Meet writer-director Anusha Srinivasan Iyer and her pack of 111 rescued dogs and cats
"When you love something, you always make time for it. It's always easy. That's the way I have always been,” says Anusha Srinivasan Iyer, Founder and Managing Director of Naarad PR and Image Strategists, which she founded over two decades ago.
A writer-director by passion, Anusha dons several hats – she is a life coach, a social entrepreneur, and an animal and environmental activist. She personally takes care of 111 dogs and cats at her Pawsitive Farm Sanctuary, and is on a mission to revive Earth through plantation of trees with her organisation Make Earth Green Again (MEGA).
Anusha Srinivasan Iyer, brand strategist, writer-director and parent to 111 rescued cats and dogs.
Her love for animals and the environment
Like most children, Anusha wanted a dog when she was young, but her mother was not ready. In the seventh grade, Anusha brought home an injured and ill-treated dog home. For three days, she cried and cried, trying to convince her mother to let her keep the dog. She named him Jimmy.
Years later, another dog - named Timepass – followed Jimmy home, and she found herself caring for two dogs.
Her love for dogs has passed on to her sons as well. After Jimmy and Timepass passed away, she adopted more dogs for her sons. Her caring and nurturing personality led her to foster more and more dogs and cats, and today, her family comprises 111 dogs and cats at her house in Andheri West, Mumbai.
“When I got land and built a bungalow, I didn't have a sanctuary in mind. But my childhood dream was always to give 100 animals a home. Well, one by one they came in. Some abandoned, some injured, some maimed, some flung out of a running car, some left in a car trunk to die, or thrown in a garbage bag. Each with a story of inhumanity by humans,” says Anusha.
Anusha takes in animals that need care, and she has personally nursed several dying animals to health. Her love for four-legged friends was abundantly evident when she said that the first thing she did when the lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus was announced was stock up on dog and cat food. Even during the lockdown, she continues to take in several animals from owners who were unable to take care of their pets.
Her nurturing care is also extended to the environment through her Make Earth Green Again initiative – an egalitarian earth foundation that looks after Earth and its inhabitants. Apart from undertaking tree plantation drives, the foundation helps rehabilitate street kids, acid attack victims, accident victims, and other people in need. The foundation has helped farmers by reviving dried-up wells in villages through rainwater harvesting.
She aims to help develop urban forests in Mumbai using replantation techniques like seed bombs, the Japanese method of Miyawaki forests, and teaching children to build small forests in their neighbourhoods.
Anusha has rescued and nursed to health many dying animals.
From journalism to films
Anusha began her career as a sports journalist at Midday in the 1990s. A national-level athlete, sports journalism was a natural choice for her. Chasing the ‘human’ element in sports reporting led her to diversify her reportage and cover various beats, including entertainment.
Entertainment stuck out for her among the sectors she reported on, and after having kids, Anusha launched a PR firm. She has worked with several big names in the industry, and her firm has handled brand strategising for films like Sooraj Barjatya’s Vivah, Lunchbox, Anurag Kashyap’s Shorts, Pooja Bhatt’s Jism 2, Sanjay Raut’s Thackeray and several more. She has worked in the industry for close to three decades, and has bagged several awards for her work.
Fuelled by her passion for writing, Anusha has taken her interest in entertainment further than brand strategising and marketing.
“Writing has always been something that excited me. There comes a time when you are very good at something, then you want to move on to something else because once you have climbed Mount Everest, what else can you climb,” says Anusha.
Anusha has penned several drama series for TV, like Parchhaiyan, Crime Patrol, Avinash IPS, Beauty Mantra, along with 14 Indonesian teleserials, and two films with director Raman Kumar.
She recently wrote and directed two short films – ‘Saare Sapne Apne Hain’, which travelled to over 120 festivals worldwide, and won over 80 awards, and ‘The Wait’ has won over 29 awards so far. Both the films are still being featured at various festivals.
“I love telling stories. Filmmaking excites me as it is an audio-visual medium. You can say it is my canvas and I fill it with talking colours,” says Anusha.
Her first film
A writer-director friend of hers once told Anusha that her storytelling abilities would work wonders if she also directed the movies based on those stories. She didn’t think over it for too long, and soon forgot all about the conversation.
Years later, when her two sons were old enough, Anusha decided to take the plunge and directed her own film. Casting her son as the actor, she shot her first film, Saare Sapne Apne Hai, in three days.
The movie was inspired by her encounter with two poor kids on a road in Kolkata. On a work trip there, Anusha was waiting for her taxi when two little boys – both called Pinky – struck up a conversation with her. She bought the boys some jhalmuri (an Indian snack) to eat, and some cucumber to take home to for their sister.
Recalling the incident she says, “The two kids ate till they were full. They also took some cucumber home for the family, and all it cost me was Rs 20. Suddenly, I felt stupid about the money I’d spent shopping, compared to the Rs 20 that I had spent to feed three children.”
The incident inspired her to make a film about a mute boy who works at a tea stall and dreams of things he could buy with his earnings. However, forgoing his wants, the boy helps another mute child with all his hard-earned money.
A still from her first short film Saare Sapne Apne Hain.
The film touched a chord with audiences at several film festivals. At Entr'2 Marches – a festival that features films for and about handicap and disability and takes place during the Cannes Film Festival – her short was screened more than three times. Anusha and her team were called on the stage after each screening to receive applause and adulation for their movie.
"One lady came and asked me how did you know that we handicapped people are equal when you are not handicapped yourself? I had never thought of it from that front. They saw something in that film - it's like a work of art is always open to interpretation, and people brought dimensions to the film,” recalls Anusha.
Anusha is currently working on six more stories for her future films.