Archive for February, 2013

 Adaptation

If you missed it earlier, click here for the recap of Day 1. And over to mister Screeny for Day2.

Thankfully this was a better day with more writer-filmmakers talking about writing than sociologists!

Anjum Rajabali – I appeal to the sanity of the audience regarding questions asked in the Q&A sessions.

SESSION 1 – THE NEW ‘WRITE’ BRIGADE
Pubali Chowdhary (Rock On, Kai Po che. The FTII Screenwriting alumni who touched her guru Anjum Sir’s feet when she came at the dais) –
I’m a Bong. Hindi films were not cultural for me. Like most Bongs, I’ve grown on Tagore & Ray. Sholay was the first Hindi film I ever saw. The rest followed when I was a teenager (Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikander, Aashiqui etc). I was exposed to World Cinema in College. Mainstream Hindi Films were not talking to me. I’m a city girl. There was no depiction of Urban existence in Hindi films back then.
The reactions I got for Rock On were like – ‘Oh this is new modern India. Real and non melodramatic‘. The language has changed a lot for contemporary films. Technicality, Treatment, Craft has improved. The 60s melodramatic treatment is no longer relatable. Though 50s & 70s were slightly non conformist. Do Beegha Zameen, Pyaasa, Kaagaz Ke Phool, Aaradhana. If I were to pitch the story of Aaradhana (woman having a child out of wedlock and surviving in the world), it would be tough to push it through today. The Producers will as usual say ‘Let’s maintain status quo. Give feel good. Let’s not ruffle any feathers’
There is hardly anything that we’re doing ‘different’. Everything we’re trying already has a precedent. I’m sure when Akshat Verma is writing Delhi Belly he is aware of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron which is a classic.

Reema Katgi – I’m not trying to be different. Honeymoon Travels came to me. The genesis was a short story about a ‘perfect’ couple who never have any fights. But I realized no one will fund it. Then I wrote 5 other ‘real’ stories and juxtaposed with it.

Pubali – No one sets out to write ‘path breaking’ stuff. But what were you trying to say with Honeymoon?

Reema– Before Honeymoon I wrote a dark film and pursued it for 3 years. Nothing happened. Then I said I’ll do something light.
For me Talaash was a 5 yr struggle. Me and Zoya are from happy, comfortable and cosy environment. But we were dealing with darkness, demons and depressive material. It is hard but not impossible.

Pubali – Doomed Love story is almost a tradition. The Romeo-Juliet Space. How did you think you will make your film different?

Habib Faisal – You are not consciously working to create path breaking stuff. I love the power of clichés. Neither of the films I directed is ‘New’. Do Dooni Chaar is Bicycle Thief meets Garam Coat. For those who don’t know Garam Coat is a Balraj Sahni, Nirupa Roy film (written by Rajinder Singh Bedi). Balraj Sahni works in a post office and wears a coat which has a hole in the pocket. Pocket se sau ka note ek din kho jaata hai. Also Band Baja Baraat has the most clichéd rom-com structure. Ishaqzaade wasn’t Romeo & Juliet. I wasn’t doing a Vishal Bhardwaj-Shakespeare because in the play Romeo and Juliet are innocent. Zoya and Parma however imbibed venom & hatred in the space which they grew up. The film was about how women are used in politics. The first victim in the war/battle is usually woman (property). The device was the sense of ‘others’ underneath the surface. For me the smaller things, details were very attractive. Like the idea of a hard-core Hindu man spending time with a Muslim woman and seeing her offer Namaz. Or whether he will touch her parents feet or do salaam or a namaste when he meets them. It is a film. We want to be entertained and not strain ourselves. We will explore new what we want to do but it will be in a genre space.

Pubali – When you are writing you are not being analytical. But later don’t you analyse your work or critique it?

Habib – Yes, I do analyse but not mathematically. ‘Is this falling into a certain genre while there are these rules of the genre not meant to be broken? Should I fix it?’ – No I don’t do it. If I did it would’ve become a cliché.

Akshat Verma – I try and follow a character. I just want the scene to work. Give the audience what they want but not in a way they expect. It’s the same thing like saying audiences want the same old things served new. Every story has been told. Every story comes from a What If moment. Follow the moment. Spend 6-9 months with it. Why does Terminator 2 work? Because you don’t know how the villain will be stopped. Not even the writer knew. But when the solution comes, it is such a big surprise that we forgive.

Pubali – Was Vicky Donor a spec script? Commissioned? Or was it your own script?

Juhi Chaturvedi – You all have had ‘struggle’. For me Rock on, Delhi Belly, Do Dooni Chaar etc were good films already released and appreciated by the audience. I wanted to do something good in that environment. To do something good and respectable when great stuff is happening around. I laughed at the idea of a sperm donor who couldn’t have a baby. The whole day I kept on being troubled by the thought. It was a serious subject but not a serious film. Shoojit had made a great film with Amitabh Bachchan called Shoebite (unreleased). When I told Shoojit about it he didn’t react. Luckily I didn’t mention infertility else he would’ve thought this is a message oriented PSA. After 2-3 days he called back. You can come up with a wacky idea but it is important that someone believes in you. After reading the 1st draft everyone said write a nice rom-com, but they couldn’t figure out the genre. It wasn’t a rom-com or a social film. It was drama. We waited for it to go on floor and then showed it to people who liked it then. The director always believed in me and I just wrote.

Pubali – At least now can you say what kind of film it is?

Juhi – No!

Pubali – I haven’t seen your film. Could you tell us about your experiences?

Sanjay Patil (writer of 5 national Award winning Marathi fim Jogwa) – Main Kolhapur se hoon. Sugar belt area. Wahaan Devdasi ka tradtion hai jinko hum log Jogtin bolte hain. Agar koi accident hota hai toh uss ghar ki betiyon ko unke paas le jaaye jaata hai Tuesday aur Friday ko Bhiksha maangne ke liye. Yeh ek Jogwa aur Jogtin ke prem kahaani hai. Maine script likhi par 4-1/2 saal lagey. Jis kisi ko sunata woh shock ho jaate thay. ‘Hero (Upendra Limaye) poori picture mein aurat ki tarah sari mein hai!’ aisa bolte thay. Phir main iDream Productions ke Sripal Morakhia ko mila jinhoney Monsoon Wedding produce ki thi.

Unhoney kaha ‘I don’t know marathi so why should I produce your film?’.
Maine kaha – ‘aapke production house ko ek bhi National Award nahi mila hai. Yeh film woh kami poori kar degi!’
Phir woh pooche ‘Tu direct karega isey?’
‘Nahin, main director laaonga’
Phir unhoney mujhe 100 rupaye signing amount diya. Main uss waqt sarkari post mein tha, films divison mein (Subsidy Department mein). Mera kaam tha roz din mein jaa ke 3-4 filmein dekhna, AC mein baithna, popcorn samosa lunch khana. Main roz subsidy wali filmein dekhta tha jiss sey mujhe pata laga kaun achcha director hai aur kaun nahi. Maine Rajiv Patil ko bulaya. Lekin milney par maine unhe koi aur play sunaya jo sunke unhoney mujhe kaha ‘ispey ek hindi film ban sakti hai. Marathi nahi. Tumhare paas aur kuch hai ?’ Phir maine unhey Jogwa sunayi. Hum raat bhar baat karte rahe aur subah woh maan gaye.

Dheere dheere Jogwa bani. Film hit ho gayi. Uperndra Limaye ko National Award mila. Uskey baad maine ‘Pangira’ pitch kari jo onion farmers ke uppar thi jinko minimum guarantee paise nahi miltey, aur jo aandolan kartey hain, jismey police shootout ki wajah se 8 farmers marr jaatey hain. Sabne kaha ‘End aisa kyun ? Isko Badal. Rom-com bana’. Lekin yeh never before seen subject tha aur main isey banana chahta tha.

Sripal Morakhia ke paas gaya toh unhoney kaha ‘Subsidy (30 lakh rps approx) sirf 1st film ko milti hai. 2nd ko nahi.” Yeh baat mere ko maloom thi. Phir unhoney poocha ‘Budget kya hai?’. ‘1 cr 30 lakh’. ‘Theek hai. Main sirf 30 lakh daalonga!’. Baaki ka 1 Cr maine apni taraf se jugaad kiya yahaan wahaan se intezaam kiya.

Film bani, release hui aur pitt gayi ! Abhi main phir bhi udaas nahi hoon. Meri agli marathi film titled ’72 miles’ Grazing Goat Films (Akshay Kumar ka production House) fund karegi. Aur main pichle 5-6 saal se Naxalism ke subject pe kaam kar raha hoon.

Pubali – What is the hardest part of writing process for you?

Reema – I write with Zoya. We first write story and then get into writing scenes & screenplay. Getting the story is the toughest!

