Writer-director Ivan Ayr is ready to pitch for his next project, a period drama set in the immediate aftermath of Indian Sub-Continent’s Partition, and refine the script further that draws from the experiences of his extended family who found themselves in a state of confusion in 1948 about where their future lies Interview with Ivan ayr
Writer-director Ivan Ayr’s first film, Soni (2018), is a grim, gritty drama revolving around two policewomen holding their own in the face of daunting workplace and personal pressures. His second will be far removed from the unsafe streets of present-day Delhi. Ayr is in Berlin with “the first rough draft” of a period drama set in the immediate aftermath of the Partition, a period of great turmoil for individuals and families.
The screenplay has been selected for The Berlinale Talents Script Station. Ayr is one of 10 filmmakers who will be mentored for a week as part of the programme. “My plan is to sit with mentors and see if I can refine my script a little bit. I believe four or five of the filmmakers will be further selected to pitch their projects to a panel of producers,” he says.
Ayr adds: “I see the Script Station as a precursor to the Berlinale Co- Production Market, which I hope to be a part of next year.”
His forthcoming film, says Ayr, is set in 1948, about six months after the Partition. “The story unfolds in a period when things are not set in stone. Some of the decisions have already been made but some are in a state of flux.It was a period when people were still confused about where their future lies, whether it lies in India or on the other side of the border.”
Asked what has drawn him to the subject, Ayr says that neither his parents nor grandparents were Partition victims, but parts of his extended family were people who had to move when the Radcliffe Line was drawn. “Some bits of the story have come from the experiences of the extended family, from how they were in different cities and how they found each other and reunited on the other side of the border.”
Ayr, who is very much an “insider”, but in many ways is also someone looking in at Indian society from the outside. He spent his early childhood in Delhi.He went to San Francisco for higher studies and then stayed on to work in the US for a decade.He returned to India in 2018.
Ayr regards Chandigarh as his hometown. “Both my parents worked for the Government of India and moved around quite a bit. We went to Chandigarh, then to Jaipur, and then back to Chandigarh, where I spent 12 to 13 of my formative years. My parents still live there.”Ayr works out of Chandigarh to this day because he does “not see the need to be in Mumbai”.
On the ‘Soni’ screenplay, Ayr collaborated with Kislay (who went on to make one of last year’s finest independent films, ‘Aise Hee’). Will he look for a co-writer for the new film as well? “What I usually do,” he replies, “is write the first draft myself. For subsequent drafts I get somebody on board to help with refining the script and also in reimagining some parts of it. Kislay worked with me on the second and third drafts of Soni.” That will pretty much be the process once again, says Ayr. “I will get a cowriter to work with me.”
“The spaces I work in dictate my style a lot,” says Ayr is response to a question on how different his new film will be from Soni. “Also, because this is a period drama, I am not likely to do everything exactly the way did in Soni.”
He adds: “Something that I get inspired by is character-driven stories. That is central to my style and sensibility as a filmmaker. Sticking to characters and seeing things from their point of view is something that I will try and focus on.”
Ayr’s next film, whose script development is being supported by a part of the cash that the prize that Soni won in Pingyao International Film Festival fetched him, is bound to be bigger than Soni. “Yes, it is a period drama, so it will be more ambitious and bigger in scale.” He expects to keep working on the script for “the next six months to a year”. He will think of casting and other details until next year, says Ayr.