At the core of a film lies its story, which makes a writer extremely integral to the filmmaking process. Today, when there is nothing bigger than content, it is writers like Shreyas Jain who are bringing about a new wave of stories and thus a refreshing change in the industry.

Shreyas’ latest film Bareilly Ki Barfi, co-written with Nitesh Tiwari and directed by Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, is set in the small town of Bareilly in North India. The film that releases today has already caused intrigue with its interesting characters and generous dose of humor, among other things.

To know more about the making of this romantic comedy, Pandolin catches up with the writer who talks about his connect with small town stories, affinity to humor, sources of inspiration and relationship with Nitesh Tiwari.

Shreyas Jain

Shreyas Jain

After writing an intense movie like Dangal, was it difficult or simpler to write a light-hearted story like Bareilly Ki Barfi?

Dangal was an emotionally draining experience. It was humongous with so many characters and such varied emotions. Just before Dangal, we were working on Bhoothnath Returns, for which I did the additional screenplay and dialogues with the other members of the team. Even that was emotionally draining to a large extend because Bhoothnath Returns was also about the current society and corruption. So, it was good fun writing Bareilly Ki Barfi. In fact, we actually wanted to write something like this after Dangal because it is our way of energizing.

What was the inspiration behind Bareilly Ki Barfi, how was the story developed?

I got a call from Nitesh (Tiwari) as Ashwiny (Iyer Tiwari) had this idea, something that she probably read a book and the thought struck her. It was something that they wanted to make a film on, and that is how I came on board. Initially, we wanted to set the movie in Goa, but after a point we realized that it was not working for us. We felt like the ‘cool’ Goa was not our space because both of us come from small towns. I was born in Bihar and brought up in Madhya Pradesh. So we thought of changing it, and when Nitesh said Bareilly, I just jumped at the thought. This is my space, these are my people and this is a language that I speak. That is how Nitesh and I started writing. Once we changed it from Goa to Bareilly, it didn’t take us long to write (the film).

I love writing dialogues and when I hear people repeating those dialogues, it feels great

What were the discussions with Ashwiny like?

We are used to writing the script in a particular way – we go into each and every detail of the script, character and the kind of action that will be there. Unfortunately, I couldn’t be on the sets, but yes, everything is outlined in the script. That is what happened with Dangal as well; there were a couple of improvisations in a few places, but they were minor. The script that we wrote was the script that got made. It is the same with this movie too, we go in-depth with the script and outline everything to the last detail – from the actor having tea or coffee to the big intense scenes.

Bareilly Ki Barfi

Ayushmann, Kirti and Rajkummar in Bareilly Ki Barfi

How would you describe the main characters of the film, what aspects do you think will the audiences be able to relate to?

The characters are real, Chirag Dubey (Ayushmann Khurrana) is from a middle-class family. His dad owned the printing press which Chirag now takes care of. Since, I am from small town, I understand the way the people talk and think; which is very different from the metros. Chirag is that simple guy who knows that he looks decent, hence he does feel some amount of over confidence. He is the kind of guy who falls in love very quickly and then he does anything and everything it takes to be with that person; that is his pursuit.

Bitti Mishra (Kriti Sanon) is a normal girl with a spark. She is someone who does things with a slight difference. She doesn’t care about what society thinks about the way she dresses or sits or talks. She smokes and drinks occasionally, watches world cinema and does break dance. She is that one carefree girl and loves her family.

When it comes to Pritam Vidrohi (Rajkummar Rao), he is from a lower-middle class family, someone who knows he is average looking. He wants to make it big, but is scared of a lot of people without any good reason. He is a nice guy and is probably lovable, you would want to hang out with him, but the moment you run into any kind of trouble, he will run away. He is a coward and has been bullied all his life. But Pritam Vidrohi has two sides to him. One is Pritam, who is this innocent looking guy while the other one is Vidrohi, who is very confident of himself. So, there are these various aspects to the characters that make Bareilly Ki Barfi a relatable movie.

We felt like the ‘cool’ Goa was not our space because both of us come from small towns

With the movie being set in Bareilly, do you think that the audience from the metros will be able to connect with it?

They will be able to relate to it. When we talk about metros and small towns, there is one big aspect that we tend to miss. We need to realize that so many people from these small towns have come to these metros to work, to realize their dreams, to become something big. Those are the people who will also relate to the characters; people who have achieved something in life. Everyone kind of relates to such a character.

You have worked with Nitesh Tiwari for a long time now, tell us about the dynamics you’ll share?

Nitesh and I started off when I joined Leo Burnett, around 8-9 years ago. We were a huge team of 20 people, we were like a gang in Leo Burnett. He has always been the gang leader, but he is neither as animated nor as obnoxious as I am. I am crazy while he has always been the calm one who has the authority. That is how it started and we soon became close. I am close to Nitesh and Ashwiny and their kids. I call Nitesh kaka and we talk to each other in a very different language, that is the kind of comfort level I share with him. We have spent so much time together, it is like two brothers doing something together and that has been great. The one thing that I really like about him is the amount of respect he has for the craft and for the people he writes with.

My strong point is dialogue, characters and all the weird quirky things. I love writing dialogues and when I hear people repeating those dialogues, it feels great. His strongest point is the story. He gives you liberty and respects your talent. We have written two-three films together and in none of the films has he made anyone feel that he is the boss. It is this collaboration that makes good cinema and that is what I really love about him.

So many people from these small towns have come to these metros to work, to realize their dreams, to become something big

You’ve written stories pertaining to various genres, where do you look for inspiration?

For me, humor and comedy comes very naturally. The world and genre that I love exploring is basically small towns and humor. I observe people and learn from them. I talk to a lot of people – cab drivers, house help, anyone and everyone that I come across. Cab drivers are the most entertaining ones. I have talked to taxi drivers and the conversations have been hilarious, you can actually make short films on those conversations, they are that good. So, we have stories all around us, every person is a character and has some quirk worth exploring.