashyap’s cult classic Gulaal a decade ago.
How Gulaal happened
Chaudhary was in college when he had written the first draft of Gulaal. It was Manoj Bajpayee-starrer Satya, co-written by Anurag Kashyap, that had sown the first seed of inspiration for the film. “I was in awe. I felt if someone could make a film on the underworld that was so stark, so real and so honest, why hasn’t anybody done something like that around college hostel and ragging?
The first draft of Gulaal was based on my experiences during my engineering college days. And I knew Anurag was the right person to meet for this idea that was in my head. He was directing Paanch, that two of my friends were part of. They introduced me to Anurag. He heard what I had written and really liked it. That’s where it all began. We went to Rajasthan and did a little bit of research. That’s how the Rajputana angle came in,” tells Chaudhary, who also played the lead in the film.
Two years later, a short story he wrote became the script of Anurag Kashyap’s No Smoking.
So what’s next for Singh after Shaadisthan? “I’m editing a film at the moment. It’s a genre-driven thriller starring Anil Kapoor and is due for an OTT release sometime this year.”