BY RENU MEHTA, TORONTO – (with excerpts from press notes): It was September 13, 2019, the day I went to interview Shonali Bose. It happened to be the death anniversary of her son who had died in a freak accident in 2010. She had made a film – Margarita with a Straw – about this that had been presented at TIFF.
Shonali’s film The Sky is Pink was being presented as a Gala the same evening at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) at Roy Thomson Hall the same day. I had seen the film earlier at a press screening at TIFF and found the film extremely poignant and believable.
The film is based on a true story, about the life of 18-year-old Aisha Chaudhary who was born with S.C.I.D. ( Severe Combined Immuno Deficiency) who died on January 24, 2010. It had a great cast with our very own global star Priyanka Chopra who plays the mother and Mumbai film stalwart Farhan Akhtar who plays the father. The teenager Aisha Chaudhary’s character is played by Zaira Wasim acclaimed and awarded for her role in many films including Dangal and Secret Superstar.
What did I think of the film? I personally loved the film – it was emotional and it made me think how do you ever cope with the loss of a child? What kind of strain does that put on the marriage? Many say the death of a child often breaks up a marriage.
Aisha, the daughter of Aditi and Niren Chaudhary, had watched the trailer of Bose’s film Margarita with a Straw 30 times, but died before the film’s release. Her parents saw the film in 2015, loved it and began a search for Bose.
“They loved the film and read my dedication to my 16-year -old son Ishan who had passed in 2010,” says Bose. “Seven months later Aditi managed to traced me in LA and reached out and asked if I would be interested and willing to make a film about their daughter. I listened to their story. It had been a year since I had finished Margarita and I had still not honed in on my next script. And I knew in my heart that this was the one.”
How did Bose cope with the loss of her son Ishaan on September 13, 2010?
“A strange thing happened to me on the day of my son’s funeral. I was gazing at his beautiful smiling photograph and clear as a bell I heard his voice in my head – “Mamma, I didn’t have to be on Earth anymore.” I instantly accepted his death. I also experienced a light and energy coursing through my body all day. Later in the day when I spoke at his cremation I found myself saying that we are of the belief that if someone dies young, it is a tragedy. But it’s not the length of life that is relevant, it’s the intensity. Ishan gobbled up life and was done with it faster than his parents. He had learned all that he had come to learn and he had finished his journey.”
“By the time Aditi Chaudhary spoke to me I was keen to put these feelings and beliefs of mine into a film. I somehow knew instinctively that Aisha Chaudhary would have not wanted to be put on a pedestal as The Heroic Dying Teenager; or an inspiring icon. This was what was expected of me to write and make. Her parents wanted this too. Even now people think that’s what the film is about as Aisha gave various inspiring talks and wrote inspiring epiphanies. I read and listened and saw a girl who was spunky, extremely talented, honest, funny and self deprecating. I came up with the device of her being a Spirit telling the story of her parents love – from before she was born to after she was dead.”
How did the title of the film ‘ The Sky is Pink’ come about?
“When I finished the very first draft of the screenplay I knew the title had to be The Sky is Pink. In my sky I see my son Ishan showering light and love on me 24/7. It makes me skip along on earth knowing I am being watched and taken care of. It is no coincidence that it was on his birthday that I got the text saying this film was going to happen and that the world premier of this film is going to take place on his death day!”