Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari on her approach to filmmaking, her love for reading, and her next project on Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy and his wife Sudha Murthy
Filmmaker Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari is adding a new dimension to Hindi cinema with her narratives. From her debut Nil Battey Sannata (2016) and her second film Bareilly Ki Barfi (2017) to her latest release, Panga, the director has offered unique stories about small-town India with a focus on the evolving Indian woman. Her recent short film, Ghar Ki Murgi, starring Sakshi Tanwar, which dropped on SonyLIV, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, explored the idea of homemakers taking a break from their routine life of managing home and family.
It’s stories like these, which look at simple yet significant things in life, that speak to Ashwiny. Though female roles are played up, the filmmaker refrains from calling her films women-centric. “My protagonists are women but the film is presented from different points of view. We should stop labelling films as female-centric. We don’t name other films as male-centric, so I think we must stop categorising,” asserts Ashwiny. The uniqueness of her movies lies in the treatment of the characters. Although most of these represent small-town people, Ashwiny makes them aspirational. Whether it was Bitti and her father in Bareilly Ki Barfi, or Prashant Shrivastava, former Kabaddi champ Jaya’s husband in Panga, the director’s characters, like in most of her films, were inspirational. “You will find such people everywhere in society. What we do on-screen is we stay true to the small-town essence of such people. Cinema is the voice of the voiceless and it is a mode of change. It takes the audience into a world where everyday characters like Prashanth and Pritam Vidrohi (Bareilly Ki Barfi) exist and the point is to make these characters both aspirational and inspirational,” offers Ashwiny.
Keeping it precise
Her background in advertising is perhaps the reason the filmmaker is so focused and clear about what she wants to convey through her stories. Having worked on leading ad campaigns for nearly two decades, Ashwiny has evolved as a filmmaker with an eye for detail. “My outlook towards direction and filmmaking is defined because of my experience in advertising. Although working on 60-second videos is completely different from working on a film, I could say that advertising has taught me objectivity and discipline. I never lose focus of the goal,” explains the director who is married to filmmaker Nitesh Tiwary. In fact, Nitesh scripted and wrote dialogues for Ashwiny’s first two films, and he has also scripted the short film Ghar Ki Murgi. Talking about working as a couple, she says, “For us, work is life and life is work, and an idea can come from anywhere. But yes, after children and having spent so many years together, we are quite comfortable with each other and don’t really talk about work unless it’s required.”
Between films, Ashwiny spends her time either reading, practising yoga, watching web series or painting. An avid reader, she reveals that she has picked up a lot of books on psychology because it’s a subject that’s kept her hooked at the moment. By the end of this year, the filmmaker will also release her first novel. Meanwhile, Ashwiny has been busy with her next project — a film on Infosys co-founder NR Narayana Murthy and his wife Sudha Murthy. “It’s too early to talk about it. But it’s not a biopic. It will be more like a life story about both of them. They are stalwarts. This project is more than a film for me. It will take time and I need to be very careful and true to what I write,” she signs off.