New York Film Academy Screenwriting alumna Devashree Shivadekar has been a busy woman since she left NYFA’s hallowed halls. Her most recent success comes in the form of a script which she co-wrote with director Tejas Prabha Vijay Deoskar for a project which stars India’s biggest dancing sensation, Madhuri Dixit-Nene.
Shivadekar spoke with NYFA correspondent Joelle Smith about the stories she hopes to tell and what she believes audiences will take from her latest film.
Shivadekar: I knew I wanted to be a writer at the age of eight or nine while watching my first film in the theater, “Jurassic Park.” Of course, I didn’t know what went into making a film, or what a “script” was, but I knew I wanted to make others feel the way those characters (granted they were dinosaurs) made me feel — giddy with joy, excitement, fun, and fear.
NYFA: Why was NYFA the right school for you to further your craft?
Shivadekar: NYFA was the only school that had the perfect combination of film and television writing that also included a hands-on approach. Out of a select few schools that I applied to, this was an institute that felt welcoming to immigrants and foreign students.
NYFA: What class was your favorite and why?
Shivadekar: All the workshop classes were my favorite. Ripping into each other’s scripts — now why wouldn’t that be fun? But these classes taught me to not only give constructive feedback but also to accept, embrace and incorporate others’ criticism of your work into your writing — while not pulling your hair out.
NYFA: How did you change as a writer once you finished the program?
Shivadekar: Being a writing student and a writer are two polar opposite things. Once I finished school, it was a whole new ball game. Learning things the hard way was the only (and the best) option for me. I was lucky enough to get an internship at NBC Universal while I was doing my MFA, but “working in the industry” and “working in the industry as a writer” are very different. It took some time (a lot of time) but it was all worth it. The most important thing was to keep writing and churning out script after script like a thought factory.
Shivadekar: A good story isn’t necessarily the one that makes you think of going to the theatre, it’s a story that makes you think when you come out of it. If it makes you think after watching it, then I’ve succeeded as a storyteller.
NYFA: How did Madhuri Dixit become involved in your latest film?
Shivadekar: Madhuri Dixit is the biggest star in India. I never thought she would be within my creative reach. But we had such a strong faith in our story that we took a risk and decided to pitch it to her. One thing led to another and the next thing we know, we are having coffee at her mansion in Mumbai and discussing the script. She’s the Meryl Streep of India — not just a talented actor but also an immensely loved individual. It was truly an honor to have her bring our script to life.
NYFA: Are there any nerves going into production? How are you managing those feelings?
Shivadekar: It’s the “good” kind of nerves. This is the feeling every storyteller craves; the anticipation of going to the set and excitedly waiting for your words to translate onto the big screen.
NYFA: What was it like working with your writing partner on this film?
Shivadekar: Effortless. It was like yin and yang, fire and water, north pole-south pole, two sides of the same coin … Alright, I’m out of metaphors. But you get the point. At times, we were one mind and other times we were like one entity with dual personalities. But the end result was creative magic.
NYFA: How do you hope audiences will react to this film?
Shivadekar: I hope everyone watching the film would see themselves in our characters. I hope it inspires them, motivates them and makes them think about their lives (to better them in the best way possible).
NYFA: Are there any other films in the works that you can tell us about?
Shivadekar: There are a couple of exciting projects in the pipeline, but we’ll know more as time progresses.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Devashree Shivadekar for taking the time to speak with us. We look forward to her next project.