Pubali – But honeymoon had multiple protagonists.

Reema – The story was the perfect couple superhero story which had stayed with me while I was AD-ing on Lakshya and working in the mountains. Post the film got over, I eventually penned it down. I don’t plan or analyse but go on my instinct instead. I’ve not done ‘Rewrites’ but sometimes because of ‘fabulous inputs’ from actors I have had to incorporate some stuff into my scripts.

Habib – I am often called a ‘late bloomer’. I’m an accidental screenplay writer. I was happily covering shooting for NDTV for 5 yrs. But then News started becoming fiction. It became a monster! I didn’t find it exciting anymore. So I said let us get into fiction honestly. I directed a TV serial first. Worked on a project called ‘Electric Moon’ through which I knew Tishu who later introduced me to Shaad Ali.
My first film was Salaam Namaste. My 1st half was there in the story. 2nd half was inspired by 9 months. Salaam Namaste was a story about a live in couple with Saif from Ludhiana and Priety as an RJ from Lahore! The interval was that their respective parents land up at the house!

But then around the time before shoot, some big TV serial was announced which was something similar. Siddarth said ‘Hold onto the thought. We’ll change it to 9 months. Something else will happen’
I wrote Ta Ra Rum Pum & Jhoom Barabar Jhoom.

I used to get responses for Salaam Namaste writing like -‘How can my hero make breakfast for the heroine?’. I used to respond ‘Because it is a cool thing to do for a hero!’. I’m not a feminine/feminist person. I’m very particular and anal about cleanliness so I put all those personal traits into the film. Through Ta Ra Ram Pam, Salaam Namaste, Jhoom Barabar I felt my voice isn’t being translated. Not ‘Blooming’. So I told myself, the next idea I will make myself. I went ahead and made Do Dooni Chaar. DDC happened before BBB. DDC gave Aditya chopra the confidence that BBB can work.

Pubali – You came out of film school. How did Delhi Belly happen? Was the story always set in India?

Akshat – I never wanted to be a writer. I wanted to be a porn star. DB was written for India. I had spent a limited time in US only so didn’t have enough experience to base it there. I had 12 weeks to write a script I would’ve got an F grade. When the pressure is on you, you fall back to the world you know and come from. So I wrote DB. The comedy was very specific in the nuances. People were laughing in the workshops. They were interested and suggested I set it in NY. But I always saw it as an Indian film.

Juhi– The hardest part of writing? I didn’t start to become a writer. I wanted to be a painter. I’m an art college graduate. To earn money I started working in advertising, so that I could continue painting. I would like to thank my writing partner because she used to pitch my scripts (AD film scripts) but while she was doing so, I felt she was pitching it wrong! So I started doing it myself. I started writing Radio spots. And I’m from Lucknow so I used to write long pieces. My boss Piyush Pandey used to say ‘Chota karo!’. I struggled more in advertising trying to convince people that I can write, I can express. In films, I didn’t have very many struggles. May be finding the right ending of the film was a struggle for me. I didn’t know how to end it. Shoojit gave me the adoption idea.

Q&A
1. Don’t you get frustrated when the director changes your script?
Habib – The final author of the film is the Director. I’m a crew member like the DOP, Editor, Art Dir etc. If he wants a 90 min film, I’ll do it. If he wants a 3 hr long movie, I will charge more and do it. If the Dir wants flat lighting for a scene, then regardless of the fact that the DoP may light it up brilliantly in high contrast, the Dir has every right to insist on the flat lighting. Then the DoP will try and interestingly do a good job in that flat lighting. Same is the case with me. The ultimate author is the director. Because the film is told cinematically. However, more and more directors & producers are giving respect to the vision of the writer. The collaboration is becoming more synergetic and organic.

Reema – I never had this problem since no one was changing my script, since no one was interested in it anyway!

2. Is this the time for non interval 90 min films like Delhi Belly?
Habib – I love the interval time. I love the structure. It gives me two climaxes! I need to have them by their balls at the interval point so that they are eager to find out what happens post interval, while they are buying the samosa popcorn. Agar aap interval nahi dete, toh Ratlam/Bhopal mein woh Theater owners waise bhi beech mein kaat hi deengey picture ko aur samose popcorn bechengey. Uss sey achcha toh main hi kaat doon.

Reema – We need a loo break in films. We need the popcorn samosa to be sold. If we took out songs from our films, it would become 90 min films. But I personally like songs in the films

Akshat – The interval doesn’t work for me at all. I really worked hard following the 3 ACT structure, and try and build up my scenes. But when an interval comes, all the effort goes wasted away.

3. VO in films.
Akshat – VO is bad writing. It is a short way of getting the point across. Despite the occasional Sunset Boulevard & American Beauty, VO is often bad.

Reema – VO is used as lazy scripting often. But it can be used interestingly too at times. In Honeymoon the radio show (agony aunt) almost acts as a VO. In a ‘confessional’ format.

Habib – I’m guilty of having used the VO in DDC. But it was fun.

4. Last few words?

Sanjay Patil – Main jo bhi likhoonga social context mein hi likhoonga. Naxalite film ke alawa main ek Hindu-Muslim relationship pe kaam karna chahta hoon, jo mere experiences pe based ho.

Juhi – Good writing happens when you don’t succumb to the pressure. The script has to be inventive and should come from within, despite (if at all) being borrowed from somewhere. A little bit of Ego is important to believe that writing isn’t pure entertainment for you.

Reema – I’ve been around in the industry for nearly 16 yrs. Now people are wanting to explore different films. I’m not against blockbusters. But space for alternate films should be there. I was so depressed at a time I was considering taking up playing professional poker for a living. But I’m hopeful.

Akshat – Too many blank pages and not enough sleep!

Habib – My wife Shaila teaches in a school for slum kids. The ages of the kids vary from tiny toddlers to 14-15 yr olds. Every now and then, BMC mows down their houses. These kids are on and off education and they do not even know how to write their names! And yet they sing and dance to Chikni Chamelis, Sheilas, Munnis! That is the amazing power of Cinema. We owe it to them.

Juhi – We’re making safe films compared to yester-years. Guide was so path breaking in the 60s! If today we were to make it, Marco might have a hriday-parivartan. Let us attempt more Guide & Mother India.

Habib – There’s a lot of anti establishment films which are being made in recent times. Both my films were anti establishment.

Pubali – Being a writer all you have got is that computer screen. So, be at it. Work, Work and work a little more.

SESSION 2 – IS THE OLD ORDER CRACKING?

Anjum Rajabali – I would like to introduce this session by talking a little about my friend Mr Nihlani’s seminal film Ardha Satya. Back then (1983) there was a spate of Amitabh Bachchan films as angry young man, son disillusioned with his father, grey man. There was a set format which overshadowed everything else – Zanjeer, Deewar, Sholay, Trishul etc. Govind Nihalani got a rebel cop story written by the great Vijay Tendulkar similar to the themes that were in vogue. And Mr Nihalani chose Om Puri as his hero who did not look like a hero from any angle. It is dark, violent, cynical, ends on a bitter and pessimistic note. In those days there were two theaters which were considered benchmarks of ‘commercial successes were Novelty Cinema in Grant Road and Chandan in Juhu. The film ran for 20 weeks in Novelty Cinema and was a resounding success ! If a film like ArdhaSatya can be accepted by the audiences back then, then we have no business cribbing that audiences want this and that!

Govind Nihalani – Storytelling in Cinema is a complex process. Not a one to one transaction. It is not narrating a sequence of events. It is creating an experience for the viewer. The writer while telling something to the audiences also makes them experience it. To make them angry, happy, sad, delirious. Some response from the audience on sensuous and intellectual level is storytelling. Story idea could come to you anytime anywhere. To convert that idea into a script, we need to script it. Scriptwriting is craft. A whole are of making decisions opens in scripting. How will you want to tell the story ? A to Z chronologically ? Flashbacks ? Flashforwards ? Whose POV should it be ? Needs a very calculated, imaginative and mindful approach. How will you open the story? How will you end it? It needs to be calculated and put in order. Who is the most important element in the story which engages you from start? My choice is always the main character/protagonist. Is the writer enamoured by plot or by character? Keep in mind what is it that you want to say in the script. ‘Sabko sabak sikhana hai’ is a much maligned word. Put a POV. What is it that attracted you to the story in the first place?

The 3 ACT structure! Exposition, Escalation of Conflict and Resolution. Our own narratives stem from Tamasha, Ramleela, Parsi theater. Hindi Cinema Narrative is Song, Dance, Comedy. Then we have the Non Linear/Multi Story Structure. At Kerala Film Festival, they showed films not from Europe & US but from Latin America, Africa etc. I was surprised to see a number of films which do not follow the 3 ACT structure and yet are impactful. The 3 ACT structure emerges from the West due to their emphasis on plays. It works best there. That structure has survived 100 yrs of Cinema. Yet there is a quest to create new narrative energies. All different strategies/structures are not adversaries of one another. They are strategies to connect with the audience.

