In Conversation With Mansi Jain, Writer/Director of Chhuri, Everything Is Fine, and Nawab

We all have watched and we all have loved Tisca Chopra’s Chhuri. I don’t know about you but I have definitely loved Nawaab and Everything is Fine. When I wrote about Everything is Fine, I looked for the writer/director for the depth it had. But I cannot say the same for Nawaab and Chhuri.

Now that I have started taking interviews, Mansi Jain was one of the names I had in my mind for the Seema Pahwa starrer short film. But when I dug deeper, I got to know that some of my favourite short films are written/directed by none other than Mansi Nirmal Jain. That added to my excitement. 

So, here’s bringing to you, Mansi Jain, the one I know would make it big in the industry, sooner or later. 

Q. What made you choose writing/directing as a career? 

I didn’t choose it. It chose me I think. I always loved stories. I was/am an introvert who loves observing people and life. I used to write stuff in my head and on paper pretty early on. So I think it was an inevitable natural progression…it was not something I planned. It just seems like all the ingredients were there so it just combusted. 

Q. Till now, most of your work on OTT has been short films. Was it a conscious decision?  

Not at all. Achha kaam aata gaya, and I kept doing it. Other than shorts on OTT, I have written Made in Heaven 2 and Dahaad (Sonakshi Sinha’s first show) for Excel and Tiger Baby. Both are OTT projects. Series and Films take a lot longer, especially when you’re first generation in films. The stakes are very high so it takes forever to build trust. Shorts are comparatively low stakes and more freeing. I love doing shorts. I love the format, the crispness and the creative freedom in it. If a project was good, I would do more for sure.

Q. Everything Is Fine, Nawaab, and Chhuri – All are very different from each other. How do you think of subjects for stories? 

It’s just life. Subjects are floating around all the time. They sometimes match an opportunity and get made into a film or book or whatever. I just observe life all the time. I am interested in existence, dynamics, human behaviour and misbehaviour. And that is what comes out on screen when I make something. That’s also why a lot of my work doesn’t fit into any genre. I have done comedies, dark comedies, thrillers, drama, supernatural pieces…I don’t like being straight jacketed. 

Q. What inspires you? Real life characters or your own creativity? 

I had made Chhuri in my first year of being in Mumbai and Everything is Fine started while I was still in film school – they were both based on people I know. All my features are exploiting my crazy family members, friends and/or myself. So they are based on real people or circumstances and then I add my brand of crazy to it. I guess its about life and wonderment coming together and creating a third thing. 

Q. Do you think OTT has made it easy for filmmakers to launch their work?

I haven’t directed anything on OTT platforms yet so I can’t say for sure. But yes I have gotten great writing work for it. I feel it has a lot more potential that is yet to be milked.

Q. OTT is changing. It’s getting bigger. I don’t know if better but definitely, bigger. Do you think going forward, it will still be able to give independent filmmakers opportunities to showcase their work? 

Hahah that’s a good one…bigger but not necessarily better. I hope things will get better. When Netflix started abroad they had a lot of guts. The binge structure and the content was pathbreaking. They gave chances to odd shows and artists like house of cards, orange is the new black etc. One hoped that, that would happen in India, and hopefully it will. It’s not about being different and noisy for the sake of being different. But about telling narratives that are genuinely unusual or lived by unusual people. Otherwise it’s by rote or cynical in nature, and it shows. 

For the second half of the question, yes, a lot of indie films have found money and homes on OTT platforms. OTT audience is way more open minded and globally aware. So outlier, off kilter things find a bigger fanbase there. But it’s not just about indie films. I think OTTs also have done well for studio-backed films…films that aren’t theatrical in their concept, story or in their cast and crew. 

Q. Any plans to write or direct feature films?

Absolutely. I have written a bunch of scripts that I sold to various studios. But right now I am mostly working on my feature with a big Indian studio that has a talented and bankable actress attached. I got a few directing offers but either the timelines were impossible or the content didn’t connect with me or the money was too low. But, I am ok with that. I am in no rush. Less is more for me. Let’s see how things pan out.

Q. Would you like to tell us about your upcoming projects?

I have a really hard time answering things about the future! So I don’t even know how to answer that. Plus most projects are tied up in NDAs and I don’t want to count my chickens before they hatch. But ya, by God’s grace I keep getting enough satisfying work that I am happily afloat and have the liberty of picking and choosing what to do next. 

If I did have my wish list, I would love to put out positive and fun things in the world. I would love to explore films or series about superhumans, metaphysics, mystical things, superpowers etc especially in the Indian subcontinent. I’d love to do series on people I have spent eons studying & researching. It’s really endless and a treasure trove. I think bringing these things to the mainstream is a call of the times. I hope it can happen someday and with a great team that has the right intentions. 

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