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Amanda’s rare feat

May 27
22:05 2012

Indian-American Screenwriter wins award

Amanda Sodhi

LOS ANGELES: Screenwriters are the foundation of any film, yet they seldom get noticed for their work. It’s even rarer for an Indian living overseas to get recognition as a screenwriter. Amanda Sodhi is one such who recently won her first international Award for the ‘Best Screenplay’ for the internationally acclaimed, feature-film Life! Camera Action… at the 28th Goldie Film Awards 2012.

Screenwriter, director, lyricist, vocalist, model, journalist, copywriter and PR/marketing/advertising professional, Amanda is a woman of many talents, as is evident in this interview with India Post:

1. What is Life! Camera Action… about?

Life! Camera Action… is a feature-length film directed by Rohit Gupta which I have co-written along with him. The film tells the inspiring story of a young Indian-American woman who sets off to pursue a career in filmmaking despite all odds and lack of parental support. As she progresses in her filmmaking journey she aims to win back her parents’ support by making them proud. Our film premiered at MIAAC in NY in 2010 and has been touring around the entire world since then. In the process, it has been winning tons of awards and nominations, which feels great! Recently, Rohit and I won the Best Screenplay Award at the 28th Goldie Film Awards for this film. I’m excited to have won my first award.

2. And what is the theme of your other two films, Through Bloodshot Eyes and The Dance of Death?

Both of these short films mark my debut as a director, and I have also written both films. The Dance of Death explores a young Indian woman’s awakening when her husband’s sudden death brings happiness and freedom into her life. Through Bloodshot Eyes traces the change in dynamics in an abusive father-son relationship spanning over two decades when the tables suddenly turn. I am also working on another short film titled Stale Vows along with my friend Amber Sandhu-the film is centered around a married Indian couple celebrating their first anniversary when things take a terrible turn toward the end of the night.

3. Have you had any training in film craft and writing?

Nope, my educational background isn’t in film or screenwriting. I learned the craft hands-on by jumping into the water. Life! Camera Action… was an excellent launch pad for me as a writer, since it’s a feature-film and has received so much recognition. And, my short films were a great way to learn the craft of film direction – I was lucky to work with both a professional cast and crew including Puja Mohindra, Shruti Tewari, Samira Saha, Rahul Nath, Thomas Tevana, Gaurav Dayal, Ravi Iyer, Damian Parada, Mark Thomas Lickona and Arani Sen as well as first time artists. It was great to be able to work with professionals, newbies, child artists, elder artists, Indians and non-Indians in my very first directorial projects. I feel blessed that most of the cast and crew worked pro bono on these projects-I witnessed so many acts of kindness during the process of making these films. Lots of amazing memories are associated with these films.

4. What are your ties with India?

I am an Indian-American. My parents are from Delhi/Punjab, and I was born and raised in Washington, DC. I moved to Los Angeles last year. I visit India regularly and am fluent in Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu. A lot of people have told me they find it hard to believe I was born in the States since I’m so fluent in Hindi (laughs).

5. Do you intend to make a Hindi film, as you say you are learning Hindi?

Oh, I’m not learning Hindi, I have already learned the language (smiles). I can even read and write in Hindi and Punjabi. Life! Camera Action… consists of some Hindi dialogues, and both of my short films, The Dance of Death and Through Bloodshot Eyes, are entirely in Hindi. All of the other scripts I have ready are also mainly in Hindi since somehow most of the concepts I come up with deal with Indian characters and locations in India.

6. Do you act also?

While I have taken acting and theatre classes in college, it is a conscious decision to not get into acting yet. I want to establish myself as a director and screenwriter, and continue to take on lyrics and singing assignments, as well. I want to be taken seriously as a filmmaker and writer, and sadly in our Indian society actresses have not been able to maintain credibility as filmmakers. I have been branching out into singing and lyrics-writing, though. I recently lent my vocals for the upcoming Hollywood feature-film 5 Souls’ background score, and have written lyrics for Gaurav Dayal’s upcoming projects. There are several other singing and lyrics-writing gigs in the works.

7. As a woman of many talents, which particular aspect of film-making would you want to settle down in?

Currently, I work for an ad agency full time and also work as a journalist while juggling films, writing and singing. Eventually, direction, screenwriting, singing, and lyrics-writing are the four key aspects of the entertainment industry I want to settle down in. My friends tell me I’ll be the female version of Farhan Akhtar (laughs).

8. Do you feel that as a female writer, you can do a better job of telling a woman’s story?

No, I don’t think that only women can do a good job of telling a woman’s story. There are many male writers and directors in both the US and in India who have made wonderful films with strong female protagonists including Life! Camera Action… and Vishal Bhardwaj, the team of writers from Kahaani, Anurag Kashyap, etc, and when I recently saw a few short films at IFFLA in April I realized there are many short filmmakers who are men who have also made excellent films focusing on women.

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