‘Evil Eye’ writer Madhuri Shekar: Discrimination doesn’t have to be overt 

Indian-American writer Madhuri Shekar says discrimination does not have to be overt, but is happy to see the tide changing in American showbiz

Indian-American writer Madhuri Shekar
Indian-American writer Madhuri Shekar


Indian-American writer Madhuri Shekar says discrimination does not have to be overt, but is happy to see the tide changing in American showbiz.

Madhuri is the woman behind plays like "In Love And Warcraft", "A Nice Indian Boy", "House Of Joy" and "Dhaba On Devon Avenue". Her audio play "Evil Eye" has been adapted into a film backed by popular names like producer Jason Blum and actress-producer Priyanka Chopra.

Asked about the challenges she faced to earn a spot in American showbiz, Madhuri told IANS: "I have never experienced overt or blatant sexism or racism in my career, but I also know that there are far fewer people of my background working in this field than there ought to be. Discrimination doesn't have to be overt! But the tide is changing and I am so excited by the many 'desi' writers, directors and producers working in the industry right now, and getting their projects made."

Talking about "Evil Eye", she said she enjoyed revisiting her own work for the film.

"The audio play was always meant to be for that format alone, and when we started the process of adapting it to film it became a wonderful new challenge of revisiting the story from a completely different mindset. I think the audio play and the film are two different experiences of the story," she said.

"Evil Eye", directed by Elan Dassani and Rajeev Dassani, shows how a seemingly perfect romance turns into a nightmare when a mother becomes convinced that her daughter's new boyfriend has a dark connection to her own past.

It has romance, drama, and many twists and turns. Was it a conscious decision to not put it within one genre?

"It wasn't a conscious decision while writing it, but it definitely was a challenge to modulate the various tonal changes that the story goes through. I decided to take a very personal and amusing situation that happened to me (being set up by my parents) and take it to a scary endpoint - and the mix of genres happened naturally as a result," she explained.

Writing for a film was different, for sure. "Film is a visual medium, and is much more reliant upon a director's vision and storytelling. What I was providing, as the screenwriter, was a strong and solid blueprint that the directors would use to build out a beautiful world. It was exciting for me to expand the landscape of the audio play and let visuals tell the story, and give Rajeev and Elan and our incredible cast the jumping-off point to make the story their own," said Madhuri.

Toxic relationships are everywhere. Is that why the film is globally relevant?

"I would agree. I also think a mother's love for her child, or a complicated relationship with your parents, or living a multi-cultural immigrant life as a young person - those themes are everywhere too," she pointed out.

She also wants to send out a message to the audience through her film.

"Trust your instincts. On a larger level, the fact that this movie got made, and is the first Indian-American commercial Hollywood thriller, is an exciting development for global Indian film. I hope many rising filmmakers see the film and get inspired to get their own movies made, and make the field more diverse and interesting," she said.

Looking forward, she is one of the writers on HBO's "The Nevers".

Sharing her experience, she said: "It was terrific! The writer's room was so much fun, staffed by incredibly talented folks, and the world that Joss Whedon (creator) built is truly magical. I can't wait to see the show myself."

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