SONIA BAHL

Screenplays. Books. Advertising. Notes to self. Grocery lists.

Born and raised in Kolkata, Sonia has lived and worked in Mumbai, Delhi, Jakarta, Miami, Brussels, Johannesburg, and Singapore. With a home being everywhere and nowhere, her belief in the power of the moment became a religion. An affirmation that unexpected and undeniable human connections are everything. A theme that permeates through all her writings in one way or another.

Sonia has spent a huge chunk of her life, her days, and sleepless nights in advertising—writing ads for all things from coffee and cars to condoms and candy—while dreaming of morphing 30-second commercials to full-length feature films. No surprise that she threw caution, and her full-time job as Executive Creative Director at McCann-Erickson, to the winds and embarked on a riveting, rejection-filled screenwriting journey in the US.

Finally, her day job entails writing movies!

Sonia learned her screenwriting ropes working with Hollywood script consultant and screenwriter, Madeline DiMaggio. Her first screenplay What If was selected for Mira Nair’s script lab, MAISHA. More recently her screenplay Learning to Fly was shortlisted and developed at Prime Exchange, the Indo-German scriptwriting enterprise in Berlin. 

Sonia has co-written Noblemen, a film that received outstanding reviews at international festivals and was pegged as one of the best films of the decade by film critic, journalist, and author Aseem Chhabra. Noblemen is currently streaming on Netflix.

Sonia has also co-written Sitara (Ronnie Screwvala Productions) which is in production, and has written the original screenplay for Lovely in Ludhiana (Fox Star Studios) which is in development.


In a delightful plot twist, her debut novel The Spectacular Miss (2016), has been optioned by a leading Bollywood studio and Sonia has been commissioned to write the screenplay. 

A month after its launch, Amazon India celebrated the novel as “The Rising Summer Star” and Sonia as one of the IndianWomen Writers To Watch Out For.

Her second novel A Year of Wednesdays (2019) sold out within a month of being released. It’s now back in bookstores—feel free to pick up a copy today. 

Sonia writes and re-writes in Singapore where she lives with her menagerie: gorgeous itinerant daughter, honorary proofreader husband, and her made-for-the-movies golden retriever, Ari Gold.

#BOOKS

#MOVIES

Sonia Bahl - Noblemen
Sonia Bahl - Noblemen

#Q&A

SONIA BAHL: I’ve always said the itinerant life is a double-edged one. You fit in everywhere and nowhere. You’re on the outside even when you’re inside. Not in an alienating way, just that a part of you is always observing from a zoomed out perspective. Particularly when you’re moving around with your child. As a parent you can see how race-colour-culture-language-gender agnostic they are and it feels so acutely precious, you want to make sure they hold on to that state of mind forever. As a storyteller I suppose it translates to me finding my voice in themes about deep connection in the swirl of differences. The things that bring us together.

SONIA BAHL: The boring stuff is I was born in Kolkata and have lived most of my adult life abroad—Indonesia, America, Belgium, South Africa—and I now live permanently (I think) in Singapore. Here’s some real disclosure: I am a fan of people who don’t fit in. I am a fan of random encounters. I am a fan of deep connections. I am a fan of people who listen, like really listen. I am a fan of people who are deeply touched by nature. I am a fan of authenticity. I am fan of trying…die trying, actually. 

SONIA BAHL: I want to tell you I take my laptop and watch the Milky Way from a pollution-free beach but honestly, it’s supremely quotidien what I do! I am fairly obsessive and routine-based. Jack Russel-ish in my stubborn need to finish what I’ve started. It’s pretty much all I do during the day, barring weekends. And sometimes, it spills over to the night if there’s a deadline. I find the large windows in my study with nearly daily rain exquisitely comforting. I do not work like a hyper-cool person in PJs or run on endless cups of coffee. I have a fairly gentle (euphemism) stomach so water with a slice of lime works well.

SONIA BAHL: I don’t think we can ever extract who we are from what we create. The lines are always blurred. Without being too literal about the how and where, to me this is about that rare connection. We’re all looking for deep connections we are wired to; it’s part of our molecular structure. Just that in the minutiae of the day-to-day and the overwhelming dependence on social media interactions, finding that real connection is never easy. But when it happens, it almost spoils you for everything else. It doesn’t have to be romantic or sexual or hormone-led! Everyone’s been there. Sometimes, after a five-minute conversation you’re going – “Kill me already!” And at other times, even after a five-hour conversation, you have no idea where time evaporated. It’s that simple.

SONIA BAHL: That’s the thing about authentic connections. There are no laws, no norms, no boundaries. You morph into a lighter, smarter, more energetic version of yourself. Everything just flows. It’s exactly the same when you’re writing something you feel at a granular level. The nuts and bolts of two contrasting voices in gender, beliefs, and language weren’t a studied effort. In fact, it felt fairly seamless. Not because I am a pro! I’d say because one subconsciously melds the personal with what one notices and has been impacted by. Not sure if it’s a plus or a bane, but I find myself unconsciously attuned, with a seismographer’s attention, to the dips and tremors in what people are saying. Even more to what they aren’t.

SONIA BAHL: All writing helps. But I’m certain it’s the many years spent as a copywriter that deserve a high five. The devotion to brevity, seduction through simplicity, and avoiding boredom at all costs, it’s been tattooed into our systems for posterity.

SONIA BAHL: You don’t fit in? You have no idea what a gift that is!

#MUSE

Canine Club: What’s it like living with a writer?

Sonia Bahl's Pet Ari Gold

Ari Gold: Pfft! A writer’s pet? Well, technically I am not even that. I belong to her daughter. But since my favourite human on the planet is away a lot (why do people study, work, be responsible—such a waste of time!) I hang with mum and dad in Singapore. Thing is, mum writes. Movies and stuff. So I was named after a famous HBO show character. Speed talking, power playing movie agent known for his racist, sexist, and homophobic comments—a guy called Ari Gold from a show called Entourage. Nope. Not like being named after a freedom fighter. But hey, apparently that Ari Gold guy has a heart of gold and people love him. So I’ll stop with my hangdog expression and hold my head up high. Only thing is, when mum sits at her laptop, she forgets I’m around! I shuffle at her feet, stretch, make faux crying sounds, bring out my soccer ball, nudge her hand off the trackpad and finally, finally she looks up. “Awww…Let’s get you a treat.” Guess what? Next thing I know, I’m eating celery sticks dipped in Greek yoghurt. Are you surprised, when I go down to play, my friends accuse me of having hipster affectations? My mum tells me to forget the pack. Being different is a badge of honour. See, the thing about writers is they just fill your head up with these words. Big noble words. Before you know it, you’re sniffing around hoping to find a soapbox to stand on and give a speech about self-love. When what you really want to do is what you were born to do: Climb on the big fat sofa with your humans, Netflix and cuddle.

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