With popular soaps like Balika Vadhu, Astitva – Ek Prem Kahani, Jyoti and Buddha to her credit, award-winning television writer and author Gajra Kottary said she has reached that point in her two-decade long writing career where she would like to mentor young writers.
“I’ve been writing episodes day-in and day-out for nearly 20 years now. I want to put to good use the experience that I have acquired. I feel I could mentor younger writers, who can be more hands on. Recently, I have put this into operation as I want to slow down and remain fresh for creative guidance,” Kottary said.
Starting her career as a journalist and then turning into an author, it was a book she had presented to the film-maker Mahesh Bhatt that got Gajra Kottary’s scriptwriting career rolling. With a few published short stories and novels in her bag of writings, Kottary recently added to it another one titled “Girls Don’t Cry”.
“My first collection of short stories titled Fragile Victories, was published in 1996. I presented a copy of my book to Mahesh Bhatt. His wife Soni Razdan read the book before him. She was wanting to get into TV production with a good soap. We met and she gave me my break in the world of television with my first show Hamare Tumhare where I did story and screenplay,” Kottary reminisced.
While chronicling the life of a young advertising professional Amala, her latest title Girls Don’t Cry (HarperCollins India; pp. 280; Rs.399) takes a reader on an emotional and very personal journey of a woman who leaves her hometown and migrates to a bigger city for her career.
Filled with broken love, uncovering family secrets and tangled relationships between three women from different generations, each of the chapters of the novel ends with nothing short of a cliffhanger just like her soaps.
With the constant reeling back into the history, an idiosyncrasy of Indian television series, the novel makes it very evident that it comes from the pen of a scriptwriter. This interweaving of writing styles across television and literary mediums seems to come almost naturally to Kottary, considering she had written 2,175 episodes for one of the longest running Hindi soaps, “Balika Vadhu”.
Kottary’s published works of fiction include The Last Laugh (2003), Broken Melodies (2011) and Once Upon a Star (2014). Her television script-writing stints have won her many accolades like the Indian Television Academy Award, RAPA Award, Indian Telly Award and the Global Indian Television’s Best Writer Award.
So, how did she let all this writing happen at the same time?
“I worked for a while as a journalist, but after motherhood I took a conscious break to enjoy my babies before they grew up too soon. And as life slowed down I discovered that I loved to write my own stories rather than read other people’s! That’s how the first collection of short stories happened — writing in the afternoons as my daughter slept in my lap; for some reason she just refused to sleep in her cot during afternoon,” the writer shared.
“Sometimes I feel that she is the one actually responsible for me writing all those stories on a precariously balanced clipboard on loose sheets of paper, lest she wake up,” she added.
On an average, she would write each day for at least 2-3 hours even with the television meetings and narrations, Kottary said, adding that she loves to spend time with her family at the end of the day, catching up on watching recorded episodes of soaps.
“When creative juices flow I just make cryptic notes wherever I am and later I detail and build on these,” she explained.
What’s in her writing future?
“I have some shows on mainstream channels at various stages and at least three novels in the pipeline that I’m excited about,” Kottary signed off.