Changing The Game: Tahira Kashyap Khurrana On Female Voices, Collaborations And More

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Storytelling is a space where writer-director Tahira Kashyap Khurrana, finds the means to express herself and talk about the larger things in life while keeping people engaged. “I approach storytelling in a fun way, but there’s always a deeper meaning in my work. I do not want to do anything frivolous without adding any value.” As the writer and director of Pinni, the first short film in a series titled Zindagi In Short, Tahira has collaborated with Guneet Monga (producer) and Neena Gupta (actor). Tahira has ensured that her slice-of-life narration connects with an audience of all ages. “The story is about a woman in her 50’s, and I know that people are usually not interested in these stories. But it was heartening to hear a lot of youngers tell me that after watching the film, they reached out to their mothers. The relatability factor was high, which is just the way I approach my stories,” she says.

So, what inspired this story? “Guneet and I had been collaborating on a couple of projects, and we wanted to work on an anthology. I remember seeing this box of pinni (round, flour-based Indian dessert) that my mother-in-law had sent over, and I just went ahead and wrote the story. Within two days, I went to Guneet, and she loved it! It came from a very personal space,” she shares.


Trim-tiered silk dress, INR 48,500, by Dhruv Kapoor; Earrings, price on request, by Studio Aesthe; Rings (set of two), INR 8,900, by Misho; Degrastrass pumps, price on request, by Christian Louboutin

The past year has been busy for Tahira. Besides Pinni, she’s also worked on her upcoming OTT film, Quarantine Crush, written a book, The 12 Commandments Of Being A Woman and been a key pillar of Indian Women Rising (IWR). I ask her about how IWR was founded. “I remember Guneet sending me the link to Bittu at 12 in the night, asking me to watch it. And I was blown away—the art and the compassion with which the film was made. I just fell in love with it. We decided to support the film. I suggested we approach Ekta, who immediately came on board, and then we got Ruchikaa into the team! Without even figuring out the paperwork or anything, we just decided to start. This project was an idea we’ve all had for a couple of years now.”

The ultimate goal here is to shine the spotlight on fresh female voices so that their work reaches various platforms. “We don’t want them to keep proving themselves to the world over and over again, which is what women are forced to do. Even when they do good work, they have to constantly do something else and if that doesn’t work, then they don’t get another chance. We really want to shift the attitude towards hiring female filmmakers, and we aim to celebrate them with IWR,” Tahira exerts. “All of us, in our own spheres of life have been subjected to sexism. From not being trusted with a project because of your gender to people not allowing you to use your sensibilities, this prejudice is all over. I’ve faced it ever since I was a kid. The world keeps drawing this out—making men more capable than women.”

Turning the conversation to the challenges she’s faced over the years, I ask her about her source of strength. “For me,” she says, “the challenges have changed over the years. Right now, people want to know ‘Why I feel the need to work?’ (laughs). The way I approach any resistance is by making light of the situation. This does not mean pushing it under the carpet, but rather, dealing with it in a way that leaves room for the other person to learn too. I think my source of strength and courage all through has been my mother. Over the years, despite many odds, she’s never given up. That’s ingrained in me. And that is exactly what I want to do—work hard and keep going.”

Photograph: Prabhat Shetty; Styling: Shaeroy Chinoy; Hair & Make-up: Jean Claude Biguine India; Assisted by: Jainee Bheda (Styling)

Download your digital copy of ELLE’s April 2021 issue here.

- Editor In Chief


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