Shruti Swaminathan & Ronak Shah
screenwriters to watch
Shruti was raised in the bursting-at-the-seams cultural explosion that is Mumbai and has been fascinated with stories from the first time her grandmother told her a bedtime story. Armed with an MFA in Screenwriting from UCLA and currently working towards an MSt in Creative Writing from Oxford University, Shruti actively works towards bridging the gaps that divide people through her stories.
Ronak moved between Mumbai, India, and New Jersey, USA, until she was fourteen years old. Because of this, she considers herself as much Indian as American. After discovering her love for storytelling while working in New York, Ronak proceeded to get her MFA in Writing/Directing at UCLA. She met Shruti during her time there and they collaborated to write ‘Love Goes Through Your Mind’, which premiered at the Austin Film Festival in 2018. With this film, the aim is to challenge the stigma toward mental illnesses in the Asian American community.
How did you break in or get your start in screenwriting?
Ronak: It terrified me, so I decided to take a stab at it.
Shruti Swaminathan – Co-Writer ‘Love Goes Through Your Mind’
Ronak Shah – Writer, Director ‘Love Goes Through Your Mind’
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned?
Shruti: That characters don’t need to be good, or likeable, or even heroic; they just need to be interesting. That every element of the story – plot, dialogue, action – must always pull double-duty to be at its most effective.
What’s the hardest scene or project you’ve ever had to write? How did you navigate the challenge?
Ronak: Quite similar to how first loves work, ‘Love Goes Through Your Mind’ was definitely painful. Also because it’s semi-autobiographical and my first feature. So how did I navigate the challenge? A lot of therapy.
What was a major turning point in your career?
Ronak: Just started on the path, awaiting the turn. But in time, no rush.
What are you working on right now?
Ronak: Amongst many other things, Love Goes Through Your Mind made me realize my passion to tell character-driven stories about the psychological struggles of immigrants and their children as they survive in a land far away from home. Staying true to that, I am currently in post-production on my second feature, ‘Fountain of Youth’. It is about a brilliant, lesbian Korean-American scientist, Katie, and her journey through a human clinical trial to find a cure for Alzheimer’s. When one of the patients turns out to be her estranged, homophobic mother who now doesn’t remember her, Katie struggles between curing her and the possibility of losing her all over again.
What are some of your favorite movies?
Shruti and Ronak: Our all-time favorite movie (and screenplay) is ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND.
Who are some of your favorite screenwriters?
Shruti: Charlie Kaufman manages to weave together a story about love and loss and the nature of memory using a science fiction device, without making it a storytelling device. It’s poignant, heartbreaking, and does everything a story needs to do.
Share a memorable experience at Austin Film Festival.
Ronak: I had been in virtual conversation with the Austin Film Festival team for quite some time – since I found out about the acceptance of the film at the end of August 2018. It was terrific meeting all of them over the course of the week – Harrison, Liz, Harold, Barbara, all of them!