(November 10, 2022) Amid the chaos, one often finds hope. And usually, the darkest times bring one closer to the light. That’s the workings of the Universe, in which Istanbul-based Indian author Ann D’Silva has immense faith. It was this strong belief that led her to leave a corporate career in India and relocate to Istanbul as an author. An activist and a champion of women’s empowerment, she has given the literary world women-oriented stories that are glazed with a strong narrative. And one such work of hers – Footprints in the Sand – is set to turn into a Bollywood film soon. The author has joined hands with Bollywood director and producer Prem Raj Soni for the Indo-Turkish project that’s set to go on floors sometime next year.
It was in 2021 that Prem Raj Soni connected with Ann, asking her to send him her book. “Impressed by the story of Hannah (the main character) – a modern-day woman who is a survivor and a warrior, he decided to make the film as he believes that people need stories like that. And in August this year, he made the official announcement,” says Ann who is excited to collaborate with Prem Raj Soni for the film.
India and Türkiye have played an important role in her journey, and it’s her way of giving back to the two nations that have nurtured her as an individual and a professional. While her first book is about a modern woman, her second book focuses on displacement. “These are the subjects one cannot ignore. Cinema is the medium to bring stories about humanity beyond borders,” Ann tells Global Indian.
Deepening cultural ties through cinema
Cinema transcends barriers, and Ann believes it holds true in India-Türkiye scenario too. She has seen Turkish people swoon over Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan, as some of the Indian content is dubbed in Turkish. “If you tell someone in Türkiye that you are from India, the first thing they say is Raj Kapoor. They still remember Awara Hoon; that’s the power of Indian cinema,” she adds. And now the author is keen to explore the cinematic experience for the people of India and Türkiye through the screen adaptation, which she is writing as well as co-producing.
“There is a lot of similarity between the cultures and storytelling of the two countries. Most of the content has been dubbed, but there has never been a crossover. And that’s what we are going to do with our film. It’s for the first time that the talent from both nations will work together on a project, thus helping deepen the friendship and ties between the countries.” Calling it a “first-mover advantage,” Ann says that the story of Footprints in the Sand is woven in both the cultures. “Both the countries share histories and cultures, and it will be shown through the film.”
Ann explains that the ties between India and Türkiye go centuries deeper, and her book has in-depth mentioned the blossoming friendship between the two nations. “Not many know but Mahatma Gandhi and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk were friends who exchanged letters. Both of them were visionaries who gave freedom to their countries. They were both fighting the British, while one fought a war for Independence, the other chose the course of non-violence,” reveals Ann, adding, “Almost 5000 Hindi words are a part of Türkçe (Turkish dialect).”
A home, away from home
Ann, who now calls Istanbul her home, is its resident for the past three and a half years. For someone who lived across India, moving to a new country was a leap of faith. Having intriguing recurrent dreams about Türkiye led her to her maiden visit to Istanbul in 2017, and the author instantly knew this is where she belonged. “I believe in the magic of the Universe, and I know I am supported and guided. It was this guidance that led me to Istanbul. I didn’t know anybody in Türkiye, but the country drew me in,” says the 50-year-old who has now become a part of the Indian diaspora, which she says includes 500 families in Türkiye.
“Turkish people are very polite, warm, and welcoming. When I initially moved here, I instantly felt a sense of belonging,” says Ann, whose only challenge was the language barrier. However, she is bridging the gap by constantly brushing up on her language skills. Moreover, she calls Turkiye a country that’s devoid of any racism. “There is no colour bias. I am considered exotic here because of my colour,” she smiles.
The short stint in Türkiye has made her realise that the people of the country are very much in love with everything Indian. “They love yoga, chakra healing, and aura healing techniques. Oh, and they are majorly into astrology too,” smiles Ann, as she connects with me from a cafe overlooking the Bosphorus in Istanbul. “I love observing people, and it’s them who inspire me to develop the characters for my stories.”
Championing women issues
Her move to Turkey was a blind bargain laced with adventures and learnings. If Ann released two of her books that made her a bestselling author, she also fell in love with a man in Istanbul who she ended up marrying after a whirlwind romance. However, things started looking down soon after. The abusive marriage and an ugly divorce led her to stand in the face of adversity and rise like a phoenix from the ashes. “I built an ecosystem of Turkish friends who have been my biggest support system during trying times,” says Ann, who reveals that those hard days made her an “insightful writer and an activist.”
The Global Goodwill Ambassador and the recipient of the Books for Peace Award – Italy 2022, Ann champions the idea of inclusivity, diversity, and women empowerment. “In some parts of the world, women are emancipated and empowered. In others, many are still struggling for their fundamental rights like what’s happening in Iran right now. Though there is a collective consciousness right now, where women believe it’s high time to change the narrative.” She reveals that according to a UN report, around 1.3 billion women face some sort of sexual assault, and it’s the fear that keeps them silent despite the atrocities meted out to them. “That’s what I want to change through my writing and activism,” says Ann, who is currently working on a script for a Hollywood film based on the prostitutes of Kamathipura. “I want to put the spotlight on subjects that are often brushed under the carpet. It is stories like these that give courage to the women to come out as survivors and not victims.”
With a few months left for her to begin working on the script of the film, Ann is currently immersed in writing the third installment of Kun Faya Kun in the trilogy – which speaks about the power of nature. “Man has abused nature so much, and tsunamis and droughts are the results of it. Since it’s the final book, it talks about the good and bad, and how nature corrects the imbalance,” adds the author who shuts herself each day for a few hours to write her book, which is expected to hit the stalls in 2023.
For someone who moved countries to chase her dreams, Ann is grateful for all experiences – good or bad. She calls “today – the biggest gift”. “Today is all we have. The past with its traumas and lessons is behind us. Whatever we choose to do today, impacts our future,” she signs off.