In an industry that’s attempting to set straight the want of onscreen female representation by creating “strong,” role-model female roles, one would assume that emerging screenwriters would try to fit in—an M.O. to which the U.S.-based, Indian writer-filmmaker is the exception. As Aayushi herself explains, “For me, it’s not a question about fitting in. It’s about telling the truth. My truth: what I’ve discovered through my own personal experiences—and everything I write is personal, probably to an audacious degree—which is that beauty is found in the messiness of women.”
Aayushi’s female leads cry freely, wallow in self-pity, hold entire conversations with inanimate objects, and indulge in shocking acts of self-violence, their hair unkempt (“But not in a pretty way”), their eyes ringed with dark, dark circles (“I remember the day we did a hair/make-up test for ‘The Rest is Silence,’ and telling my make-up artist, “No, darker, darker! As dark as my dark circles.””). These gritty, weird undertones in her work do not appeal to everyone—a state of affairs with which the young writer-filmmaker is self-assuredly okay, stating, “I’d hate for my work to be so unflinchingly impersonal that it doesn’t make an audience uncomfortable.”
They’re clearly out there though, those who’ve recognized the poetry in her characters, their complexity and specificity reflecting such an uncommonly deep understanding of human nature that it’s hard to believe that a 24-year-old is behind their creation. As of today, her most recent screenplay, ‘The Rest is Silence,’ ranks in the Top 5% of over 59,000 screenplays on Coverfly (Hollywood’s largest screenwriter talent-discovery program). Hailed as a “voice that is being sought in Hollywood,” it has placed as a Quarterfinalist at the Oscar-qualifying Nashville Film Festival’2021; as a Semifinalist at the Big Apple Film Festival’2021; as a Finalist at the Los Angeles International Screenplay Awards’2021, and more.
Seeing as most screenwriters are known to churn out multiple screenplays before finding their “voice,” it’s unusual for a 24-year-old writer with a handful of short films to her name to possess a “voice” that sets her apart from other (even veteran) writers. Aayushi’s talent lies in taking universal concepts and telling a specific story within (‘The Rest is Silence’ is as meditative a portrait of grief as it is messy; ’Strange Things Will Happen’ explores themes of loneliness and immigration in the context of New Year’s Eve). “I write to be seen,” she shares, “so that others like me can feel seen in turn.”
This is just the beginning for the award-winning writer-filmmaker. Bolstered by the positive feedback from American audiences who strongly related to her 2020 comedy-drama short ’Strange Things Will Happen’ that features a South Asian female lead who has anxiety and discovers that loneliness is her strength, Aayushi is knee-deep in the process of adapting it into a feature-length film, and aims to film it in New York City in 2023. An Emmy-nominated producer already attached to her upcoming feature debut, expect ‘Strange Things Will Happen’ as well to make a splash at both American and international film festivals; but more importantly, and especially in the context of the pandemic, expect it to make you “feel seen.”