Bhawana Somaaya has been writing on cinema for over 40 years and is an author of 17 books. She was conferred with the Padma Shri on 13th April 2017, by President Pranab Mukherjee. She is currently the Film Expert with Radio Channel 92.7 BIG FM and shares Bollywood updates every morning. She does Friday reviews of films on radio and a weekly column for Dainik Bhaskar. She has served two terms on the Advisory Panel of Central Board of Film Certificate. Her 17th book released a week ago, “Letter to Mother” is a translation of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s Gujarati Book Saakshi Bhaav into English released by Harper Collins.
Q. Could you tell us a little bit about your life in law school?
When I finished my graduation specializing in psychology, all my friends were very clear that they did not want to pursue further studies. But, I wanted to, so I initially enrolled myself in MA Psychology which was in Kalina and that had a lot of practical’s involved and it required me to spend a lot of time at college. Halfway through, I realized that I was not enjoying it and so I gave it up. However, since I was so keen on studying further, I joined Government Law College, Mumbai, even though none of my friends had law school plans. It was supposed to be a matter of honour to get into Government Law College, Mumbai since it has limited seats and also has a great placement committee.
The first year was fabulous and I did extremely well and got around 60% at the end of the year. My second-year was comparatively much harder for me because I would study law in the morning, work as a freelance journalist in the daytime and pursue my Journalism Diploma College in the evening. I, in fact, told my mother that I didn’t want to pursue law further but she insisted that I complete my third and final year of Law College and that it was non-negotiable so I had no other option but to just do it. I found it very tough, especially remembering the articles and section numbers and I thought that journalism was so much more attractive and fascinating and decided to pursue the same.
Q. Many students pursue journalism after law. It’s a common career path to follow after law. What would you say one should have to prepare for this endeavour and how can one move and be successful in this field?
I don’t think that there is any mantra to become successful in law or to become successful in journalism. I think that they are both completely different paths and are both as hard as they seem on the outside. My father was quite disappointed when I opted for journalism instead of law. He had dreams of seeing me in a black robe and arguing in a court. I would tell him that lawyers often run outside the court pestering clients to get them a case and asked him if he would like to see me like that. He still believed I could have become a very successful lawyer. The same applies to journalism. I think that in the end, it’s your destiny, your discipline, your hard work, your karma, and a lot of other things. Success comes after a lot of hard work; it is not like Maggi noodles that you can achieve in 2-minutes.
Q. You moved away from law to a unique and unconventional career path and have time and again proved your mettle in your field, even being awarded the Padma Shri back in 2017. When did you decide on pursuing your current field of work?
I started as a film journalist by accident. I was in college, writing for the college magazine and there was an advertisement in the paper calling for college girls that had a flair for writing. So I went for the interview where they gave me a test and luckily confirmed me for the job. When I learnt it was for a film journal, I declined the offer because I wasn’t interested but they got frustrated with me because they thought I was being rather cheeky and wasting their time. However, I couldn’t care less. I had absolutely no ambitions back then. I was just happy in my own space and my family. One after another, things just started happening in my life and I just went with the flow.
The problem with the present generation is that they are ambitious before testing their potential. They are shopping for attractive packages before proving themselves. It was not like that in the olden days, we did not discuss the package, we just went with the flow and enjoyed what we were doing.
Q. What obstacles did you have to face at the time of switching the field of work or at the beginning of your career? How did you combat the setbacks that stood in your way?
There are obstacles every day and there will be obstacles every decade. One just has to continue working. While we were growing up, there were many obstacles but we resolved them all – sometimes through our own assessment and sometimes with help from our elders. I started as a cub reporter, became a chief reporter, then assistant editor and finally editor. Similarly, I was given the opportunity to become a columnist and later an author.
Q. Does having a law background help you in your current job? How has it helped you to enhance your performance as a journalist, film critic, and author?
Having done law, I am able to counter-question my interviewees when there is a contradiction or a dichotomy. Some of the best politicians are lawyers and the way they put forward their case, nobody else can, be it late Sushma Swaraj or presently Ravishankar Prasad, they are all great orators. I am yet to come across a lawyer who is not good with communication skills. So if you lack communication skills, either sharpen it up or give up the law.
Q. Many of our readers are students in law school or have just completed their law courses. What advice would you like to give them, especially concerning choosing a career through one’s passion and interests, even after studying law?
Please don’t get into law simply because your father is in this field or because your boyfriend is into it and it gives you an opportunity to spend more time with each other. Ask yourself if you have an aptitude for it because I didn’t for sure! It was impossible for me to remember all the articles, sections, the various court cases. Don’t get carried away by the black coat, pursue it only if you have a passion for it because otherwise, you are depriving a worthy student of his seat.
(NOTE – This has been reproduced from a telephonic conversation with the interviewee)
Find out more about Ms. Bhawana Somaaya-
Disclaimer – All views and opinions expressed in this interview are personal and belong solely to the interviewee(s) and do not necessarily represent those of the LAABh Foundation or the individuals and institutions associated with LAABh Foundation.