Both of them have turned 30, and are part of a similarly titled movie. But, to use a journalistic cliché, the similarities end right here. Alankrita Shrivastava , director of Turning 30 , appears to be the independent, working girl next door-part confident, part confused; practical today, emotional tomorrow and; anxious now, carefree next. Gul Panag , who incidentally plays Alankrita’s altar ego in the movie, knows exactly what she wants and is not afraid of breaking a few eggs if she needs an omelet. What brought the two together then?
“When I conceived the character of Naina as a city-bred independent woman, Gul was the first face that came to my mind,” says Shrivastava, who had seen Panag in Manorma Six Feet Under and was impressed by her calibre. Having worked with noted director Prakash Jha in movies like Gangajal, Aprahan, and finally as associate director in Rajneeti, Shrivastava knew her own independent directorial debut was round the bend. Approaching 30, with a “heart-break”, provided her just that opportunity.
“Prakash Jha decided to fund the movie which would target an audience that can identify with a woman living independently in a fierce world, who can take a setback on her chin and continue walking,” says Shrivastava. The challenge was to make sure that she did not exceed the budget-a little over Rs 3 crore. “For, if the budget moves even a little ahead of the prescribed limit, it will be biting into our profits, considering the kind of genre this movie holds and a limited urban audience,” she says. Thus even when one part of the budget over shot, Shrivastava could adjust it from another set of expenses. “Women are good at it,” she smiles.
Not exactly. In all her 30 years, the debutant director could save very little. Finance wise, she admits to a “hand-to-mouth” (so to speak) existence since “the kind of profession I am in, we don’t have much money to save or invest in”. In Shrivastava’s views, a single woman finds the saving and investments a headache.
Panag begs to differ, strongly. With an assorted finance portfolio complete with bonds, deposits and real estate, the dimpled former Miss India can juggle out stock market logistics without a stammer. “I am not a maths graduate for nothing,” she says. “Although I seek help and advice from my brother-in-law who runs a brokerage firm in Mumbai, I am more property-inclined because realty is more tangible.” Panag is clear on the metamorphosis of turning 30. “You may earn in your twenties but you are not a discerning buyer.
You cannot plan. It is the late twenties when you begin to value quality over the brand. You also think about saving for a rainy day,” says Panag, adding that this is also a period when a girl begins to know what kind of a person you are. “When you are in your twenties, you don’t know if you are a silk person or a chiffon person; a BMW person or a Volkswagen. You live it up hard, you have everything going your way. Thirty is a point where you sit down to take stock of where you are headed. In that way, 30 today is a thinking woman’s 20,” Panag summarises.
The title of a ‘thinking woman’ fits Shrivastava better, even if she may not be vocally as lucid as Panag. Born to an IIMA graduate mother and a bureaucrat father, Shrivastava’s 30-year journey has been a zigzag from Dehradun’s Welham Girls’ school to Delhi’s Lady Shri Ram and Jamia Institute of Mass Communication; brief stints with journalism before moving to Prakash Jha Productions, and realising her cinematic avatar, Naina, in Turning 30.
Asked about the emerging new breed of debutant young directors at a time when the doyens like Ramu and Ratnam are beginning to get it all wrong, she meekly puts it as “merely a change of guard, a passing of the baton”. For her movie, she feels the multiplex dynamics is on her side. “This movie belongs to a niche segment cinema which targets only urban viewers,” she says. “A movie like ours requires more publicity as it is not a star-driven venture. Every plug, word of mouth praise, goes a long way.”
Panag, on the other side, adds spice to Shrivastava’s argument. “Big budget films studded with superstars get more publicity, more funds, and still it may go Blueooom,” she says, apparently taking a swipe at Sanjay Dutt-Lara starrer Blue. But there is little ignoring the reality in her words. “Bollywood may have been given industry status, but when one goes to raise funds for a film venture, he requires a star cast to attract financiers. We may have been lucky to find a produce in Jha but for every small budget success there are a dozen who haven’t seen the light of the day.” Panag holds out a mirror to her own industry. Where does such confidence comes from? Possibly, from turning 30.