Updated: Oct 3, 2021
Written by Aayushi A. Shah
Through the prism of my experience writing my latest, award-winning screenplay,
‘The Rest is Silence,’ I reflect on how the curious reciprocity between self-awareness and the written word can shape a writer’s work.
When Hannah finds out that her only family (her Grandma) is dying, she spends the rest of the night trying to cope with the news, this made all the more challenging by her disposition to internalize her feelings and the reappearance of past trauma. A portrait of grief that is as messy as it is meditative, this is my film, ‘The Rest is Silence.’
Like every character I have ever written (and will write), Hannah is an accumulation of my scars and flaws; a reflection of the unseen parts of my deepest self. She rose out of darkness, out of loneliness, out of my subconscious, and the desire to be seen. I saw her as I saw myself: a victim of fate—and the earlier drafts reflected that, the lines between us so blurred that there was no separating myself from her.
I was blinded by the writer’s fatal flaw: self-doubt. After having spawned draft after bad draft, spending everyday digging deeper and deeper into her, I was lost in my labyrinthine mind when Hannah threw me an epiphany that positively unmazed me: it’s all lies, everything you’ve written so far.
You see, Hannah was a yardstick for how I saw myself. Sharing my head as she had been for months, she saw more in me than I did at the time and rebelled against my treatment of her (us) on the page. She saw past my scars and flaws—and held up a mirror so that I could see, too.
In later drafts, Hannah has a certain strength that may not be so obvious for its quietness; a lava-like rebelliousness simmering dangerously behind the flash in her eyes; a bravery that evidences itself in her resilience, independence and her disposition to feel too much. Her beauty lies in the mess that she is, a palindromic push-pull between self-loathing and self-love incessantly at work within her. She’s not a victim, she’s a fighter.
Just as I made her survive on the page, so she taught me to see myself without blinders. She became a friend—blurred lines and all. Perhaps that’s why it feels right to let her go now. Because I’ve outgrown her? Possibly. Or perhaps it came to me in a forgotten dream or it was the advent of a new year or the satisfaction of knowing that she would go on surviving even after her story ended on the page. Whatever the stimulus, I feel ready; ready to depopulate my mind of her and be alone again.
In the ensuing silence, safe within the four walls of my world, I will sit cross-legged on my chair at my writing desk and wait. Before long, the solitude will darken into loneliness, the shadows growing, sharpening and densifying into the familiar blackness of the witching hour, when my demons will have at last caught up with me. Victorious and thirsting, they will ravage me—and I must let them, for I’ve learned that it’s here, amidst the chaos of memories resurfaced, people exhumed and wounds reopened, where I’m called upon to fight back time and time again, that I’ll find and befriend someone (not wholly) new who has a story that will change me.
Copyright © 2021 Aayushi A. Shah