Tahira Kashyap: In a league of her own
She may be the wife of acclaimed actor Ayushmann Khurrana, but Tahira Kashyap is also so much more than just that, discovers Bharati Dubey in an exclusive chat with the writer-filmmaker
Being a star-wife is just another facet of Tahira Kashyap’s strong personality. She herself is a well-known writer and is now all set for her Bollywood directorial debut as well. Having fought cancer valiantly, the cancer survivor is an inspiration for more reasons than one. Here, the feisty filmmaker talks about her directorial debut, her fight with cancer and practice of Nichiren Buddhism that helped her through the ordeal
What are you up to these days?
I am working on a lot of things right now, but will only be able to speak about it when it is closer to culmination. I am heading towards directing my first feature film.
You have written a book and made a short film too… when did you plan to make a feature film?
It is about your true calling. I always wrote because I liked it, but may be in the heart of heart, I’ve always wanted to direct too.Maybe I didn’t have the courage to admit it to myself or to my husband or the world that this is what I want to do as a professional. I also have two kids. So somewhere you feel that you have missed the bus, and you have not been to a film school. Yes, I have done 10 years of theatre. I have written and directed plays. But people must be thinking that now that the husband has become an actor, toh isko bhi isi line mein ghusna hoga, but that is not the case.
So then whom did you approach?
I’ll tell you one of my experiences. I met Hansal Mehta (filmmaker) for my first narration. To meet people in the film industry, Ineeded to take help and my husband Ayushmann called Hansal and told him ‘Sir ek script hai’! Cut to both of us landing up at his office. He kept us waiting for the writer and later Hansal did tell me that he told to himself that ‘ab mere do ghante barbaad ho jayenge kyonki actor baitha hai’ - thankfully he changed his opinion completely. He and Shailesh Singh were the first people to tell me, why don’t Idirect a film and not just be a writer. I did get an offer from them. Right now I am making my first film with Ellipsis Entertainment.
So what kind of films do you want to make?
I want to make films that have substance, yet are entertaining. I do want to make films that are relevant and at the same time they have to be funny and entertaining. That’s how my scripts are and that is how I am as a person.
Your social media post after you were diagnosed with cancer and your picture only oozed of positivity which was very encouraging for people…
That was my coping mechanism and I also wanted to be encouraging to others, so it was for a cause. One of my relatives advised to keep it hidden, at the same time my doctor told me that there are so many women who do not show up when early symptoms are detected as they are shy and at times feel humiliated. Also I felt that they are losing out on life based on humiliation — itna kya khusa hain breast mein that you cannot get a check-up done? When I went bald, I felt liberated and happy and did not felt like a victim.
I remember Ayushmann was busy promoting his film Badhai Ho and had Andhadhun which was a hit when you were in the hospital…
We both have been pillars of strength for each other. I told him that the procedure has taken place, the medication has been given to me, so what will you do? Instead go do what you are good at, doing what you are supposed to do so go there. So he would go for the promotions in the day and come back to the hospital to me at night. We have been pillars of strength for each other and that also comes from having a lot of respect for each other.
Does gender come in the way for a female director?
It is a good time to be born in a film industry in terms of a writer and director. Besides there are so many women doing such beautiful work - Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, Zoya Akhtar, Reema Kagti and Farah Khan. Earlier you had only one or two, and in the future there will be a time when we willnot be able to count them on our fingers. Respect should be given to a filmmaker irrespective of their gender. When I say that, Gully Boy was a very well-directed film that was made by a female filmmaker and that’s how it should be.
You practice Buddhism?
Nichiren Buddhism - it is a very empowering philosophy that was the only thing that kept me going through the ordeal. Agar Buddhism nahin hota toh I would’ve been a very negative person. About three years ago, I was very sad and a negative person - that was my nature – one cannot say why a person is positive or negative, but that was my nature!
Maybe I was a little bitter, as I couldn’t find my calling and was really going down when Buddhism happened. Post it, I was able to dream and dream big and be happy about it -Buddhism changed the DNA of my being! I was positive and started seeing results and I am lucky that cancer struck me when I was going strong in my faith.