Abbas Tyrewala – I disagree humbly with Govind Sir. To me, the 3 Act and the Non narrative structures are adversaries of one another. William Shakespeare worked in 3 ACT structure. Let me give a few instances/points

1. A storyteller started narrating a story to the villagers on one bonfire lit night. He had all of their attention. He began the story – A beautiful woman is sleeping peacefully on a bed. A man walks by the window and sees her. He creeps in through the window and looks at her, remarks ‘She’s hot’; and then kisses her!
Every single villager started shouting ‘Bloody Pevert he is. Stop! Stop!’ and no one heard the full story. It actually was the story of Sleeping Beauty (a cursed princess who will be asleep for 100 yrs only to be awakened by a prince who will kiss her)

The next night the storyteller narrated the same tale differently and then the villagers were holding onto every word. By the time the prince comes into the window, they all start yelling ‘Yeah! Go on! Kiss the girl!’

2. The storyteller began with – ‘They all lived happily ever after. Cut to, we see a prince sitting alone, drinking alone, and looking at a glass slipper. Cut to, we see few hours ago the clock strikes 12 and a carriage turning into pumpkin. Cut to, we see a shabbily dressed but beautiful looking girl is cleaning the floor with a broom as her sisters are scolding her.’ And so on and so forth. It is of course the Cinderella story but the story teller kept narrating it in a trial and error basis. Eventually he realises that the story is good and impactful when you narrate from the POV of a protagonist.

3. The storyteller then for his next story, keeps intercutting between the Red Riding Hood and the story of The Boy who cried Wolf. He mixes these two stories confusing himself and the villagers and finally in a bumbling manner reveals the ‘twist‘ – it is the same wolf in both the stories!

The point of these three instances being – As a ballpark, the simpler (masses) care about simpler stories.

4. Why do smokers smoke? Because they feel they get ‘high’. Non smokers don’t get/feel that ‘high’. When a smoker doesn’t smoke for some time he feels something is missing. There is craving for nicotine. When you get your nicotine you get back to feeling what a non smoker feels (without smoking) – ‘normal’. For a smoker, smoking a cigarette isn’t a high but returning back to being ‘normal’ is. At the end of each film, people will walk out with a ‘High’. A story should have its crest, a trough and then a crest again.

5. You need to have a hook point. Three qualities that a story can/should evoke in you
sympathy (I feel sorry for the character)
empathy (I connect with the character)
antipathy (I want to kill the character!)
As sympathy you want to go through his journey. Classic revenge dramas (Apne baap ki maut ka badla lena hai) to Revenge taken is the graph of the character from depression to being ‘normal’. How much ‘high’ you get from a story is how well you connect/feel for/associate with the character.

6. In a screenwriting class I went up to the blackboard and wrote “Anurag Kashyap is a dickhead” as the students were walking in and continued to behave normally. I checked my phone, read my book, behaved normal. Once the students were seated I began my screenwriting lesson. Mid way during the lesson one of the students interrupted me and asked ‘I’m sorry why have you written that on the board?’. I said ‘You tell me’. And then they started asking me questions but I didn’t yield. Slowly they started accusing me of being jealous of Anurag Kashyap. ‘He is more successful than you.’ ‘You are a bad guy. You hate him’ and so on and so forth.

Eventually when they all became rabid and vociferous, I politely revealed the twist – ‘I hate him because behind my back, he slept with my girlfriend’. Then there was a sudden silence. And then slowly, they all started abusing Anurag Kashyap! I changed their antipathy to sympathy in a flash. But the trigger is Anurag Kashyap. And then I added a key question – “A Hollywood director wants to either work with me or Anurag Kashyap”. And I narrate what all Anurag does to get the film and what all I do to get the film. That is the plot point and escalation. Eventually it boils down to who will win. Say the Hollywood Director’s Indian representive Javed Akhtar has to make that decision. So both me and Anurag try to impress Javed Saab. Who wins and how? That’s the last act!

P.S – The whole Anurag sleeping with my G and Hollywood dir is obviously fictitious

7. Some boys like playing chess/bridge, putting together puzzles. So when they hear the storyteller’s multiple narrative version of the story, they love it! But others who play cricket/football couldn’t connect with it at all.

8. Music – We like listening to different forms of music like Stomping/Accapella and so on. It may work at times but not all the time. Instrumental (Traditional) Music will always be there.

Bottom Line – 3 ACT is not the only way to narrate stories. Some are telling stories traditionally. Some are playing with the aspects/changing cinema. It is not great just because it is different.

Bejoy Nambiar – Even Abbas Tyrewala’s speech had a 3 ACT Structure! I agree with him on lots of points. 3 ACT is a great device/template. I don’t have formal training in films. I learnt filmmaking by watching films. That explains why David didn’t work.

Abbas (interrupting)Can we talk about writing structure without getting reminded of our last release?

Bejoy (continuing) – Stories need to CONNECT with the audiences. You can choose to tell it whichever way you want. I don’t subscribe to 3 ACT, though it works for the audience. I choose to tell it the way I want to because it works for me! The need came because the content caters to wide range of audiences. I felt there is an audience which wants more than what is being given. Audience here is ready for something new. It is ready and can process more data. I feel different kind of stories can also be told. But they need to be told well. Multiple story structure also follows the 3 Act Structure. Barfi didn’t follow a structure. It went back and forth. Yet it connected. Though the multiple story narrative may not be as simple, it may be truncated. It may have a grammar though not a prescribed one.
Zoya’s ZNMD followed a 3 Act structure. But it had consecutive characters, whose stories we saw one after the other. Because David didn’t work doesn’t mean I will stop making multiple narrative films. Not because I want to be different but because this kind of form appeals to me. Stories can be complicated or simple. But both need to have a connect.
TV has been following Multiple character narratives for a long time. Buniyaad did it years ago. When TV why not films? Sadly when multiple narrative films don’t work, people write off the whole ‘genre’ of multiple narrative films.

Govind Nihlani – Marathi has 3 Act plays, 5 Act plays and experimental theatre. Even practitioners (writers, actors) come from stage. In contemporary Marathi cinema you can see both traditions.

Sanjay Patil – Marathi theater bahut rich hai. Kirloskar, Keshav Bhonsle, Acharya, Raglekar, Tendulkar – yeh sab legends hain. Acharya aatre’s Shyaam chi aai got Swarnakamal award. Master Vinayak with his bramhachari, Bhalji Pendhalkar, Raja Paranjpe. Kumkum Manush by Shantaram was very strong content wise. Rau Kadam, Vasant Pawar ka toh base hi folk pe tha. Marathi cinema mein social context tha jo Sahukari Pash se initiate ho gaya tha. Dr Jabbar Patel, Sati Salekar, Vijay Tendulkar Pune Theater se thay. Among the other important films we had Simhasan, Saamna and Umbartha (All made by Jabbar Patel). Satish Saleskar made Jait re Jait jiske dialogues bhi lyrical thay. Jabbar Patel and Pula Deshpande worked omn Ek Hota Vidushak. 90% of all the actors, writers, filmakers in the award winning recent marathi cinema are from theater. Shwaas se marathi film ne classical boundary cross kiya intellectual region mein. Ravi Jadhav ke teenon filmon ka (Natrang – tragedy of the Tamasha kalakaar, Bal Gandharv, Balak Palak – teenagers is psychology pe bani film) genre/texture/content/presentation ekdum alag hai.
Unless I understand tradition my experiment will not be fulfilled. Marathi has classic literature. Sadly we haven’t even explored .01% of it in our films.
Music is a very powerful compared to the music in other regional language films.
Except Simhasan political subjects pe marathi films nahi bani hain. If we don’t write about what is around us then what is the point?

Urmi Juvekar – What is the effective format? How do you write something effective? What is (more) effective? Something which appeals to 50,000 people or 5 lakh? This is subjective. Audience decides what is going to be effective.
Dibakar told me an anecdote once. When he was a child his grandfather would narrate him stories. One day DB wanted to hear the story of ‘shikaar’. His grandfather started narrating.
‘Ek shikaari tha. Jungle mein aaya. Gun wagairah ke saath ek dum tayarri karke. Kaafi intezaar ke baad aakhir usey ek Sher dikha’
Suddenly DB interrupted – ‘Nahi nahi! Sher nahi marna chahiye kahaani mein!!!’

Bottom line – story is incomplete without audience participation & response. There are two important elements
1. Audience ek tribe hai, code hai culture hai. They engage with the material onscreen by popcorn, talking to friends, BBM-ing, discussing with each other. So it is a many to one audience-film experience. They want to share their experiences. Unko lage give me the ‘same stuff’ taaki aasaani se woh share kar sakein.
Aur kuch log hotey hain jinke liye film watching is a one-to-one experience. They want something ‘new’. Not trite stuff.
2. We’re selfish audiences. We don’t want the Lion to die.

Dil To Pagal Hai had a ‘new’ idea. There was the Valentine’s Day concept introduced in the film for the first time. But it wasn’t an ‘Indian’ concept back then. So how do you get the audiences to accept it ?
Solution – There is a scene where Madhuri Dixit talks to her saheli about ‘Sant Valentine’ and does the whole exposition for the audience. Then they nail it for the audience when Madhuri says ‘Lekin iss saal ka Valentine’s Day bahut special hai. Kyunki is saal Valentine’s day pooranmaasi pe aata hai!!!

Rakeysh OmPrakash Mehra – Stories are personal experiences. I’m primarily a director and a spare time writer. Story is THE king. When there was no structure were there not stories and storytellers? So is this structure only related to cinema? Yes there is a beginning, middle, end in a story but when you translate it on screen, it needn’t be in the same order.
Hundreds of poets and shayars have written about Romance, lekin kehte hain ki Ghalib ka andaz-e-bayaan aur hai!
Every film I make is a film school for me. I watch many movies, read many scripts. The driving force for me is when you want to say something and deciding how you want to say it.
In my next two scripts, I’m trying to discover a free flowing structure. I’ve done away with INT/EXT/DAY/NIGHT. That is for the 1st AD and the production to figure out. My next film I want to write a long essay. And want to translate it into cinema using a free flowing structure. Because I know the story and character inside out. I’ve followed the 2 ACT, 3 ACT, Linear and Non Linear structure in my movies.

Govind Nihlani – Rakesh even a free flowing structure is a structure in itself. By the way, recently there have been a lot of South Remakes which has also brought a lot of change in Hindi Cinema – A ‘Madras Cut’. Could you shed some light on it?

K Hariharan – There are two kinds of cinema down south. First is the Madras Cinema (which always saw itself as ‘National’ Cinema and not as regional cinema). Second is the Tamil Cinema. Madras Cinema was like kind of a ‘testing ground’. The scripts were written in English. If you see the scripts of L V Prasad they were written in English. And in south the audiences are far more engaged in cinema. So Madas Cinema was a great testing ground for these films. A film which became a hit would immediately be remade in Hindi. Gulshan Rai, Tarachand Barjatya were producers who used to enquire about the films ‘How many weeks did such-and-such film ran? 30 weeks! Ok then we’ll fund the hindi remake!’

L V Prasad made Samsaran (Telugu) which ran for 50 weeks and it was remade in hindi with Raj Kapoor and Meena Kumari as Sharada. Yenge Veetu Pillai with MGR was remade as Ram aur Shyaam. Namme Naal was remade as Haathi Mere Saathi.
I take Ghajini, Bodyguard, Singham etc very seriously. The story structure is very simple in such films. It’s a heroic story story with the graph from Zero to Infinity! Bodyguard has that slight college campus which is its USP. Rest all is the same zero to infinity flow. Bodyguard was a telugu film remade in Tamil and then eventually into Hindi. There is no space for complexity in such films. It is Melodrama and Melodrama doesn’t accept psychology. It’s pure structure of Ascendant. Zero to Infinity!
So you see in most such films, the villains have no motivation at all. They are mere walls/obstacles for the protagonist to overcome. When the audiences get lost in psychologically complex films, they want to take a break. Then they see such films. We don’t get into grey areas. The audience is being reassured that good will win and evil will be defeated.

Tom Schulman on why America is so stuck on 3 ACT structure –
By the way, Shakespeare used the 5 ACT structure and not 3 ACT. Personally I feel Analysis is Paralysis. I want the freedom to create. The only thing I think about is that my script should be between 100-130 pages and the film should be 90-120 min in duration. Lots of writers do rebel against the 3 ACT and the rules. The others still want an inciting incident on the 24th page and a conflict escalation point on the 85th page and blah blah.

I wrote ‘What about Bob’ and the director asked me during one of our many discussions –
‘Where is the 2nd Act Curtain?
I had no clue what he meant but I vaguely described the scene which I thought was the ‘2nd ACT Curtain scene’. I said may be such and such scene is the one you are looking for.
‘Yeah this one. You are right. But which page?
I didn’t remember! I checked my script and replied ’93’
‘Oh that’s great. So we can knock off 3 pages and shift it to page number 90, where it should be!’
I was flabbergasted. Then he asked me –
‘What’s your favourite scene in the film ?’
I replied ‘Is this kill your babies from Syd Field?’
‘Yes’
‘Then I’m not telling you my favourite scene!’
Then he tells me his favourite scene. Co-incidentally it was my favourite scene too!
He said ‘Ok great. This scene has to go then!’
‘This is ridiculous. This scene is your fav scene and mine too. The writer’s and Director’s fav scene in the movie. Why should it go ? Purely because Syd Field says you should kill your babies in the script ?’
‘No. Not just that. But also because it is in the 2nd Act and not in the 3rd Act!!!

I rebel against such usage of the 3 ACT structure.

Javed Akhtar (to BN) – How can we talk about structure without deciding content? It has to be the other way round. If we decide structure in advance then it is dangerous. Mother India, Deewar, Sholay were not ‘linear’ at all. Are you communicating with your target audience?

Bejoy – I agree. Story should dictate structure. There cannot be permanent likings/preferences. The 3 ACT isn’t obsolete.

Anjum Rajabali – Many stories can be told in different ways.

Abbas – Simple stories are not there anymore. As Javed Saab rightly pointed out Villains are not there any more. Inter caste/religion marriages are being approved of by parents. So who is the villain now?
Memento is a clear example. It is a reasonably mild story told very very impact fully thanks to its structure. If you see it top down it may not be as impactful. It works more because of its reverse chronology. But the content determined that structure.

Javed Akhtar – I wish Abbas I had said your speech. I think it was superb. By the way things are not all that simple. Most super hit films are films which didn’t have happy endings. Like Mother India, Sholay, Deewar, Mughal-e-azam.

Q&A
1. Sometimes you write flashback scenes which do not have the narrating character in them. Isn’t that logically wrong?
Abbas – Right ya wrong, it doesn’t matter. IF you are watching it and the Drama is strong enough, we ignore logic. Sholay ke scene mein after Amitabh’s death, how does Dharamendra go and find Gabbar’s den? You don’t care because drama is so strong!
ROM – If you’ve played chinese whispher you will know. You need to be a good liar. Don’t get logic into it.

2 Multiple Narrative & ZNMD
Abbas – Zoya did really well in ZNMD. At no point the viewer felt ‘arey! Achanak ek ki story rok ke doosre ki shuru kar di hai!’ It was appreciated by the audience. You don’t feel jolted out as one character’s personal story gets over and another one’s begins. You feel for all the characters and care enough for all the three characters. The two qualities of a good writer are
-Do you have a story?
– Can you listen to your own story before the audience can hear it?
Listen to your story. Don’t kill it.

I didn’t attend the other two sessions since they were centered around TV writing. And forgive me if i got a few marathi film names wrong. Mala sampoorna Marathi mait nahi!

If you are attending the ongoing FWA Indian Screenwriters Conference, then great. If not, our good ol’ mister Screeny (if you are regular follower of the blog, you know) is back with all the details and dope.

screenwriting-215x300Inspired from Dear Kamal Swaroop, I’ve decided to smoke a joint/have a nip/acid before attending anything related to cinema academics. It turned out to be quite an enjoyable experience as I learnt to appreciate some of the usual sarkari fuckups (lunch came in ‘installments’ due to improper communication and people were waiting in queues for nearly 2 hours) that plague any event of such sort which involves ‘artists’, especially screenwriters! Also some sentences may appear incoherent/incompletely bridged together. This is just meant to be snippets of the lectures.
And a humble request to all those who attend screenwriting seminars – Please have some sharm-o-haya before asking chutiyape ke sawaal to the panelists  Not only do you insult their intelligence but also of your screenwriter brethren! Listening to some of the audience questions in the Q&A sessions makes you realise why we make such fuckall films. Agar ek 20 minute ke lecture ke baad ek audience member screenwriter khud irrelevant, inarticulate, tangent pe jaane wale, haggu sawaal poochega, toh 120 pannon mein kitna Diarrhoea failayega ?

WELCOME ADDRESS

Day 1 began 30 min late.

Anjum Rajabali spoke about the recently passed Copyright Amendment Act briefly. How for first time FWA is interacting with WGA. The career of a writer doesn’t begin when he gets the contract, but when he begins to write.
The annual turnover of Indian Cinema is 2.1 Billion USD whereas the mere pension fund of the WGA is 2.2 Billion USD !!! They can buy out the entire Indian Film Industry if they wish with just their pension plan.

Rajesh Dubey (writer of Balika Vadhu & many TV serials) – Achchi baat yeh hai ki aaj ke seminar mein koi saas nahi hai. Toh bina rok tok discussion chal sakti hai. Jitney TV ke writers hain unmey se shayad 30% logon ne hi kabhi kitchen mein kadam rakhkha ho, par phir bhi kitchen politics ke baare mein likhte hain, kaunsi bahu ne kheer mein cheeni ki jagah namak milaya – uss baare mein likhtey hain. Maine aaj tak ek murder nahi kiya lekin mere likhe huey serials ke murder techniques koi criminal dekhega toh yakeenan khud chaunk jaayega.
Television hindustan ke 2/3 gharon mein chalta hai. Bahut prabhaavshaali maadhyam hai par uski zimmedaariyon ke baare mein behes kabhi nahi hoti. Hoti hai toh sirf Talk shows aur debates mein. Kya samaaj ki unnati se TV Writers ka koi sarokaar hai ya nahi ?

Vinay Shukla – like always made a dead boring speech about history of responsibility of cinema. He also added ‘Hang out in there and fight everything you believe in’ in his soporific voice with which he had directed Koi Mere Dil Se Poochey & Mirch (No! Godmother & the cameo in Maqbool was a different Vinay Shukla).

Javed Akhtar (As always the old man has lot of wit and fire underneath his kurta)
Market demands Vs what we see around us. How commercial compulsions are to be made compatible with our basic instincts as a writer. Is the Indian mainstream media completely far removed from reality? (He spoke about the same old pattern of villains over the decades – moneylender-underworld don-capitalistic or a mill owner – politician – to eventually becoming a hero as a vigilante). Now we’ve even gotten bored of Pakistan as the villain. Whatever is villain-ish has become part of our society’s morality. So how do we make villains anymore ?Reg. Social Responsibility – We were unaware of it when we were writing our scripts. We had no idea our scripts had any social responsibility or political reference. We were simply writing.

Alam Ara the first sound film had nearly 50 songs. Now people are trying to change the structure. Sadly, now the only thing that is keeping the music culture alive in films is the ringtone business. Earlier we used to fall in the trap of melodrama. Now we even shy away from drama, which is a big trap. Our trump card now is comedy and not emotions. Why are we embarrassed by it ? Which was the last good romantic song you saw on screen? Do we not fall in love anymore ? We are gaining tempo/speed at the cost of depth. We can’t go back to the tempo of the 60s but we can’t lose depth either.

Reg. Delhi Rape and how we don’t have rape scenes in films nowadays- Because the victim is no longer part of a family. All films show Nuclear families (as they are prevalent in our society). No joint family, hence no hero’s sister (hero’s gf/wife can’t be raped else she will become apavitra), and hence no rape. We are not seeing families or characters’ families. We’re becoming cold gradually.

Now immediate gratification is the vogue. Nobody wants ‘hits’. Everyone wants on the table profits. And because they get it, producers/distributors are not bothered about script/content. Script is always lowest in the list of priorities. The only way we can do it by telling and convincing the producer that there is great money in our scripts. The buyer should be impressed. We are not dealing with saints but businessmen.

So pitch the complete script and not just a concept/story/idea. Model contract is the bottom line. Writers should fight for their names on the posters. They will not offer it to us in a platter. We have to fight for it. It’s a multi throng fight. We’ve to fight with ourselves to improve ourselves and fight them. There are two kinds of things. Things which are for the market and things which create the market. I suggest you go for the latter.

Tom Schulman VC of WGA (writer of firangi mohabattein – Dead Poets Society)

In silent movie era in Hollywood, the movies were ‘written’ by title card writers. A big movie Moghul later is known to have said these two things regarding writers

1. Writers were shmucks with underwood (typewriter)
2. He is the most important person in the creation of motion pictures and he should never know of this!

Early movies, writers had no/little money and no credit. A writer would be shocked to see that the ‘written by’ credit has many a times been given to the production exec’s cousin/sister.

The Oscar Academy was started out in protest of (and to prevent & monopolize) the Writers Union!
We’ve gone on a strike and been successful in our demands being approved for 7 times (for 4 yr duration) in the last 80 yrs. And then we fought for Royalties.

Dharmesh Tiwari (President of Western Indian Cine Employees & a side trivia – played Kripacharya in Mahabharat) These days TV ki haalat itni kharaab hai ki I remember a case of a TV writer approaching an exec with the idea of adaptation of Premchand’s stories. And she was met with a response – “Woh toh theek hai par iss Premchand ne aur kya likha hai?’

Bumped into Thiagarajan Kumararaja (Aaranya Kaandam – National award 2011 best Editing & Debut) who said he follows moifc and was thankful that there is a good quality DVD print of his film with English subtitles floating around. Sadly there has been no official DVD release of his film yet. (We got the DVD via some usual suspects. Thank you ji)

The film was shot in 58 days with 2 days re shooting as the guy who was playing Gajendran (younger bro) originally had passed away in a heart attack. He later discovered the actor who plays Gajendran and realised he is an ex gangster. The elder brother was a retired boxer.
Ilayaraja influence was always there. Though using Poonmene Urungudey from Moondram Pirai (Oh babua Yeh mahua in Sadma) was added later.
Tarantino influence is conscious. Kitano influence isn’t. Have only seen one Kitano film.
It took 4 yrs from writing to making the film. I’m writing my next one.
I’m fascinated with Myth & Mythology

SESSION 1 – KEY NOTE SPEECH – SCREENWRITING AND TRUTH OF OUR TIMES

The much acclaimed Sociologist Key note speaker Shiv Vishwanathan was every inch a GRE word mouthing, every adjective/adverb/composite word spewing intellectual who talked too much but shifted goalposts every now and then and made little sense after a point. Read at your own risk –

Sociologists make very poor storytellers. They are always envious of scriptwriters. Sociology is about capturing the ambiguity of life.
‘Can film be socially responsible?’ – This statement comprises of firstly the word Culture which is usually taken for granted. He narrated an anecdote of a Nazi Minister who said “When I think of Culture, I reach for my gun” And Alexander Grushev who responded with “When I hear the gun, I reach for my Culture”. We however, when hear ‘culture’, reach out for the dictionary.

Cinema vs TV – In the dingy slums of New York couple of decades ago; a young woman was being stalked by a stranger for a long time. As she yelled in fear, suddenly the lights around the tenements were switched on. The stalker took cover but after seeing that no one came to help the girl, came back and stabbed her 41 times and then ran away. When Sociologists asked the people why they didn’t run to help the girl, they responded “We felt we were watching TV!”.
TV provides time table – to wake up in morning to Aastha Channel and go to sleep at night after watching Daily Soap Operas. TV is Civics. Cinema is myth.

Manto is the predecessor of Javed Akhtar. His story on Bombay Talkies is the answer to Pakistan. Bombay Talkies was left alive. Manto created the myth of Bombay Talkies, about unity between Hindus & Muslims.
Bollywood captures part of the imagination, part of the culture of solidarity. But myth of Bollywood is Silence. It amplifies myth of Hindu Muslim Unity but is silent about caste. Heroes are Brahminical angry young men. But no Angry young Dalits.
Social Responsibility is what you cook up when it doesn’t exist. It belongs to Planning Commission not to Bollywood. Because if Bollywood addresses Social Responsibility it loses it’s myth. Bollywood brings oral imagination to Society. It is the secret preamble to the Constitution. The answer to a myth is another myth. Myth is the beauty of Bollywood.

I remember singing Mera Joota Hai Japaani so much in my childhood that my mother often chided me ‘You sing it so much that you think it is the National Anthem’.

Stereotype is comfortable. It is a large house with lots of windows where we go to rest peacefully. AB on Cinema is different from AB on TV (KBC). While AB on Cinema has wisdom and gives solutions, AB on TV gives information.

I liked Rang De Basanti so much when I first saw it but then later it became part of the Aamir Khan Narmada Bachao Aandolan & Anna Hazare movement it became something else. When politics and cinema merge, it becomes embarrassing. People with myopic view of Indian History (fed on NCERT History books) suddenly felt an irresistible urge to be a part of a national movement (like the leaders of Indian National Movement) and took part in it. If problem solving was so easy then what was the problem in the first place? It shouldn’t have become an ideological tome. Social Responsibility thrust on something/someone becomes Fascism. RDB was consumed twice. First time it was eloquence. Second time it became banality.

There have been more people displaced due to the ‘development’ of cities than due to wars we were part of.

Javed Akhtar’s Response – Responsibility is a duty and not a desire. If the writer’s heart is in the right place then social responsibility will be inherent in his work. But if you ‘want’ Social Responsibility then it will be an outsider imposed phenomena. Just like we cannot blame a son for his parents’ wrongdoings, similarly one cannot blame the artist if his art is ‘consumed’ in a particular fashion by the audience. Shakespeare and Ghalib were not exactly gentlemen in their personal lives. Should we criticize their work because of that?

Kamlesh Pandey’s response – When I was writing RDB I had no social responsibility sword hanging on my head. I had a personal grievance though. In my growing up days, we had heard speeches of Nehru that the criminals and corrupt would be hung at the lamp post on the streets. Next day when we went to see the lamp post in our nearby streets, we saw none of the ‘criminals’ hanging there. I channelized my grievances into RDB.

(Shiv Vishwanathan responded to Kamlesh Pandey with an assortment of words strewn tenuously in meandering sentences which were punctuated with words like Digitality, Duality, Causality, Plurality, Technicality, Textuality, Contextuality, Subtextuality, Hypertextuality, Mythicality, Bestiality and other -ities)

Govind Nihlani – Also take into consideration the lack of NFDC funding now. When we had funding, we made ‘socially responsible’ films. But now we have producers who are more into business. The analysis of Bollywood should be done taking into account who is funding those films. Writer/Director cannot function in an autonomous environment.

Anjum Rajabali’s response – I disagree. Iran with so many issues, with so much censorship yet churns out lovely low budget personal films which are political in content too. That cannot be a filmmaker’s excuse.

Shiv Vishwanathan’s response – I’m sure Mr Nihlani you are doing injustice to your work and undermining your own self by using funding as a constraint. Funding & Censorship are constraints for everyone!

Javed Akhtar retorted – I’m sure No source of funding can force Govind Nihalani to make a Dabang! People who provide funding are from no caste/creed/community but are simple money minded business people.

A senior writer Tanvir Saaheb narrated an anecdote – K Asif Saab aur Mehboob Khan saab aksar apne writers ke saath baith ke likhte thay. Kabhi kabhi yeh sawaal uthta tha – ‘Yeh scene censor pass karega kya?’ They used to retort ‘Censor toh film banne ke baad hota hai! Pehle film bana lene do phir censorship ka sochenge‘. V shantram ji ne hamesha mainstream filmein banayi jo socially relevant bhi thi. Aur jahaan tak film industry ka sawaal hai, maine Sunil Dutt saab ko subah 7 ki chai pe script narrate kar rakhi hain. Par aaj naubat aisi hai agar main apni kahaani kisi bade star ko (jis se meri khaasi jaan pehchaan hai) narrate karna chahoon toh mujhe koi uske paas fatakne tak nahi deta. Responsibility toh door, hum mein toh humari jamaat ke liye hi unity nahi hai!

Session 2 – DO SCREENWRITERS HAVE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

K Hariharan (Dean Prasad Academy Chennai)
In India, Cinema came before other industries came and industrialization happened. As a result there was a phase when any tom dick and harry would make a film.  
Social Responsibility is not a mandate. We can however use creative solutions to embed social responsibilities in our writing. One of the first film made in Hollywood was the Great Train Robbery (1903) which is somewhat realistic compared to our first film was Raja Harishchandra which is mythological and non-realistic. We seek solutions in mythology as well. Post Independence we handled several issues like Sexuality, Legality, Crime etc. with creative solutions. Today several mainstream regional films are very intelligent and popular (eg: Tamil Cinema). They are handling formal issues and social messages in a very deft manner.

Tom Schulman – I wrote Medicine Man starring Sean Connery about a doctor who discovers a cure for cancer but loses it somehow in the rainforests of South America. And when he goes to the rain forests in search of the medicinal plants, he finds that the rain forests are being destroyed. The movie did well but the audience sensed that may be they were being preached to or talked down upon. There is an old saying by Sam Goldwyn – ‘If you have a message, call Western Union’. My first few scripts were tagged as ‘message oriented’ scripts. But if I don’t have a theme then what am I writing about? Why am I writing at all? I write because I have something passionate about something to say. Dead Poets Society is about non conformity. If it is tagged as encouraging indiscipline, then so be it! The trick is to know the art & craft of obfuscating/burying the theme so deep that the audience watches the characters/stories and not realise the ‘message’; that the audience absorbs it sub consciously. Although now I understand the criticism of Dead Poets Society since I have children of my own! May be the film does encourage indiscipline.

Vivek Bahl (Programming Head at Star Plus, Zee TV, Chief Entertainment Dir at Sony) – TV has been overtly socially responsible in India! Beyond the loud soap operas it speaks of strong women, empowering the women folk by touching issues like Education, Child Remarriage, Dowry, Balancing the family etc. We don’t do it for society. We do it for the eyeballs. The women. The Housewives. The TRPs. They cannot watch movies in halls. They watch TV. They cannot step out in evenings for a movie. They don’t have options like you and I. We’re giving them some excitement in their lives. We’re entertaining them while connecting with them. And this is a proven fact! In houses with access to cable TV, the attitudes to issues is more progressive. As a business it has worked for us. The ‘change’ will happen when people will start watching the ‘new’ shows. There should be checks to ensure we don’t go the wrong way. We’ve set up BCCC which is similar to the Censor Board except that it is a non-government body.

Reg. approving new ideas & concepts for TV shows –
It depends. I’m not making a low budget film. I’m talking to millions of women and families. It is a huge social responsibility on us to consider ‘Can we say this? Can we get away with that? Will it upset the existing morality too much?’ For eg: An astrologer comes and predicts some event which will happen in the next two days provided the characters take some ‘action’. Now if the event does indeed happen, then we will be reinforcing superstition! Instead I tell the writer – get the astrologer to do the prediction in the episode, but make sure it doesn’t come out true!

Jaideep Sahni – I haven’t looked deeply into the idea of Social Responsibility deeply. You are a citizen of this country and tumhari responsibility utni hi hai jitni baaki citizens ki. If something touches me, I try to share it with whatever empathy & skill I have. There is a saying in Mira Nair’s school in Uganda – “If we don’t tell our stories, who will?”. Beyond the film, one starts entering the realm of Gurus and I’m not comfortable with that.

Chak De India was about women hockey players. I wanted to write a book and make a documentary on their plight. But I found no sponsors. That was a stimulus to get a movie made on them so that they become famous. So that they don’t have to beg for track suits. Rest all are our issues which seeped in by themselves. If you deliberately try to stuff social issues consciously then people get bored. I have to use indirect ways like Humor and stay true to the feeling. If you start becoming too analytical, you will screw it up. It comes automatically from your world view. CDI was not a flag by me. It was a flag of the women athletes and I was just the carrier/messenger.
There are 16 different dialects of Hindi. It is fun to enjoy them & work with them and hope people enjoy them too.

Gajra Kottary (writer of Balika Vadhu, Astitva, Beera) – Balika Vadhu is the first example of an entire show based on a social issue (Child Marriage). 4-1/2 yrs later, it still is true to its concept. The theme itself lent us to speak our own voices. The spin off benefits are that we’ve touched upon many more issues as well – Parenting, Gender Equations, Mother in Law Domination, Education etc.
It should come from within. Natural and Organic. Conviction comes through all the levels. “It is not so much about the lines but what you say between the lines”. After Balika Vadhu, the instances of Child Marriage in Rajasthan have reduced. We don’t have to artificially inject messages in our work. It should come from within. Social Messaging sounds like an NGO. It should not hang like an albatross around our necks.

On comparison with TV Series in US and melodrama in Indian Serials-
Theoretically, we would want to change the melodrama in our serials but the dynamics of business do not allow us to do so. Some sections of the audience may be ready but in a country with 40% illiteracy, we cannot draw comparisons with US TV Series quality standards. I’m all for newer formats but standing up to moral and ethical issues in a family is also Social Responsibility.

Javed Akhtar – Social Responsibility is a boring and puritan term. The objective of Art is to entertain. But there is a difference between ART and Circus. Good art is created somewhere in the no man’s land of Conscious Mind and Sub Conscious mind. Otherwise imposing what you think or I think of social responsibility and imposing it will make us into Khap Panchayats. Social Responsibility is often not bad. It shouldn’t lend itself to Moral Policing. When the ‘WE’ becomes the ‘ME’, social responsibility takes a back seat. A famous person said ‘Show me the advertisements of a society and I will tell you all about the society”. Ads, TV, Films, Art, Literature, Language, Music all are the barometers.

I wonder if any long running TV Serial has been made on a rape victim who survives. Or any rom-com TV Series has been made about Live In Relationships. TV accepts the most regressive forms of society. It has taken over Grihasti & Gharana. Empowered women are shown as Vamps. We can’t show them as positive. Else Moral Police will come. Only ‘bad’ women are empowered. Good women wear saris.

When I entered the industry, I was told ‘Write a script which will do well in the small towns of India, because our money lies there’. In 40 yrs the mantra is turned on its head. Now a well-established Producer/Director says “I don’t care if my films don’t release in UP/Bihar. Urban cities and Diaspora is good enough for me”. He’s indirectly saying that 75% Indians don’t matter to him. He doesn’t care about the small cities. Is this a sign of Development? So what Social Responsibility are we talking about? The culprit is also the audience. Like a religious man cannot blame God, we can’t blame the audience. But the truth is our audience is mediocre. A vulgar song is created by 10-15 people – the lyricist, actor-actress, music director, choreographer, director, producer etc. But when it becomes a big hit, it is the millions of people enjoying it are the culprits, not just the 10-15 people associated with it.

Do Beegha Zameen, Shri 420, Ganga Jamuna, Mother India, Pyaasa were all blockbusters! In the 50s-60s the middle class was educated and went in for professions like Doctor, Engineers, Teachers, and Bureaucrats. Industrialization created a new middle class. In 25 years, almost 20 crore people jumped into the middle class bracket. Culture takes 3 generations to come and 3 generations to lose. Intellectual depth will take time. Another 10 years and we will have the kind of scripts which we’ve never seen before onscreen. You cannot impose social responsibility. It has to be part of the fabric.

Rajesh Dubey – Javed Akhtar Saab key opinions 8 saal purane TV serials ke baare mein hai. Aaj Vamp ’empowered’ nahi hai. Aaj Hum log inn inn subjects par Serial Episodes bana chuke hain – Honour Killing, Child Marriage, Marital Rape, Rape, Puberty, Remarriage, Eve Teasing, Surrogacy, Adoption. Aur in sab subjects ko hum kaafi entertaining tareeke se treat kar chuke hain.

Audience Q&A
1. Why is the family structure still omnipresent on TV Serials?
A-It is breaking but gradually. It cannot happen overnight. The Sari clad woman image is changing slowly.

2. I approached a TV executive with an adaptation of Jai Shanker Prasad’s Kamyani. The response was ‘Kamyani kaun hai ? Inki biwi hai kya?’ Why are the execs so ill read when it comes to literature?
A- Some people are always there. It is a business not literature. However, change is happening.3. Why is the TV target audience women? Why not make serials for Men in the house? We have to step out when our wives are watching Saas Bahu serials.
A- Just take the remote from your wife, sir.

SESSION 3 – HOW DOES OUR POPULAR CINEMA & TV POTRAY WOMEN

Rajni Bakshi (freelance journalist) – Draupadi Cheer haran from Mahabharat is traditionally told in the ‘vilaap’ mode. She asks some profound questions during that event. “If I’m part and parcel of you, then I should never separate from you. Why did you put me at stake separately? And since you did put me on stake separately, that implies I’m an autonomous person and I have my own identity. Then how can you stake me as a property against my will?”

I have interacted with women working in the Silicon Valley who still believe in the practice of Dowry.
The Sex Ratio is worse in Malabar Hills & Colaba than Thane !

Shabana Azmi – I grew up in an environment where IPTA leaders used to regularly attend meetings in my house. I’ve read their writings which had potrayls of real women, in the works of Manto, Chughtai, Kaifi Azmi, Sardar Jafri, Premchand etc.

Regarding Delhi Gang Rape, everybody started blaming everyone else. I think it is the time to look inwards. The first thing to be abolished should be the item number. Nirbhay wanted to live ! And it was heartening to note so many people coming out with placards saying ‘Nirbhay. Tum achchi ho jao’

Between Draupadi and Savitri, the latter is the role model of Indian Middle Class women while it should have been the former since she challenges the patriarchy! 

I may be accused of Nepotism but in ZNMD, Katrina Kaif had such a small yet significant role. She was important to the story. The intention of the director is revealed during her Deep Sea Diving Lessons scene, where the camera doesn’t linger at all on her assets (unlike other Hindi films). Katrina is the one who helps Hrithik overcome his vulnerabilities and re-discover Love, and she goes on a bike and seizes the moment by kissing him; something which normally a hero would have done. Even the romantic song is picturized on the expressions of Hrithik Roshan and not on her body contours.

Ashutosh Gowarikar – Is cinema affecting reality or does reality influence cinema? When I was young I would go to the theatres (in the 70s) and would see maar dhaadh action films in which the importance of heroines was reduced. When I went home and saw films like Sujata, Bandini, Ganga Jamuna on DD, I used to be fascinated by the strong women characters. Cinema of 60s got left behind in the 70s & 80s.

The depiction of rape/seduction sequence is different in a mainstream masala film, from a ‘meaningful’ film. It depends on what the target audience is. I tried to create meaningful women characters. Writers would approach me with scripts and say ‘Ek ladki ki kahaani hai. Bahut achcha women oriented subject hai. Women will be empowered’.

Even in a mainstream film we need to take care and ensure sensitive portrayal. Earlier there were Cabaret girls as the heroines would not be ‘expected’ to do them. Now Cabaret has got restructured as item numbers.

Indian Hero has been ‘macho’ since the time of Raja Harishchandra, in which the female character was played by a male artist. And even in that scene, ‘her’ anatomy was shown. Exhibition of women onscreen has always been a moneymaking proposition. We cannot differentiate between Sensuality & Vulgarity.
A line like ‘Tumhari Charanon ki dhool hoon main, yehin jiyoongi, yehin maroongi’ worked in Sahib Biwi Ghulam back then. But today it will look so regressive.

Thiagarajan Kumararaja – I see no difference between a man and a woman. Violence against women has been an issue since ages. Until recent times it was always in vogue to show women ‘differently’. I doubt if people gain knowledge from TV/Cinema. It is the family that imparts knowledge.The recent rise of the ‘macho’ man is implied that it has come from the south. But the truth is that it came from the north to south as the angry young man to start with! TV is a women’s medium as opposed to Cinema which is a man’s medium. Men (at least in South) go to the theaters and want to watch their own representation on screen. Mostly men go to the theaters while women watch TV.

Anuradha Tiwari (writer of TV serials & Fashion, Jail, Heroine)
As they say, TV is the thing with Hindustan (small town middle class) & Bharat (villagers). Cinema is for India (metros).
There are no women oriented films. Except a rare Kahaani & English Vinglish which could have been stories about persons and not necessarily women.

I wrote a crime serial on 26/11 attacks & terrorism (which is sadly not doing so well). After each episode I submitted, I would get a response ‘Why isn’t there a woman? We need some rona dhona!’ And the same day I would go and meet producers regarding pitching my feature film script about three women friends. ‘Female Dil Chahta Hai types hai kya?’ would be the first response. I would reluctantly agree and proceed to narrate my story when the second response would be ‘Arey yaar falaana ka boyfriend jo hai na, uska role badhao thoda. Nahi toh picture chalegi kaise?’
I couldn’t understand how Anushka Sharma comes out of the talaab in a village in haryana and yet agrees to get forcibly married against her wishes.

Rajesh Tiwari (TV writer) – Three days ago in an upmarket residential society in Malad where I stay, I was shocked to see that while there is a tussle going on for car parking space and area for children to play; the society has gone ahead and planted a Tulsi ka ped in the compund! That is the dichotomy we are going through. ‘I want two SUVs (not a small car) and Tulsi ka ped too!’.

Q. I fail to understand why there are so many female characters on TV and yet there is no potrayl of the progressive woman.
A- Because they do market research in small towns. This is what works and will work!

Question to Anuradha Tiwari – Fashion and Heroine are regressive films
A – I don’t get the criticism of the ‘regressive nature’ of Fashion & Heroine. In fact, Fashion became a template for the new age Indian Woman. She was allowed to fall down (due to the choices she made), and yet climb up and walk again! 3 men she slept with in the film and yet she didn’t come across as a Slut!

Your Own Voice, Whatever It May Be Worth

Posted: February 24, 2013 by moifightclub in cinema
Tags: , ,

The precocious students of Ruia College nagged and pestered and forced me to do this – a piece for their film publication “Film Eye” which came out last week (a highly readable magazine too). Asked to choose my own subject, I figured directly addressing the students in the piece (whilst being aware of the context of the publication) might have more value than a generic piece that could have appeared anywhere. It was really for their eyes, and perhaps not very smart of me to put it out here but I just feel like doing it. If nothing else, at least it will make me even more unpopular than I presently am (if that is even possible), even though, contrary to what some think, that is not exactly an objective.

 Instead of a general piece on cinema that could be published anywhere, this is an attempt to do a customised piece for this particular publication addressing its readers directly. Many among you may be contemplating a career in the arts – perhaps cinema. That professional world is perhaps inscrutable and even intimidating. Dealing with the clear conflict between the mainstream and personal expression is the toughest battle ahead. This piece uses film references to make its points – for whatever they are worth.

In what is perhaps the greatest documentary series ever made (the “Up Series”), fourteen British children aged 7 were selected from diverse backgrounds in 1964 and their lives revisited on camera every 7 years (director Michael Apted stayed constant too) – in 2012, they were all 56 years old, and there had been 8 films made. From these, the most revealing films are 21 Up (film made when they were 21) and 28 Up – not because of the individual films but because of the transformation that occurred between these two ages. Most of the hopes and aspirations these young men and women had expressed at 21 had been significantly tempered by 28, and a strange sort of auto-pilot acceptance crept into their worldview.

This is not the only evidence to suggest that the age-span 21-26 (or so) is perhaps the most important stage in an individual’s life when his (or her, of course) relationship to his work (any kind of work, not just in the creative fields) is fundamentally determined. It would appear that the majority give up during this time, and focus on stability – in their jobs and family lives. There’s no rocket science required to process why this happens – it is natural and perfectly understandable. Those who develop a different relationship to their work and have a drive and restlessness to reach out for something beyond this assured stability with no guarantees are not necessarily more intelligent or talented; it has more to do with a certain attitude and perhaps it can even be argued that it is often not a voluntary choice one makes but more akin to an urge.

This absolutely does not mean that these people have to achieve something within this age or that people with say, artistic ambitions, have to complete something by then. Many such people may actually take a decade or more to express themselves properly, to create or build something. Some may change several jobs, even professions to find their true calling. What they have in common – regardless of what their muse is, or where their interests lie, is that they don’t stop searching. For some reason, whether consciously or not, the commitment to this mindset appears to be almost invariably made during this 21-26 age-span.

So, this crucial period in your life is now ahead of you when this commitment will be defined, consciously or otherwise. Circumstances have a big role to play here – and no-one should ever be judged on what calls they take on this count. However, given that the vast majority of people (including commercially thriving people) seem to live “lives of quiet desperation” and compromise, some even wearing their unfulfillment on their sleeve, it is likely to be the most important choice you will make as it will define the rest of your life. Perhaps even more than matrimony, as this certainly seems to be more irreversible (as a mindset, not as an act).

However, even if you decide to commit to a life of self-expression (or self-realisation), that would just be the starting point – the long road ahead would still have plenty of potholes to waylay you.

There was an outstanding advertising filmmaker in the late-1980s – everybody believed his transition into feature filmmaking was a certainty (also because he was related to a legendary Bengali filmmaker) and would happen very soon. 25 years later, it still hasn’t. A few years back, he was asked amongst friends why he had never ended up making a feature film – and after some cajoling he said that the idea of matching up to his legendary filmmaker relative intimidated and discouraged him so much that he could never quite get started with any kind of confidence or momentum.

He deserves sympathy not for bearing such a great weight but for getting it so completely wrong. The point of any kind of art is not to match up to anybody (whatever the award shows may suggest to you) – but to put one’s own expression out there – tell one’s own story, try to find and communicate personal truths, whatever it may entail. To get scared of doing that (and there is no other way to quite describe what happened to this advertising filmmaker) suggests a complete misplacement of priorities – where it is craft that is aspired to, not art. The art is in the search and the soul of the work, not in the barebones of craft, however accomplished the latter may be.

We are very emphatically living in an age where how a sentence is crafted is appreciated more than what it conveys. And nowhere is this truer than in India where interpretation (rather than original expression) has been all-important anyway – from folk to classical music, from film songs (where interpretation is happening at every level) to talent shows on television, it has been about getting it “right” first, about technique and “correctness” then individual expression. This, coupled with the post-colonial inferiority complex we are still very comprehensively reeling from, has made creative confidence a very rare commodity in our country.

This is precisely why someone like Quentin Tarantino has destroyed two generations of Indian filmmakers without knowing it. The man who made violence hip and cinematic more than anyone else in film history did it with a slant that was its real dimension but too many in our quarters have gone about mimicking the cool and ignoring the vision (it is this vision that makes Tarantino a great filmmaker, not the craft). Some of our filmmakers discovered that the shock value that could be extracted from this mimicry also provided considerable commercial felicities. Today, the gangster genre (unimaginatively and perhaps typically in our quarters, this is almost the only genre in which this mimickery happens) is the most prolific (and profitable) one in the Mumbai film industry and this brand of quick-shock cinema consistently produces films that amuse more than they last. Some of them make enough money, and even excite enough “critics”, to perpetuate this hollowness.

If a law forced these filmmakers to not allow the characters in their films to bear arms, much like the Chambal dacoits who have been surrendering their arms from the early 1970s, one suspects many of them wouldn’t really know what to do with themselves. It could lead to a forced clarity that would almost certainly have very welcome long-term consequences as they would be forced to look at life around themselves then (as perhaps happened to Iranian cinema, thanks to the limitations imposed upon it). Of course this is just flippant fantasy, as thoughts of forcing anything on anyone should be in a democracy.

Also, unfortunately, most of our younger filmmakers seem to think the path to becoming a world-class film director is through imbibing world cinema immaculately. As a result, they seem to live in this cinema more than in life around them and their rootedness, has, for the most part, gone missing. As certain bastions of the elite cinema universe (like Cannes) evoke the Miss Universe/ World pageant in the 1990s in its temporary interest in work that departs from their exotic notions of Indian cinema (which has tragically been Bollywood for about a decade now), their aspirations even appear to be bearing fruit, which the jaunty media here rejoices over. Overlooking the undeniable fact that not a single indigenously-made Indian film ever commercially crosses over internationally outside the time-honoured melodrama markets (like say, Egypt) or captures the imagination of the world cinema audience (precisely because of that lack of genuine rootedness). For the most part, we produce spurious cinema in these times which is such a waste (especially given what diversity these churning times offer us). Why just films, even our books and popular music do not show signs of much originality and honesty for much the same reasons (with rare, but notable, exceptions).

The over-emphasis on detail and craft (which is also derived from foreign shores) is one of the main reasons why very little work has an original voice in our country, and therefore, very little value beyond the ephemeral. Even the people who consume (the audience) and the ones who judge (the “critics”) are more conscious of these details than the big picture or the soul of the work – this has become the predominant cultural sensibility in our country. Leading to the celebration of ersatz poster boys.

Spiritualists of all kinds and persuasions say one thing in common – that the human mind often comes in the way of fulfilling an individual’s true potential, thanks to the distractions of everyday life and its preoccupations. The same could be said for the stories being told around us – their true soul remains unexplored, underutilised, underappreciated, thanks to the focus on the details around them than the core itself. Every aspect of the entertainment industry perpetuates this these days, especially, sadly, the audience.

Of course, there are in-between spaces where new talent can try and find their feet (and some do but they are almost invariably non-commercial spaces). For example, it is curious that just like new acting talent rarely gets the choicest opportunities without familial connections within the film industry, new filmmakers never ever seem to emerge from outside the “camps” and the various coteries. There is a good reason why the industry is considered by many to be run by a kind of internal “mafia”. So, how does someone with no connections negotiate all this?

Besides adopting the path of least resistance and aligning your objectives to the status quo or opting out altogether (and changing professions), there is a new alternative that is gradually emerging in these digital times. A 1 TB hard-disc costing about Rs 5,000 (when in 2006, it cost about Rs 1.2 lakhs) is just a small indicator of how accessible things have got. Digital cameras and sound equipment are personally affordable today. A huge pitfall for some people is their excessive preoccupation with formats and cameras and technology and the rest – it is all nonsense, really. They forget that even the lower-end cameras they get to work with today are better than the high-end cameras the established professionals may have been working with a decade or two ago (and some produced classics with).

However, the commercial possibilities of cutting-edge work are limited in today’s film environment in India and practically no-one who wants to do innovative and personal work without significant compromise can really make much of a living from it.  Thankfully, due to the dynamics that are changing so rapidly, it is most likely a temporary state of things.

In the meantime though, how does one keep this promise alive? One option could be to try and make filmmaking a hobby, and find a job or a line of work that sustains you financially, perhaps even something allied to films (though it often helps the cause if you do something that does not exercise the same muscles that filmmaking does, to keep the freshness intact). And work in your spare time in cinema – the digital revolution has made DIY (Do-It-Yourself) cinema more achievable than ever before. Find like-minded people to work with and expand the scope of what is possible within your set-up gradually. With the Internet breaking down old ways of distribution as well, this way of working outside the system should eventually end up transforming the mainstream as well. And it may not even take as much time as many fear. By removing middlemen and having direct access to the final consumer, thereby being able to find your core audience much faster than possible ever before, significant profitability (significant enough to at least allow all its participants to earn a living from it) is not such a pipe-dream anymore.

The ones to benefit the most from these changing equations would be those who keep their desire of personal expression alive in some way. And amongst most of you reading this, this decision will happen in the next 4 or 5 years. Whatever you decide, do it consciously. It will probably lead to the most apt decision, for yourself. Good luck.

– