Space MOMs

Watch the trailer for Space MOMs, Radha’s moving inspirational feature film here! And please “Like” the Facebook page for Space MOMs here for the latest news and exclusive behind-the-scenes content. Radha’s personalstatement on Space MOMs follows:

On September 24, 2014, India, my birth-country, became the first country in the world to put a spacecraft into Mars’s orbit on the first try. India’s feat cost less than the Hollywood space film Gravity.

I had been following the mission and knew that few countries had the number of women engineers, in key positions, as the Indian mission.

So I launched my mission: I would bring the story of the Indian Mars Orbiter Mission to screen, and my protagonists would be those women engineers.

As a woman, I can’t ignore women’s struggle in male-dominated fields. How wonderful, then, to tell a story based on real-life heroines: brown-skinned, ethnic, citizens of a poor country. The sort of women seldom depicted as high achievers in media and entertainment. And how necessary it is for girls in the West to see these unconventional role models and say: “If they can achieve the impossible, why not me?” Glass ceilings must first be shattered in one’s own mind.
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) was in agreement: they supported my vision and introduced me to the women engineers. I was then struck by my second cinematic theme: these women were solidly rooted in their culture. They didn’t hail from India’s privileged class. They were creatures of their culture—and they were proud of it.

As a supporter of the indigenous culture reclamation movements igniting so many formerly colonized countries, the uncompromising Indian-ness of my heroines became a powerful element in my film. We have nothing against the West. But if we are to grow, we must decolonize our minds, and our role models will be those like us who stand proud in their roots. A girl from Africa or the Middle East will quicker find her spirit guide in my Space MOMs than in big-budget celluloid fairytales which reinforce the notion that only certain types of girls can get to be a princess. I want all young girls to say: who wants to be a princess when I can conquer space?

I’ve constructed Space MOMs like a sports film: underdogs with a goal that seems impossible. Their budget is tiny. The time they have is even tighter. At a critical juncture, when the orbiter’s engine has failed, a powerful clash erupts between the two female team-leads. Everything points to disaster—which makes the final victory sweeter. Nice girls may not always win, but smart girls most certainly do.

This project has taken me almost five years. The creative tasks—script-writing, production—didn’t consume the most time. Finding like-minded financiers did: I didn’t want the Girl Power or the Indigenous Pride themes to be diluted. When there was a shortfall in the budget, my husband and I took a loan against our house. We wanted to make the film with its messages intact.

The film’s title is a play on the acronym for the mission: M.O.M., for Mars Orbiter Mission. Space MOMs show the world that not all heroes wear capes: some wear saris.

Statement on Basil


Radha Bharadwaj on Basil:

My screenplay for Basil is loosely based on Victorian mystery writer Wilkie Collins’s book, Basil.  I had first read the book when I was twelve years old in India.  Even then, its very modern emotions and bold structure struck me as refreshing and original.  Collins delves into the psyche of his doomed protagonist with an immediacy and intimacy that was rare in literature those days, and he freely explores the nature of Basil’s sensual/sexual obsession for the spoiled Margaret Sherwin.

Turning the very personal, almost stream-of-consciousness book into a screenplay took thought and effort.  I had to structure a plot that brought the key characters into the pivotal clash; I had to give the Mannion character a back-story and hence a motive for the war he waged against the aristocrat Basil’s family.  Basil’s family life had to be fleshed out—at times, even created from scratch.   I still believe that despite my inventions and innovations, the screenplay for Basil remains true to the spirit of the book that Wilkie Collins wrote.

Working with the talented cast was one of the highlights of this experience, and, indeed, of my life.  I learned an immense amount just watching the different acting styles: of veteran British thespian Sir Derek Jacobi and Americans Jared Leto (who went on to win an Oscar and Golden Globe for Dallas Buyers Club) and Christian Slater.

My huge gratitude to the Toronto International Film Festival, which selected the director’s cut of Basil to close their prestigious “Special Presentation” series.

Statement on Closet Land

Radha Close Shot BW Toronto FestRadha Bharadwaj on Closet Land:

Closet Land is not based on a play or a book, or a true life event.  It is my original work, and a work of imagination.  From the get-go, I conceived of it as a film, and I wrote it as a screenplay.  I fully intended it to debut as a film—not as theatre.  Because film is better equipped to take the audience directly into intense emotional states—be they of pain, or of joy.  Closet Land, which indeed deals with torture and physical abuse, deals with pain.  And my film, despite being about torture, also deals with the exhilaration of freedom and the power of human imagination—because my film is not only about torture.

My back-up plan was to fund my film on my own, using credit cards, if necessary.   I was a film graduate fresh out of school, and a foreigner to boot.  I was repeatedly told that newcomers with no track record had no chance whatsoever of obtaining financing to direct their screenplays.  “Very well,” I told myself.  “I shall fund this film myself, shoot it in my house with unknown stage actors.”

I submitted the screenplay to the Nicoll Screenwriting Fellowship, which is sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.  I ended up being one of the winners.  The late Julian Blaustein, a legendary producer, and the late Dan Taradash, an Oscar-winning screenwriter, were on the selection committee, and became staunch supporters of my work.  Greg Beal, who currently runs the Nicoll Fellowship, became a big supporter as well.

That same year, the screenplay was selected to participate in the prestigious Sundance Screenwriting Lab.  At Sundance, I met director Alan Rudolph, who encouraged me enormously, pushing me to not compromise or give up in my fight to make my film on my own terms.

I put in a cold call to director Oliver Stone’s office.  To my amazement, he not only read the script himself but also called me in for a meeting.  He became a powerful supporter of my work.  On the strength of his generous recommendations, I started to pass the screenplay to talent agents.  Very soon, I was meeting with actors and actresses who were interested in playing the roles.  The very same Hollywood that was once out-of-reach soon came a-calling.  I took far too many meetings to count, with producers and financiers who wanted the script but wanted me out of the way as director—they wanted someone famous directing my script.  Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment gave me what I wanted: myself as director, with full creative control.  I did my film with Imagine Entertainment, and remain grateful to Ron Howard and Brian Grazer for their faith in me and their support of me.

It has provided me quiet satisfaction that my tiny-budget film has endured steadily—purely by word-of-mouth.  One viewer seeing it and recommending it to his/her friends.  Democracy in action.  Not a week goes by without my receiving letters from people from all over the world who have just seen the film, and who are moved by its power and its intensity.  Everyone out there working hard to do something original, something new, something bold and innovative, should take heart from the story of my film: good work will endure, no matter what the odds.   No matter.

I undertook to adapt my screenplay to stage when I started to receive offers from stage groups all over the world, who had seen my film and were moved by it, and who wanted to perform it on stage.  The play version has now been performed almost everywhere in the world.  On stage, the words have a lyrical force and sway.  The film experience is, however, vastly different: hugely emotional and personal, with her pain and his madness intimately felt; a dream world where imagination is king.

Closet Land Stage Rights

Radha3For rights to perform Closet Land on stage, please contact Tim Powell or Ben Rand at

To purchase copies of Radha Bharadwaj’s stage play for Closet Land, please visit this link.

Radha Bharadwaj Bio

Radha6Radha Bharadwaj was born in India and moved to the United States to study film. As a schoolgirl in India, she won state-level and national competitions for her short stories and poetry. She won acclaim in India as a teen, for her work as writer, director and actress on stage, and for her televised plays.

Bharadwaj is now a rarity in Hollywood, being an Asian American female director who creates English language features that are not narrow, ethnic tales but are universal in theme and scope. Her scripts uniformly feature rich, complex and unusual characters—this, coupled with her ability to direct actors to powerful performances, has enabled Bharadwaj to draw major talent to her films.

Bharadwaj’s screenwriting and directing feature debut is Closet Land. The surreal psychological drama has gone on to attain the status of a cult classic. Closet Land stars Alan Rickman (Harry Potter films) and Madeleine Stowe (The Last of the Mohicans). Director Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind) produced the feature. Philip Glass (Mishima, The Hours) was the creative musical consultant, Richard Einhorn (Voices of Light) provided the score, and Oscar-winner Eiko Ishioka (Dracula, Mishima) designed the film’s stark, hallucinatory set and its costumes.

The screenplay for Closet Land won the prestigious Nicoll Screenwriting Fellowship sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The script was also chosen to participate in the highly competitive Sundance Screenwriting Laboratory, sponsored by the Sundance Film Institute.

Closet Land was released in the United States by Universal Pictures. The film won acclaim and accolades in noteworthy film festivals such as the Toronto International Films Festival, San Sebastian International Film Festival, the Women in Film Festival, Los Angeles; Stockholm International Film Festival, to name a few.

Bharadwaj’s second feature is the Victorian gothic mystery, Basil. The film stars Christian Slater (Heathers, Interview with a Vampire), Sir Derek Jacobi (I, Claudius, Hamlet), Claire Forlani (Meet Joe Black) and Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club, Requiem for a Dream). The director’s cut for Basil was twice selected to be the closing night film for the prestigious Special Presentation series at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Bharadwaj also writes literary mystery novels and short fiction.

Radha Bharadwaj

Radha Bharadwaj is an award-winning writer, director and playwright. Her original screenplay, Closet Land, won the Nicholl screenwriting award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Radha went on to direct the film Closet Land, a cult classic starring Alan Rickman and Madeleine Stowe that was produced by Imagine Entertainment and released by Universal. The stage version of Closet Land has been performed all over the world. Radha also wrote and directed the film Basil, starring Jared Leto, Christian Slater and Sir Derek Jacobi.

Radha is currently working on various projects, including novels and short fiction. Visit this site to learn the latest news about those projects and, for theatre companies. to find out how to get the rights to perform Closet Land on stage.

Follow Radha on Twitter @RadhaBharadwaj and “Like” the Closet Land Facebook page here.