Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari knows a thing or two about love—its quirks, its peculiarities. Her sophomore Hindi feature, Bareilly Ki Barfi (2017), was one of the funniest romantic-comedies of the past decade. It could be the reason she was tapped for Ankahi Kahaniya, an anthology of three unique love stories releasing on Netflix. Yet, nothing about Ashwiny’s short—starring Abhishek Banerjee as a man falling for a mannequin—has the same rapid-fire associations of Bareilly. It looks quieter, gentler and heavily stripped down. It’s a clear break for a director well versed in the slang of contemporary romance.
“I was clear from the start I wanted to do something new,” Ashwiny shares. “There’s a little quirky fantasy in this story. It’s about falling in love not with a human being but with an object. It’s something we have all experienced in our lives, a sense of deep attachment or closeness with an object.”
Ashwiny cracked the story with co-writers Piyush Gupta, Shreyas Jain and Nitesh Tiwari. The protagonist, Pradip (Abhishek), is an immigrant in Mumbai. With no one to talk to in the bustling city, he grows fond of a store mannequin. He cradles her, goes on taxi rides with her, and names her ‘Pari’. Ashwiny could connect the underlying emotion to something she experienced as a child. “My mother had a saree turned into a rajai. It was really close to my heart. I didn’t care how torn or dirty it was. I cried the day she threw it way.”
Of course, object attachment is not easily portrayed on screen. A screen direction on the page read, ‘Pradip looks at the mannequin and the mannequin smiles back.’ How do you direct something like that? “It was a different kind of challenge,” Ashwiny admits. Still, having an actor like Abhishek, with his keen sense of nuances, saw her through.
“This film is almost like an one-act play,” Ashwiny says. “It was important that Abhishek understood both the dynamics at play, of the man and the mannequin. He is a director’s actor. He has explored himself in this story in a way he has never done before.”(THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)