Althea Kaushal

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Meet Althea the person behind the persona, the real deal behind the movie deal. Hailing from advertising background, Althea had her ground work in place before she got into screen writing. Keen on making documentaries and ad films, she brings something valuable on the table when she writes for films – she puts her real experiences into writing, making it even more real. She has been the writer behind these Bollywood movies – Happy New Year, Noor and 3-Storeys to name a few.

Tell us something about yourself.


I have always been experimental with my profession. I was an air hostess with Jet Airways for about 4 years before my boredom landed me on the runway of the ad world. One of my friends was working on an ad film for Denim brand; I tagged along.

I absolutely fell in love with the vibe of the set-up. Little did I knew, I would be a part of it and enjoying every bit of the mad energy there. But getting through the number one production house that time – White Light – costed me many rejections, 18 times to be precise (laughs). I couldn’t wait any more, I straight away went to meet the director and asked for his reply – it can be a yes or a no, but ‘may be’ status is what makes me uncomfortable. Much to my surprise, I worked at White Light for 2 successful years and for the brands like Tanishq, Bisleri, TBZ and many more.

I felt glad to write the first advertising campaign for FTV in India and bag laurels for the same. My stint with advertising has been phenomenal. Going ahead, I became the national creative director for Disney in India. Honestly, amidst all these juggling professions, I thoroughly enjoyed filming documentaries.

What was so special about making documentaries?  

Documentaries were a real eye opener for me, especially the one we shot in Nagaland – Head Hunters. It was a life-changing thing for me. Another documentary that we shot was on Ayurvedic Healing in God’s own Country – Kerala, which also won a National Award.

How did you get into writing?

I have a friend of mine who was the costume designer for Don. She invited me for Don’s premiere. Since I wasn’t doing much that day, so I accompanied her. There were only two reasons I went there – first being my love for observing people and second, to see the king Khan myself. Since it was a premiere, I presumed that Shah Rukh Khan will be there. Didn’t find him until we were in our car back home. Just when the car started, all the eyes were directed towards Shah Rukh Khan who was about to get into his car. I saw him and jumped off the car to walk past by Hrithik Roshan (even told him ‘excuse me! one moment please’) that was mean, I know, but I couldn’t help but to see Shah Rukh Khan from as near as I could. That was the moment when I thought – you’ll know me one day. That’s when I decided to pick up a pen.

What did you do next and when did you get your first break?

Shah Rukh Khan was all over my mind and I this sudden adrenalin rush for him to know me. An idea hit me and soon it translated into a story. I picked up the phone and rang Farhan for a narration meet request. Those days, you used to get an appointment easily, but today you have to be in the queue. Well, the time was in my favour and I got an opportunity to meet Farhan and Zoya Akhtar as well as Ritesh Sidhwani.

After 20 minutes of narration, Farhan said, “Althea I do not understand what you are saying, but whatever it is, I am loving it and we are buying the film”. I couldn’t believe it. Later, Ritesh and Zoya were discussing about hiring a screen writer for my script. I was flabbergasted. I mean, I had given them the script with all the details, but I was simply being dumb, Zoya shared with me, screenplay of Honeymoon Travels and that’s when I understood what a screenplay looks like.

Back to square one, I learnt how to write a screenplay using a software and kept it ready for the team to review it. Ritesh read it and then GAME was shot. Then I wrote Happy New Year and Noor.

What’s your daily routine like?

Every day, I am up at 4 am and 4-6 is my writing time. After that, I am a full–time mother. Since my husband is a pilot, he is not home for 15-16 days in a month, so I have to be there for our kids.

Was your interest in writing only for the movies or TV shows as well?

I have been doing Tele Shows as well. Ek Haseena Thi, Haasil, Chal and more shows I used to write for before I launched Saffron Magazine. I wasn’t writing for almost two years.

What do you strongly believe in?

I am an avid believer in ‘self-will’. If you really want something, your only job is to have that want in you – the skills will come, connections will appear, everything will start moving to sort it out for you. Want is a very hard thing, but if you do own it, there’s no room for ifs and buts. You ought to be headstrong and opportunities will certainly come to you.
Tell us something about the  movie - 3-storeys


3 Storeys was actually 4 Storeys, but it was exceeding 120 pages which was too long, so we knocked it off. Out of three, essence of the first story stems from a childhood memory, one of those bedtime stories that my mother used to narrate at night. The second one is a true story and the third one is mine. It’s a fictional story.

