Swara Bhasker on Taandav, Fear in Bollywood and Turning Producer

Swara Bhasker shares how she has had to modify scripts fearing backlash due to hurting religious sentiments.

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Video Editor: Mohd Irshad Alam
Cameraperson: Shiv Kumar Maurya
Production Assistant: Jaspreet Singh

Have there been scripts that have been cancelled or modified due to the fear amongst content creators? Can you give us an example.

I remember there was this one something (project) I was doing, where the Hanuman Chalisa was being recited in a scene. It was a comedy scene, and I was the person who said, ‘Don’t say the Hanuman Chalisa, say something else, change it to something mumbo jumbo, to any unidentifiable language.’ I said this because I am in the scene, over that the Hanuman Chalisa is being recited and comedy is happening around it, so this would be ripe for a controversy. Now imagine, this is me being as cautious, who is otherwise so candid.

In this freewheeling conversation with The Quint, activist, and actor Swara Bhasker speaks to us about the increasing fear amongst content creators due to ‘religious feelings being hurt’, the repercussions of it, and being smart about ‘choosing your battles’. Bhasker said on more than one occasion, other than the instance with the Hanuman Chalisa, where she has had to modify her script to exercise caution.

Is there another example you can give us?

There was a joke I had done on the Ram Temple where I said something like ‘the temple has been constructed, the prasad also distributed,’ something like that. The platform said that I should definitely not say this and remove it.

Did it bother you?

I think you have to choose your battles; I think you also have to be smart about... what you... does one joke really... as the show was not about that issue. So, it is okay.

Other than talking about content online, 32-year-old Bhasker also answered questions about her equation with Kangana Ranaut, on how the concept of ‘hurting religious sentiments’ is inane and how she is sure people from Bollywood have distanced themselves from her because of how vocal she is. She understands their concerns and says she does not blame them at all, “If they are going to have to suffer because somebody decided to target me, however unfairly, then what can I say?” She is quick to add how Bollywood is trying to create better content in an environment that is not ideal.

But I think, given the situation, some great content has come out of the country. Whether it is Pataal Lok, Leila, Sacred Games or in films whether there is an Article 15 or a Thappad, or there was Choked and then there was Scam (1992). You know so Indian makers are really trying, they really are. I know that Bollywood gets a lot of flak for not speaking up enough and so on, but I think let’s give them credit where due. They are really trying. They are trying in whatever way they can to bring up issues, make content that has some worth and it is not easy. There is nothing in this atmosphere and in terms of the context, that is helping us.

In her desire to have more control over the content she gets to work on, Swara says she says she can’t wait to begin her career as a scriptwriter with her own production company.

So have you already started writing?

Yeah, I have written two scripts and we basically setting them up.

Tell us about these scripts?

They’re fun! One is a romantic comedy with a twist, about two messed up best friends. One of them rather autobiographical and very fun. It is like a Tanu Weds Manu meets My Best Friend’s Wedding kind of vibe. The other one I am really struggling with, is the biopic of a con woman.

The first script is supposed to go on the floors this year and release next year.

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