‘Nitesh Tiwari and I are damn good collaborators’: Ashwini Iyer Tiwari

Debarati Palit Singh
Friday, 20 March 2020

Director Ashwini Iyer Tiwari speaks about working with husband Nitesh Tiwari, being a responsible filmmaker and what makes her journey as a woman exciting.

From telling the inspirational tale of Chanda Sahay in Nil Battey Sannata to breaking conventional mindsets in Bareilly Ki Barfi and Panga, Ashwini Iyer Tiwari has given a whole new dimension to women-centric cinema. The talented director’s short film — Ghar Ki Murgi, is no different. The film, which premiered on SonyLIV on the eve of International Women’s Day, will make you realise how every woman, who balances her family and other responsibilities without any complaint, deserves to be celebrated. It will make you realise how you might have taken your mother for granted. Ashwini says that her nine and half-year-old son has already started taking her for granted. “Not in terms of cooking and all, because that’s not our generation thing but he revolts when he wants something and he is confident that I will get it for him. My daughter does not take me for granted but my son does,” she says.
When working on such relatable stories, how much of it is inspired from her life or the situations around her? She says, “Not everything but there could be elements. However, I truly feel that it’s the story of every progressive household in every progressive nation around the world. At some places, it could be about cooking or no one remembering the mother’s birthday, at other places, it might be something else,” she says, adding that it’s not just the men — the husband or son — who take the woman for granted; the daughter too does it. 

A successful collaboration with her husband 
While Ashwini has directed the film which stars Sakshi Tanwar, her filmmaker husband Nitesh Tiwari has written the story. Ashwini says that Nitesh and she have been working together for almost 17 years, which started with ad films. “I started off as a director, he as a writer and then both of us became theatre directors. We have worked together in an ad agency for a very long time and we are comfortable adding to each others’ attributes. Nitesh and I are damn good collaborators without any ego issues and we are also very different directors,” she says. 

She adds that they always focus on each other’s strengths. “For example, Nitesh is a good director and I am an art director. But our end goal, what we want to achieve even as husband and wife, has always been the same. Our ideologies, process of working, what we expect from our team members — have always been the same. And we do not interfere in each other’s work,” says the talented director.

But are they critical of each other’s work? Ashwini replies, “Of course. When you are close to someone and you share your ideas, it’s also important to be critical of those ideas for each one to grow,” she says.

The two successfully balance their work and life as partners and parents. She says the reason she has successfully collaborated with Nitesh at different levels is because their motto has always been ‘live and let live’. “When the decision of having kids is taken together, then taking care and educating the kids falls on both father and mother too. We have always believed in the idea of co-parenting. Who will take the homework or who will drop them to the bus-stop has never been a challenge; it automatically happens. Whoever is there is at that point of time, does the work,” she says. 

Being responsible as a filmmaker 
Ashwini, who made her directorial debut with Nil Battey Sannata, hates the term female director and wants everyone to stop stereotyping. But she agrees that since her protagonists are women, she does feel a sense of responsibility as to how she portrays them on screen. “At the end of the day, if I am talking about characters who are progressive in nature in whatever way, it is the reflection of the society we live in. What is the role of cinema? It is to inspire people with the kind of stories we tell. I want to inspire and that’s the reason I do not show aggressiveness in my characters and even though I do show a bit, the outcome has to be positive.”

Every woman goes through the journey of being a daughter, mother, wife, professional. What makes her journey as a woman exciting for her, we ask Ashwini. She says the fact that she is born a woman. “I am lucky to be born a woman and I can do anything I want. I can bear children and be on both sides because I can think like a woman and act like a man,” she says.  

Happy with ‘Panga’
While her last release Panga got a lot of critical acclamation, it could not make much business at the box-office. Ashwini is happy that critics have loved the film. She feels the box-office collection depends on a lot of factors including the current environment, which is not under her control. “If people come and tell me that I have made a bad film and it’s not done well at the box-office, then it’s my responsibility,” she says before signing off.

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