Made in Chandigarh: ‘Fly high, stay grounded’ says  screenwriter Jyoti Kapoor
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Made in Chandigarh: ‘Fly high, stay grounded’ says screenwriter Jyoti Kapoor

A senior journalist once told me “Don’t ever say no to a cup of tea even if you hate tea. Listen to people, look into their eyes when they tell you their stories. Mingle”.

punjab Updated: Aug 17, 2018 12:04 IST
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Mumbai,screenwriter,jounalist
Jyoti Kapoor(HT Photo)

Born in Karnal, educated in Chandigarh, this feisty young woman has blazed a trail in Bollywood by dint of sheer hard work, courage of conviction and dollops of imagination.

Designation/Work

Screenwriter based out of Mumbai

Hometown

I was born and raised in Karnal, where my parents are still settled. However, if I divide the amount of time I’ve spent in various cities that my education and work took me to, I’d call Chandigarh and Mumbai as much my home.

Education

I graduated from GCG- 11, Chandigarh in English literature and then moved to Panjab University to study Masters in Mass Communication. I was also multitasking as an NCC cadet while I was in college. Though I was totally enamoured of the armed forces, two camps later, I realised that marching in a straight file wasn’t my thing.

After working as a journalist in Chandigarh and Mumbai for the next few years, I went back to studying again. FTII, Pune, was the next stop where I did a diploma in Screenplay Writing.

My Chandigarh connect

I spent close to nine beautiful years in this city and made memories for a lifetime. As I pen this from faraway Calgary in Canada, I can see the gorgeous PU campus, my batch-mates and I cycling from Mata Gujari Hostel to the department, I can see the mini thaalis at Student Centre. I can see us guzzling chai and samosas at the canteen while the class is on, and our Editing teacher, dear Sharma Sir, who is no more, summoning us with his gentle, “Kaka chaa andar aa ke pi lavo. Samose vi lei aao”.

I can still feel the high of seeing my first byline when I was still a student. I remember waking up at the crack of the dawn and rushing to buy six copies of the newspaper. I remember the trips to Sukhna Lake, the barsaati that I shared with two other batch-mates in a humungous kothi in Sector 11. And how can I forget the good old Sector 17? The happening Hot Millions, those trips to Sector 22 to buy cheap (but sexy) clothes, those retreats to Timber Trail, Morni Hills, and Kasauli. Those tree-laden streets, the gorgeous roundabouts, Chandigarh is definitely one of the most beautiful cities I have lived in.

Area of expertise

I have been a full-time screenwriter since 2006, staring at my laptop, making up stories. I have worked on corporate films on paints and wood finishes to keep the boat afloat, briefly taught screenwriting at Whistling Woods International, a well-known film school in Mumbai, and made an insane amount of money during my very brief stint at TV. Some of the films and TV shows that I have worked on as a writer are Daawat-E-Ishq, Kaccha Limboo, Left Right Left et al. My upcoming film, Good News, is being produced by Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions, and features Akshay Kumar, Kareena Kapoor, Diljit Dosanjh and Kiara Advani. I have high hopes from this film, which is semi-autobiographical, ‘semi’ being the operative word here.

My secret sauce

Just be yourself and go with the flow. Soar high but keep your feet on the ground. Always believe in your gut. At times, your weaknesses can become your biggest strengths. I was always conscious of being a small town girl. But if it were not for the small, colourful towns I inhabited, I would’ve never had these myriad experiences that honed my skills as a writer.

The turning point

I was going through a rough divorce when FTII happened. And life changed forever.

What I owe to Chandigarh

The beautiful experiences I took away from this city make me who I am today. The warm-hearted people, the abundant greenery, the serenity, and the beauty of Chandigarh, have a special place in my heart. I owe my first script, called ‘Press Club’, to Chandigarh.

Things I like to do when I visit Chandigarh

I go to PU, take a stroll in Sector 17, visit the stunning Rock Garden where I once interviewed its creator, the adorable Nek Chand over chai and pakodas.

How has the city changed

I find the roads more congested, the traffic is at an all time high.

Change I want to see in the city

Give more freedom to your girl students. Set them free. My most dreaded experience was as a hosteller in GCG. It was a beautiful institution but I will always regret being holed up inside the hostel for most of the three years I spent there. We weren’t even allowed to venture into the college campus after 5 pm. Oh how I hated the dreaded evening roll call, the godforsaken outing cards.

The best advice I ever got

A senior journalist once told me “Don’t ever say no to a cup of tea even if you hate tea. Listen to people, look into their eyes when they tell you their stories. Mingle”. This mantra applies to my current job as well. Then Gregory David Roberts, the author of Shantaram, once said, “Always, always take a backup. You computer can crash any time!”. That’s a great piece of advice for a writer.

My advice to youngsters in my field

Listen to your gut. Don’t procrastinate. Don’t aim for perfection. Just sit down and write.

First Published: Aug 17, 2018 12:04 IST