Saiwyn Quadras has lived a hindi film’s story in many ways. It was evident that he was going to be a part of one, one fine day. A childhood spent in an orphanage, a teenage spent in finding ways to make his name known to many, Saiwyn finally arrived when he wrote gems like Mary Kom and Neerja which not only were praised for the content but made good money at the box-office as well.

Two films old as a screenwriter, Saiwyn is looking forward now to his upcoming project with Subhash Ghai.

Bollywoodirect got an opportunity to speak with this young screenwriter who has carved his niche in the film industry through sheer hard work and perseverance.

Just take us through your journey! Your childhood, growing up years and everything about it?

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Saiwyn Quadras

I was born in Abu Dhabi and when I was two years old, I came back to Mumbai with my family. My parents separated because they were not getting along well. In 1990, my father expired and my mother had to go abroad for work. I and my brother grew up in a boarding school. It was an orphanage, actually. That is where I joined a musical choir and started doing something creative. It was then that I had decided I wanted to do something in the field of media. Life took its course and I did my diploma in event management and managed to get a job in an event company run by Omung Kumar. He was my first boss.

And he turned out to be your first director as well!

Yes. Now he is my friend and in a way, we both debuted together. There is another friend of mine –  Actor Karan Grover and he used to work in Omung’s company only. Later on, he became a star in Indian television. Once, he was hosting Star Parivar Awards and Omung was doing the set design. I had shifted from that event company to Zee music some time back. Through Karan, I and Omung got connected again. Omung asked me what I was doing and I told him that I was writing for TV but want to write films. He asked me to come and meet him as he was also planning to become a director. We wrote a lot of scripts for three years or so. They turned out to be big-budgeted films.

Omung then suggested me to write female- oriented films. I came out with the idea of Mary Kom. Omung did not know who she was but once he learned about her, he got very excited. I started writing the story in June 2011 and by August 2012 Mary Kom had won an Olympic medal and that day we had three producers. One of them was Sanjay Leela Bhansali and that is how we got started.

While Making A Biopic, Responsibility of Someone’s Life Is In Your Hands: Omung Kumar

So Mary Kom was a very well planned film it seems. The way you collaborated with Omung and then deciding mary-kom-poster-omung kumar-priyanka chopra-saiwyn quadras-pic-interview-screen play-writer-story-bollywoodirectthat a female – centric film would be the best idea!

Yes, definitely. We had worked for three years and Omung was someone from the industry. He was a very popular art director back then with films like Black, Saawariya, Love Story 2050. Omung knew that he had access to filmmakers, actors but nobody was going to trust us so soon. He thought that it was easier to get an actress to do a role and normally, actresses don’t have a problem in trusting first timers if they come up with good subjects. Then, we discussed a few ideas like Jhansi Ki Rani and couple of other ideas and then we thought it should be something contemporary. Then, suddenly Mary Kom’s story popped up in my head because I used to follow sports and read about it.

When did this writing bug bit you? What are the factors that made you become a writer?

I started writing in the orphanage when I was 13 years old. I wrote to burn out my negative emotions. I used to put all my negative emotions down on paper and it used to take the shape of a poem. As soon as I used to shut the book after writing, the negative emotions were out instantly too. Once I remember, our orphanage had taken us to an old age home and we spent some time with old people living there. I just could not bear that feeling of being lonely at such a stage of your life. It had a lasting effect on me. When I came back, I wrote a poem called ‘Happiness’. From there on, I developed a habit to write regularly. Then from poetry, I shifted to writing short stories. I also started watching films. This shaped me as a writer.

What kind of films did you watch?

In my childhood, I remember my favorite films were Kalia and Don. Disco Dancer was one film I loved. I went to watch Jurassic Park and I saw Dinosaurs. I thought dinosaurs are extinct then how come are they on screen. That film made you believe that there is a Jurassic park somewhere in real life. It got stuck in my head. Later on, I got to know about VFX and all such things. I realized people have the power to create something which is not there. When you get to know that, you also want that kind of power where you can transport other people in your world.

