Meet Shanti Sivaram, The Producer Who Helmed Neerja & Tumhari Sulu
Shanti Sivaram is a partner at the 11-year-old production house Bling Entertainment and the person behind films like Neerja and the recently released Vidya Balan-starrer Tumhari Sulu. Growing up in Matunga, she remembers having a very active childhood filled with activities, she loved dancing and was part of the Shaimak Davar Dance Company.
She reminisces, “We had a great time back then as we got to travel and perform at places that otherwise I would have never had access to. While there I also managed a dance and movement therapy project ‘dancing feat’, it was for children with HIV. That was the most humbling experience of my life.
After a few years, I felt I needed to do something different and heard about an opening at Matrix. That was the first time I worked as a Talent agent/manager. Yana Gupta was the artist assigned to me and it was a great learning experience. She is a very dear friend till today.”
After having a few hectic and fun years at the job, Shanti decided to take a break and practice Yoga. She got certified as a hatha yoga instructor from the Sivananda school. Between all of this suddenly, somewhere, BLING happened, “and here I am today”.
So, what made her turn into a producer?
“I always had an inclination towards creative arts. But I guess it is mainly about the timing.”
She adds, “I always had an inclination towards creative arts. But I guess it is mainly about the timing. Bling is 11 years old now and we have a fantastic team working with us, which gave us the opportunity to explore an expansion into Film/TV/AD Production. There is so much to learn and do at the same time but I am loving the journey.”
With both Neerja and Tumhari Sulu, her movies have been able to give audiences heroic yet every day relatable women characters who are able to rise to the occasion. What is her process of choosing scripts as a producer?
“Our logo at Ellipsis says ‘it starts with the word’, so for us, content is very important. With both our films we have been lucky to have found stories of strong, inspiring, and most importantly relatable women.
And that is our aim, to find stories that make you laugh, cry and smile. I don’t think there can be set criteria for choosing a story, so we are reading, hearing scripts with an open mind. Our other projects that are being developed are different and are not all with women as protagonists. We want to give the men an equal chance,” she says in good humour.
“Our aim is to find stories that make you laugh, cry and smile. I don’t think there can be set criteria for choosing a story, so we are reading, hearing scripts with an open mind.”
As a producer, the challenges she faces ranges from budgets, to things that are beyond control. But for Shanti, it mainly comes down to the team you have as she feels a producer is nothing without the team – “And so far we have been blessed to be backed and supported by some of the best in the industry, be it actors, directors or technicians.”
Having two film releases within two years, is a huge milestone for the company, setting even higher benchmarks. As of now, there are very few women producers in Bollywood. Why does she think that is the case and what can be done to change that?
“I don’t think there’s any specific reason for it. Though back in the day, it was a male-dominated business or mostly run by film families and that scenario has already changed a lot. I also feel that the business is far more structured now so that alone provides a huge window of opportunity. And I know of many women producers, all may not be for mainstream Bollywood movies. But there are a bunch of super talented women producing ad films, documentaries, television shows, events.”
As the film producer is in the process of developing more interesting projects, what would be her word of advice to any woman who aspires to be a producer and helm a production house?
“The one bit that I can share from experience is to work with good people, who can teach you and support you,” she says.