Ashvini Yardi: The creative freedom of working on the OTT platform and Masaba Masaba

The woman who brought television stations to life, became a producer of some of the biggest Akshay Kumar films through Grazing Goat Pictures with films such as OMG – Oh My God! and Singh is Bliing. She has many other credits to her name including being the creator, producer, and showrunner for the much appreciated Netflix series, Masaba Masaba. The series mixes fact and fiction of fashion designer Masaba Gupta’s life intertwined with her mother, actor Neena Gupta, and delivers laughs, cries, and some very relatable moments. Catch up with my conversation here:

Ashvini, firstly, congratulations on Masaba Masaba. I think the feedback is universal that Masaba Masaba is a nice and easy watch, in a complimentary way, and Neena and Masaba’s chemistry is wonderfully depicted on screen. 

Thank you, thank you so much.  

Going back a couple of years later, I understand people did not understand the concept of mixing fact and fiction. How did you come up with the first initial idea?

It all began when I was doing a biopic for a film and there was so much interference from the family and friends of the person – that you cannot shoot this, you cannot show that, that was a mistake in his life, you cannot show that. They all wanted me to show the good side and I think that is very boring. We are all human beings and we relate more to a story in which we see flaws. If we all go through ups and downs, and I don’t see this in something I’m watching, I think about what I am watching, like this person just led a very hunky dory life. Then it’s not inspiring. 

If you show more flaws, more reality, there is a better connection to the audience. I felt that there were not too many people bold enough in the celeb space in Bollywood that have this kind of attitude, that I do not mind showing my flaws as well. I had been working on this concept for a while, about two years. 

I also used to follow Masaba on Instagram and I thought her stories were so cool. She is much younger than me but even at my age, I was very conscious of what I was putting up on social media. She is so young and she would put up pictures of her pimples and say “I ate all this cake.” That’s not something I would do. I would probably eat a full pizza and then put up a picture of fruit and say, “Healthy me” and all that (chuckles). 

I started following her regularly and I realized that that was the story in my head. I knew her and I called her up. I told her about the concept. I wasn’t sure if she would do it because she has a big fashion empire in India and abroad. But she loved it and that’s how it all began. 

How did you take what was happening in your reality and hers and feed that into your concept of Masaba Masaba

I actually was inspired by her so while I may have done a lot of the things that she put up on her Instagram, I just did not show it. Like, I could get a pimple but I wouldn’t take a selfie. I would take a selfie and use an app to get the pimple off (chuckles). But I think in my life, when she tells her own stories, you can relate to some of her experiences, especially for me.  But because of my age group, I relate more to Neena ji’s experiences than Masaba’s (laughs). Masaba is still a lot younger. 

But some of the things that are there in the show are not just from her life but my own – for example, one thing that happened – there is one scene when the accountant comes and says there is a mistake in the bill, the shoes say 60,000 but I think they added an extra “0”. So that was something that happened in my life, not Masaba’s. 

I went out to this big dinner abroad and I treated my entire family and the bill was humongous. So the bill came to my office credit card and my accountant came running to me and said there has been a mistake and I was like, “okay…” (Chuckles). It’s like life as we see it and know it. That is what is seen and depicted. 

What was the drafting and writing process like then? 

The whole process took two years. One thing I was very sure of was that I wanted a woman director. The simple reason is that it is not just a show that is written and the director just comes in and directs it. The director has to feel it. I think only a woman could do that – you are talking about two very different and strong women. They are not every day characters that we have. The director had to be a woman but the writers just happened to be all women so we had a lot of female energy on set and off screen as well. 

Sonam (Nair) came on much later.

Before that, I had written a few drafts with some writers. But things had also changed drastically in Masaba’s life as well during that time. When Sonam came, things were very different in Masaba’s life so Sonam wrote it with a very fresh perspective – Sonam and the writers. We had a writer’s room, Sonam was one, and then there were three other writers – Nandini Gupta, Anupama Ramachandran, and Punya Arora. I used to go as well as the stories were so interesting. We used to go and sit in Masaba and Neena ji’s house and we would listen to stories. Sonam and I would then pick up stories that could be moulded into more of a graph. It took more than six months for them, and then it took me a year before that. 

When you’re on set and you are watching something you have conceptualized over two years, when you saw something come to life, do you ever pinch yourself and think I’m living a pretty cool life? What’s your head space for me?

Basically, for more than twenty years, I was an employee of a multi-national. I was living the corporate life. It was a different thing. When I became a producer and started the company with Akshay, it is very different because you are the producer and it is your money. Films has a lot of money involved and it used to be initially a pretty stressful time for me. I would be on set during the films as well but though I am a creative person myself, when I was on a film set, I was concentrating on how much money was being spent and what was being eaten (chuckles) to make sure we were not going over budget. The stakes were just so much higher.

On OTT, I am just loving the creative freedom. Television, when everything is said and done, is a different audience. You are targeting the 35 plus year old housewife. Most of the homemakers’ lives is not one I have led in my life. So, it was a lot more about me getting into their minds and working on content that they would want to watch. 

With OTT as a platform, it just seems to be all of me. I am just having a lot of fun because I can do it the way I want. If I had to do this show on television as a daily soap like I did for so long, the story I told in 6 episodes would have probably taken 200 hundred episodes (chuckles). 

So what has been the biggest take-away for you on a personal level in doing this project?

I’m somebody who loves challenges and people kind of tell me to calm down. When I was with the television channel, and I was the head of programming there, I remember I was seven months’ pregnant and in a hospital bed. I had some complications and I was in the hospital. I got a call and they told me I had to take over the channel, and I was like “yeah, okay” (chuckles). My family was looking at me like, “what’s wrong with you? You don’t even know when you are going to be discharged and you are taking up this new job at the channel and promptly saying okay.” I remember when I took over, the channel was on the lower side of ratings when I took over and when I left it, it was on its peak. 

Everyone asked me why I left it where I left it and I had worked so hard to get it where it was. I left it to start another channel, and I actually started the new channel, Colours, from a dark room. All the people at MTV were looking at me like who is this woman who is going to be making this new daily soap channel. But I love the challenges. If things were going really well, that is great but I need another challenge. I can then feel stagnant. 

When Colours became successful, I left to start movies to try that out. The script of Oh My God! was important to me. I quit Colours to make that film. I love challenges. 

While I love the work I’m getting and the love I’m getting, I’m going to think of more things (chuckles). 

About Author


Bollywood Film Fame Canada has been a source of original content consisting of real conversations, reviews, and news of everything film, music, and entertainment for 15 years.

Comments (0)

Leave a comment