Reading from an early age and taking part in extra-curricular activities and a mixture of all these things have worked towards making me a writer.

Earlier you said, you indulged yourself into writing when you were just 13. Did isolation make you do that? Do you think Isolation work better for a writer or is it an individual process?

At that time when I started writing, I was just trying to find how to vent my emotions. Some people find their vent by abusing, by doing other things, I found it in writing. And by Isolation, I do not mean physical isolation but mental isolation. I would be in a crowd and still be isolated. I think such experiences help me now as I can write sitting in a crowd and I don’t need to go in a room to write. If I have to change a scene or a dialogue on the set, then it doesn’t mean that I will have to go and write it in the Vanity. I can write then and there only. I can focus my brain.

How did Neerja happen?

When Mary Kom was being shot, I had decided that my next film would be on the floor when Mary Kom releases. ShantiNeerja-poster-omung kumar-Sonam Kapoor-saiwyn quadras-pic-interview-screen play-writer-story-bollywoodirect Shivaram who is the co-producer of the film along with Atul Kasbekar was a good friend. She is also the co-partner in Bling. I knew she was the one managing Sonam Kapoor’s films. I had read about Neerja’s story 5 years ago in some newspaper.

When I was thinking about my next film, I don’t know how this story clicked my mind. I researched about her story.  The more I read about her, the more I wanted to write about it. When I saw Neerja’s face, I could picture Sonam Kapoor in her role.  I went to Shanti’s place to tell her that I had a great story for Sonam. She was not at home and I narrated the story to her Husband Ashish. He loved it. He called Shanti and told her to talk to me immediately.

Shanti called me the next day when I was traveling from Mira Road railway station to Andheri. I narrated the story to her standing at Mira Road railway station. Shanti then told about it to Atul and Sonam. Both of them loved the concept. That is how it got started.

Was it a strategy to do women-centric films, one after the other?

I would not say it is a strategy. I had thought that after Mary Kom, it would be easy to approach producers with another women-centric film and thankfully Neerja happened but people often tell me that Saiwyn it is easy to make people ready for a ‘Hero’ driven film than a film in which the hero is an actress. I believe the stories of these films were so strong that both the films clicked.

Those are inspiring stories. I wanted to write films which not only entertained but inspired people. It is not like I am only writing biopics or I am only writing female -oriented movies. A couple of movies I am working upon currently are not women-centric subjects.

I am happy that I was able to bring two very powerful stories of two unsung heroes on screen. Mary Kom is a five-time world champion but not many knew her. Same is the case with Neerja. She was someone who saved so many lives and was the youngest recipient of Ashok Chakra and in these times, we need some strong characters. I am glad that these two are immortalized now through these films.

Just take us through your writing process?

I think it is an idea that excites me the first. If that idea has struck me then it keeps revolving around my head even if I am partying or I am in a meeting. The idea gets bigger by the day as I ponder more about it. I keep forming the idea and give it a lot of time to build inside my head. I don’t jump into writing straight away. It is only after I know that it is time to get in front of the laptop that I start writing. It is the idea that pushes me to write. I try to make the sequence of the story, make it in the form of a story. Then, develop the scenes.

I work on developing the emotions of the characters. It is like solving a puzzle. It is all about writing a journey which the audience will enjoy. I try to focus a lot on the characters. If a character is not needed in the story, then it should be removed. If you don’t remove the character, the editor would do it. I make sure that my script is 70% edit lock. That I have seen the film much before it has been shot.

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Saiwyn On The Sets Of Neerja

As someone who wants to write for films, what is the one thing he or she must stick to? Do you suggest any formula?

As a writer, you need to read. Read scripts which are available online. Read news as much as you can. Research a lot even if you are doing a fictional story. Research helps you reach realities. A writer must also be very aware and observant. Observe people even if you are sitting in a coffee shop. 

Your upcoming projects?

One that is confirmed is a Subhash Ghai film which is based on modern day relationship. A couple of more talks are on but they are not official right now.

Interview By: Shubham Pandey

Pic Courtesy: Saiwyn Quadras

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