Sculpting dreams in the entertainment industry, one word at a time – Utkarshini Vashishtha(PGDM 2005)

Utkarshini Vashishtha (PGDM 2005), a scriptwriter behind Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Gangubai Kathiawadi, transitioned from the field of computer science and engineering to make her mark in the captivating world of entertainment.
Her trajectory found its roots at SP Jain School of Global Management, which paved the way for her career within the entertainment industry. It all began with a campus placement at Zee TV in the Middle East. Since then, Utkarshini has been engaged in a plethora of projects, contributing to notable Bollywood films such as ‘Gangubai Kathiawadi’, ‘Sarbjit’, ‘Goliyon ki Raasleela Ram- Leela’, as well as TV reality shows like ‘X-Factor’ and ‘India’s Got Talent’, among others. Earlier this year, Utkarshini grabbed national eyeballs for winning two National Film Awards for ‘Best Screenplay’ and ‘Best Dialogue’ categories for ‘Gangubai Kathiawadi’, along with many other awards from notable authorities like Filmfare, IIFA, and Zee Cine Awards. Let’s take a glimpse into her remarkable journey through a candid conversation.

Q: Would you like to tell us a bit about yourself?
I have a strong passion for reading, cooking, and travelling. A unique thing about me is that I don’t love
listening to music while working, which sets me apart from many other writers I know. While my educational background lies in computer science and engineering, I never truly found fulfilment in that field. Instead, I decided to pursue my MBA at SP Jain School of Global Management.
This opportunity was appealing because it only required a year of my time and offered a head start in building an international career. Upon completing my studies, SP Jain Global facilitated a campus placement with Zee TV in the Middle East, marking the pivotal moment for my journey into the entertainment world

Q: Could you share some of your cherished memories as a part of your journey at SP Jain Global?
During my time at SP Jain Global, I formed some beautiful friendships. For most of us, it was our first trip
abroad and the initial experience of living independently. It was an enlightening phase, and to this day,
my closest companions are the ones I met at SP Jain Global. The concept of sharing an apartment with
girls we never met before was intriguing and quite enjoyable for me. Even back then, I often pondered
over the multitude of stories we all had to share. Our apartments were divided into vegetarian and non￾vegetarian at that time, and I have wonderful friends from both groups. Almost 18 years have passed, yet we remain bonded with each other, and I consider these friends to be lifelong companions I can always rely on.

Q: When and how did you decide to pursue a career in script and dialogue writing for film and
television? We’d love to hear about some of your cherished moments on the sets of the film or
TV shows you’ve worked on. Is there a particular experience that stands out?
Transitioning into the writing field was far from a straightforward journey for me. I navigated numerous
challenges, took unexpected turns, and stumbled into various paths before finally securing my

As mentioned previously, my entry point was through campus placement at Zee TV, where I dedicated four years of my time. Initially joining as an Assistant Manager in Marketing, I put in the relentless effort and practically worked round the clock. My career trajectory ascended rapidly, swiftly reaching the position of Senior Manager. Concurrently, I was moonlighting within the programming division,
which delved into the creative aspects. Through a twist of fate, I found my way into the programming division.
My tenure at Zee TV spanned four years, and by the time I chose to resign, I had been offered the role of Assistant Vice President, a position that would have potentially made me one of the youngest individuals to hold such a title in the organisation’s history. At that juncture, I faced a profound dilemma.
While accepting that position would have secured me a solid foothold in the corporate domain, I yearned
for a transition to the creative side. Despite being offered an extended sabbatical, I opted for a clean break, resigning from my job. Subsequently, I journeyed to the United States to pursue a filmmaking
course. This phase, too, presented its own share of challenges and twists before I eventually secured
my inaugural opportunity as a screenwriter for a film.

Speaking of memorable moments, working on a film or television is incredibly demanding. The hours
are gruelling, typically spanning 16 to 20 hours a day, and one is almost constantly on their feet. Hence,
pinpointing a single memory is a formidable task since much of the experience is a whirlwind. Even now, I
reflect on instances of shooting in various cities, yet the details of those cities have faded from memory.
Despite dedicating two months to those locations, the intensity of work left little room for leisure. The
reality is far less glamorous than it may appear. It’s marked by grit and relentless determination.

Q: What was the turning point or breakthrough in your screenwriting career that opened up
significant opportunities for you?

Upon my return from the United States, I was resolute in my decision to focus solely on a career in
filmmaking, leaving television behind. However, life had alternative plans for me. Despite enduring a
prolonged struggle to secure entry into the film industry, I found myself unable to break through. Then
a former colleague extended an offer for a television show, X-Factor. Viewing it as my final venture into
television, I chose to take on the project. Little did I know that this decision would lead me to a pivotal
encounter with my mentor and guide, Sanjay Leela Bhansali.

Q: As a dialogue writer, where do you find inspiration for crafting impactful dialogues? How do
you prepare yourself for this creative process?
I draw my inspiration from observing individuals and love engaging with new people. I have a penchant
for listening, and I engage in connections that span a diverse spectrum of society. Conversing solely
with those who mirror my experiences doesn’t captivate me; I love interacting with individuals from all
walks of life. My proclivity for eavesdropping on others’ discussions contributes to inspiration for ideas.

Q: Collaborating with directors, actors, and production teams is an integral part of the dialogue writing process. Can you share some insights into how you collaborate with these stakeholders to bring the written dialogue to life on screen or stage?
Actors typically become engaged during the final stages of the creative process. Once we’ve reached a well-formed script, we occasionally introduce adjustments to accommodate their distinct performing styles. Writing, much like the broader scope of filmmaking, embodies a profoundly collaborative process, with each member’s input and participation being pivotal to its success.

Q: Are there specific challenges or considerations you face as a dialogue writer, and how do you overcome them to create dialogue that resonates with the audience?
For me, dialogue writing is seamlessly intertwined with the art of screenwriting; the two are not different. I would emphasise that the primary challenge lies in the perception prevalent within the Bollywood industry that dialogue writing and screenplay writing are separate domains. It often leads to separate professionals for these roles. However, I hold the stance that crafting dialogues cannot be accomplished without an understanding of the screenplay. To me, the voices of the characters must come alive through their spoken words, an essential element for the completion of my writing process. Typically, my clients tend to grasp this perspective once they read the entire screenplay.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring screenwriters, especially those looking to pursue a
similar path in the film and television industry?

Entering this profession isn’t easy; your journey will inevitably differ from mine, as well as from others.
The crux of it all lies in having faith in your own endeavours. Furthermore, never underestimate the power of reading. In this digital era, while much reading is done on screens, there’s an unparalleled imaginative and creative satisfaction derived from holding a book, a newspaper, or a sheet of paper in your hands.

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