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Gurinder Chadha, Aneesh Chaganty to mentor 1497 Writers Lab for South Asian screenwriters


The filmmakers, along with Iranian-American director Maryam Keshavarz, will help upcoming writers develop their movie scripts.

Our Correspondent

Filmmakers Gurinder Chadha, Aneesh Chaganty and Maryam Keshavarz will mentor the first-ever 1497 Writers Lab for South Asian screenwriters. Keshavarz and Chaganty, both Sundance winners for their films Circumstance (2011) and Searching (2018), will be joined by British-Asian filmmaker Chadha to help upcoming writers develop their film scripts.

The 1497 Writers Lab has been founded by Adeel Ahmed, Kamran Khan and Lipica Shah, and aims to raise the South Asian talent representation in the US film and TV industry. The lab also has an advisory team which includes Hollywood agent Louise Keshaviah, and managers Ken Lee and Priya Satiani. Filmmaker Adrienne Weiss will also come on board as a script coach.

"For too long, white American cinematic stories have been deemed to have universal appeal,” Keshavarz said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter online magazine. “I'm excited to support these emerging writers in crafting compelling stories that can be the new re-imagined American voice, the new universal story through the lens of our country's rich minority cultures."

The writers lab chose 1497 as it’s title as it’s the year before the West came to colonize South Asia. “1497 is a call to reclaim the South Asia of pre-colonization, celebrate the myriad aspects of the region's history, culture, and people, and give an opportunity for writers descended from across all of South Asia to have their voices heard and their stories told,” co-founder Shah added in the report.

With the emergence of such series as Mindy Kaling’s Never Have I Ever on Netflix, the demand for a more diverse point of view has also grown. "The demand for South Asian stories by Western audiences is stronger than ever, and it is long past the time for a Western audience to experience these stories from a beautiful and truly authentic South Asian point of view," Khan stated.

"The goal of this program is to actively enable filmmakers of South Asian descent to advance their careers and is a response to the industry’s call for inclusion," Ahmed said.

Submissions for the first edition of the lab will be open till 31 July. Applications are now available at 1497.org. Ten semi-finalists will be selected on 5 August and later whittled down to three finalists on 24 August.