Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 17 October 2019

Anuja Chauhan on adapting her book for film, and not 'dumbing characters down for the sake of humour'

Bestselling novelist Chauhan wrote 'The Zoya Factor' in 2006 when she was fed up with advertising

Anuja Chauhan is the author of 'The Zoya Factor', and is one of the most successful fiction writers in India. Courtesy Nayantara Alva
Anuja Chauhan is the author of 'The Zoya Factor', and is one of the most successful fiction writers in India. Courtesy Nayantara Alva

Anuja Chauhan wrote The Zoya Factor in 2006 to “escape the visual medium” – at the time, she was frustrated with advertising. And yet, ironically, it has ended up being her first book adapted for the big screen.

“When you write for the masses, you have to be very careful and safe. It has to appeal to everyone and offend no one. The point of writing the book was to get away from the limitations [of advertising] and be unfiltered,” Chauhan, 48, tells The National.

Read our interview with Dulquer Salmaan about his role in 'The Zoya Factor' here

Chauhan wrote the screenplay for the film to ensure the flavour of the book were retained, but even so, many details were sacrificed to the cutting room floor. “My attempt was to change the dialogues so the lines didn’t feel like they were straight from the book, but also remained true to the original style.”

'The Zoya Factor' by Anuja Chauhan
'The Zoya Factor' by Anuja Chauhan

As amenable as Chauhan was to the idea of dropping entire subplots, axing characters and changing key details for the sake of visual expediency, there were occasions when she resisted.

“We did two drafts after Abhishek [Sharma, the director] came to me with his final draft. There were some calls I agreed with – he wanted to follow the trajectory of the World Cup that India would eventually win in 2011, so the audience could relate to it. I thought that was a good call,” says Chauhan.

“But I was worried about others. Like for some reason, they’d really dumbed Zoya down for the sake of humour. She came across as a fool who wasn’t good at her job. And Nikhil was written as very flippant and flirty. The book’s Zoya and Nikhil aren’t that way at all. Thankfully, they took my feedback and changed those parts.”

And finally, there’s the million-dollar-question – is she happy with the final product? “The movie has the soul of the book,” is Chauhan’s only answer.

Updated: September 19, 2019 12:18 PM

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