How did 3-Storeys happen?

My night-time ritual is Facebooking and checking what social people are up to on social media. A friend of mine commented on something stupid that I posted. That’s when I asked him – Arjun – “what are you up to? Want to do a film?” He asked me to email the script and guess what …he replied “I want this film now”. We started our hunt for a producer and we ended up getting three – Priya Sridharan’s Open Air, Ritesh Sidhwani’s Excel Entertainment and B4U.

3 Storeys is a small film, but a high concept film. For writing any film, you need to be driven by two words – The End. That’s when the full stop makes more sense. My theory is to write 5 pages of screenplay each day and within 20 days you have your movie.

Which are your favourite genres?


Criminal and detective kind of movies I enjoy to the core. Well, this might be because of my childhood. We were the first family to get VHS player home. So one day in a month, my mother used to invite all the kids of our building and take 1 Rs. from each one of them – against the rental for VHS. Then with some money she used to get snacks for us all. In between the movie-watching session, she would stop the video and ask us to write the answer of questions she would ask from the movie. We never won, so every time the spare money was equally divided amongst all.

What’s nepotism in Bollywood?


The word nepotism comes from the church. The Popes, in ancient times, anointed the next pope – who was his nephew, thus keeping the position in the family only. Nepotism comes from the word ‘nephew’.

When it comes to Bollywood, a huge amount of nepotism exists. But I don’t have a negative take on that. Let’s say Arjun Kapoor Gets an easy break. Why shouldn’t he? His father has done something really incredible, then why shouldn’t he get the perks of being his son? If you run a family business, going ahead your child will take over the business. Why shouldn’t he develop something that’s already established? There’s nothing wrong in that.

What kinds of book excite you?


Non-fiction. I am a big fan of biographies and true crime.

Do you ever get writer’s block? How do you overcome?


I do face a writer’s block. My problem is the starting point. Once that is conquered, the flow follows. I don’t write a story, I prefer writing a screen play directly. For me, a story is not shoot-savvy. How will you shoot words like – therefore, meanwhile? I will tell you the story in a few lines. But I will give you the screen play that you can read – so it gives a perfect visualization.

One piece of advice…


Start it. Stop talking about it, just start.

What about women empowerment?


Today, women go all out and are doing great. The world is getting better for us. I never faced a door-shut experience because of my gender. I don’t go out like – you are doing me a favour. I believe in saying….Lo mei aa gayi…and that’s about it.

Priorities – knowledge, expertise, experience.


Experience…is the first step on the ladder. Once you experience it, knowledge comes along and expertise walks hand-in-hand. Nothing will start without an experience. Every story teller is extracting stories from their own life.

What inspires you when you are having a bad day?


If I am having a bad day, I am having a bad day. I do not inspire myself. I deal with it and enjoy it too.

Who is your mentor?


I admire my English teacher Mrs. Karai. Being in her class, made me feel like achieving something in life. I worked really hard in her class to hear “Althea, you did great”. I really admire her for what she made of me.

Does major success happen after failure?


No I don’t think so. Because, as much as failures teaches you, success also teaches us. So it’s not necessary that success happens only after failure.

What makes you happy?


Put yourself first – that’s the toughest thing to do. But yes, that will spare you dejections that can be avoidable.

If you weren’t a writer? What would you be?


May be two years later, I won’t be a writer. My boredom threshold is 2 years. I actually want to live in a cottage somewhere atop a hill and own a bar. I would rent out two rooms there, cook for people and have a library in my bar. That’s my dream.

Priority – husband, me, work, kids


Children are my first priority. Work comes second. I and my husband bump into each other in the end making up the last priority.

In this corporate world, what helps one to grow – looks, intelligence, personality, nationality or anything else?


Personality and looks do matter. Actually it’s a combo deal – if you have a personality but no intelligence, it’s of no use. So the ideal way to succeed is to carry yourself in your own comfortable style.

In a gathering, what kind of people do you get attracted to?


People with a good sense of humour, especially dry humour.