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Exclusive! Author Anuja Chauhan on Dil Bekaraar, a series adaptation of her book: You can see affection for the source material

Dil Bekaraar, a series adaptation of Anuja Chauhan's book Those Pricey Thakur Girls, releases on Disney+ Hotstar on November 26. 

Devki Nehra
Dec 01, 2021
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Anuja Chauhan | Twitter

Anuja Chauhan is known for writing slice-of-life stories that are not just witty and humorous, but also exceptionally pithy. Out of the six books she has authored so far (a seventh one is on the way), only The Zoya Factor has had a screen adaptation. 

Now comes Dil Bekaraar, a 10-episode adaptation of Those Pricey Thakur Girls, directed by Habib Faisal, which promises to recreate the magic —with some modifications — of the book for fans, and take those not acquainted with the story to a Delhi of the 1980s. 

Chauhan, who recently had a telephonic chat with OTTPlay, believes that the makers have done a more than satisfactory job and urges everybody to give the show a shot when it releases on November 26. 

Excerpts of the conversation: 

How excited are you for Dil Bekaraar to release?

I’m pretty pumped because I binged the whole series on Sunday with my family. You watch with your heart in your mouth because ‘haye haye’ [What if it goes wrong?] But overall I’m pretty pumped.

How involved were you in the process of adapting the book for screen?

I wasn’t really involved in the inside, but this is a team that I know and trust because I’ve worked with the executive producer Rishi Dogra before at Pepsi. We’ve done some amazing work together. So I was very happy to leave it to them. We held initial meetings with Habib Faisal and understood what he was doing. There was one key departure that they really wanted to get my opinion on. I believe in lead, follow or get out of the way, and at that point I felt like it was my time to get out of the way. And then I came back, and I must say I’m very happy.

But you have to detach a little from your characters and your story. Aren’t you a little possessive about them?

I have worked in advertising for so long, and my entire life has been about writing scripts and then calling a director who then does a number on it. Practically, there’s nothing else that’s possible [but to detach]. It’s the only thing you can do. Otherwise you’re just going to interfere and get in the way. Eventually it has to be one person’s vision otherwise it’s anarchy. And then there’s nothing worse than some kind of hodgepodge.

I really respect Habib’s work and some of the work he’s done. I was really impressed by the amount of homework that the team did, and the amount of respect they had for the source material. If you watch Dil Bekaraar, even if you watch one episode, you’ll know how hard they have worked on bringing that world alive. You can see affection and love for the source material right through the show and that’s amazing.

Were you also involved in the casting process, and if so, how hard is it to find an actor who matches your idea of a character?

No, I wasn’t involved in the casting process but I think they cast very intuitively.

Well, I think Dylan could have been someone different.

No, I agree. I don’t know so much about the casting of Dylan but what I realised is that Habib does not see him as the fully actualised Dylan as I wrote him. He’s seeing him more as a work-in-progress Dylan. The book Dylan is darker, he has dimples but here he’s clean shaven, has a moustache. So that is a departure from the book, but what was nice is that he shows us a boy who is a little brash, a little hairline crazy, he’s a journalist who is chasing bylines, who wants credit. The creation of a character arc for him, I believe, was done very well.

As a teenager, you were one of the first few South Asian women writers I was exposed to, and your books are usually relegated to the chick-lit or romance section. In my opinion, it feels like certain male authors like Chetan Bhagat are lauded for their work even though their work lacks depth, humour and nuance. I believe your work doesn’t get the credit it deserves. What do you have to say?

I don’t think it’s about a male writer or a female writer, but more about a bad writer or a good writer. I honestly believe if someone writes a badly detailed, clunky book, and that makes for a better movie then it's up to the person who adapts it to save the book. Compared to when you start off with a book that’s quite detailed in the first place, and then the writer who is adapting it is in a position where they have to scrunch down the material rather than enrich it.

Do you think that happened with The Zoya Factor? Were you happy with the adaptation?

I’m never happy with any adaptation. Any book that has been made into a movie I’m like “Yeh kya kardiya? [What have you done to this?]” From A Suitable Boy to The Princess Diaries, even Anne with an E, where I have wondered “What have you done to Gilbert Blythe?” I have never liked a single Little Women adaptation. People say that Laurie was played by what’s-his-name (Timothee Chalamet), but I’m like that is such a bad Laurie. That’s not the Laurie in my head! When you build something up in your head, a film adaptation is never going to be good enough.

With Dil Bekaraar releasing on an OTT platform, how does it feel for the show to reach a broad audience, especially the ones who have not read your book?

I’m coming from a place where I have binged the show. Not just me but my family too, who are usually brutal — both my daughters. It is a little difficult to settle into because you’re like “Oh this person doesn’t look like what I’d imagined.” But by the end, everyone settled in very beautifully into their roles, and I would definitely say watch it. Start with the first episode, see the love and the intuitiveness. Look at Debjani, look at Eeshwari, look at Satish. Satish is so close to my heart because he’s the most autobiographical person I’ve got in the book. But what I’m saying is that the show is really well done.

I love my readers more than the viewers on Hotstar who I don’t know personally. I’m quite confident that the viewers who haven’t read the book will quite like the show. I am more concerned about the readers [and what they may have to say]. But just relax a little. Trust the adaptation and trust the director because I genuinely think they have done a good job.

When are we going to see more adaptations of your other works?

I don’t really know. All the rights are here and there. Club You to Death is with Maddock Films, and Baaz is with YRF. I hope they are doing something. [As for] Battle for Bittora, maybe it's good if it doesn’t get adapted right now because the climate is not right. Meanwhile, I’m working on a new book, it comes out Karwa Chauth next year.

Watch the trailer of Dil Bekaraar here:

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