Desi girl in the West

Alisha Shinde
Monday, 18 February 2019

A screenwriter in Hollywood, Vidhya Iyer, who has been working in both television shows and movies, tells us how she would love to create a space for great South Asian and female stories in the West

A passionate screenwriter in Hollywood, Vidhya Iyer has been working in both television shows and movies. Iyer, who was born and raised in Nigeria and moved to Chennai when she was 12, completed Computer Engineering and then moved to Los Angeles. She studied screenwriting at the American Film Institute Conservatory and became a professional screenwriter. Iyer, who is inclined towards sitcoms, wants to use comedy as a medium for narration and highlight the fact that being a woman in today’s world is tough. Talking to Iyer, we find out more about her journey and her innings in Hollywood so far. 

- How did you find your passion for the creative side? Was writing, directing and being a comedian always on your agenda?
In fact, it’s the other way round — my passion found me. My mom always encouraged creative activities when I was younger. I went for dance and singing lessons. My mom and I would draw, paint, do embroidery, bake cakes and so on. My dad always told me stories when growing up which made me love stories. He would narrate tales off the top of his head and keep me engaged and entertained for hours. Writing was always a big part of my plan. Directing and performing comedy kinda happened along the way. 

- Being an Indian do you think there is appropriate representation of the Eastern countries in Hollywood?
There isn’t nearly enough representation of minorities and international cultures in Hollywood. Things are getting better with movies like Crazy Rich Asians, however, the progress is slow. I’m hoping I will be a part of the change. 

- When it comes to comedy, we have a lot of women who are getting into the space. But a lot of feedback often points out that the acts being put up by women comedians are not funny and mostly revolve around women’s survival in today’s world. Is it true?
I don’t think it’s true. It ‘is’ difficult being a woman in today’s world. It’s even harder being a female comedian in India. There are some great female comics and there are some that are on their way to greatness. The thing about stand-up is that it takes years of being terrible and getting booed at to get good at it. That said, women aren’t given the same chances as men to fail.  

- What is that one change that you would like to bring into Hollywood through your work?
I grew up as a third culture kid and I love that the world is getting smaller and we have so much exposure to different countries and people everywhere now. I would love to create a space for great South Asian and female stories. I also hope to create work that speaks about authentic experiences of Indian and Nigerian cultures as well. I’d like to write what I know and I know those places since I call both countries home. 

- What is the most challenging part for you?
The most challenging thing is having to battle the constant feeling that I’m not quite doing as much as I feel like I should be doing, which is something I struggle with outside of my craft as well. #workaholic 

- What is the one thing that you love about your job?
I love everything about it, but my favourite thing is the feeling of pride when I finish a screenplay that I’m really excited about.

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