Angry Indian Goddesses (AIG), the title says it all. A young Indian woman’s bachelorette party brings all her girlfriends together for fun, secrets, banter, friendship, passion and anger. The film’s cast includes Sandhya Mridul, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Sarah-Jane Dias, Anushka Manchanda, Amrit Maghera, Rajshri Deshpande and Pavleen Gujral in this film touted as a female buddy film. Award winning director Pan Nalin heads up the movie in which the conversation is derived entirely from improvisations among the actors covering everything from sex to street harassment to dreams, desires, fears and their tight bond with each other that eventually leads to extremes.
FUSIA magazine had the opportunity to sit down with Tannishtha Chatterjee, Amrit Maghera, Pavleen Gujral and Director, Pan Nalin when the film made its premiere at Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).
Pan, it is exciting to have you and the cast of AIG here at TIFF! How did you get involved in the project?
Pan Nalin: I had done quite a few women centric films. Not because I wanted to do films with just women only but because they were great stories where women were playing lead roles. It was nearly impossible to find financing. I went to all the studios and producers and they said ‘no, women can’t open the films. You know India. It happens once in a rare.’ Some things have changed with Kahani and Queen but still it really wasn’t possible and it was initially hard to get the financing.
The audience could relate to each Goddess in the movie in one way or another. Was that your intention as a Director?
Pan Nalin: It became clear that this was going to be a story with a bunch of women with strong characters. It should be an envy to want to be-friend them. It meant being authentic. It meant being organic. So when we auditioned we opened our hearts and minds to the girls. I said to them ‘I want to know your stories and it was very beautiful.’
The issues addressed in AIG brought up some sensitive topics surrounding sexuality, harassment and rape, but even with the seemingly heavier topics, there was a simplicity and bond between the goddesses that was light-hearted. How did you achieve this balance?
Pan Nalin: It is difficult and complex to understand equality amongst women, rape, or women being harassed but at the same time, we saw the other side because as you know, India is extremely complex. So some women said it is all bullshit and that women have the highest number of women CEOs, more than America and the U.K. Somehow the struggle was to achieve the balance and to come up with characters that can carry these stories.
In the end, it became what it could become.
How do you think audiences will react to this film?
Pan Nalin: People will be provoked while watching this film.
Pavleen Gujral: I think that is the kind of reaction we are looking forward to because things really need to be stirred up in this area. This movie is not just about angry women. It is a celebration of the human race because that is what is warranted right now. Every man and woman can relate to some character or another. It will definitely appeal to all.
What did you need to do to prepare for this role?
Tannishtha Chatterjee: It was a very interesting experience. It was almost like being in a film or drama school where we woke up and it didn’t feel like we were shooting. We woke up in the morning where we did some meditation and yoga classes and Dilip Shankar, our Acting Coach/Associate Director, would take us through certain acting and theatre exercises. And then slowly take our hands and Nalin would just say ‘start’. It was an organic process. Nalin captured the real emotions.
Pavleen Gujral: This was my first movie and I am spoiled for life now. In the workshops, we had to let the past demons go to take on the characters demons. To let the character flow in you, you have to be completely empty side. The movie has turned out to be the way it is because of the workshops. We naturally flew into our characters. It was organic. Because of the workshops, we could empathize with the characters not just sympathize.
Pavleen – with all the different personalities portrayed by the different goddesses, what goddess do you most identify with?
Pavleen Gujral: Well people say I am exactly my character. However, the goddess I could most relate to is … all of them! They are so many layers to a woman, so many sides, and men don’t go through that. Every woman can relate to one character to another.
At the end of the film, one of the goddess characters said ‘I am tired of being angry.’ How does that statement relate to your life?
Pavleen Gujral: As women we tolerate a lot. So I think it is time now to stand up, to say no and that I have to be respected in some way.
Amrit Maghera: We need to have a voice. We are tired of being angry and keeping it all inside. We are tired of not speaking about it.
Angry Indian Goddesses was first runner up for People’s Choice Award at TIFF. They are travelling the world screening the film in numerous film festivals and being that important voice for all women around the world.
To see the film’s trailer, please visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9751R5eO4k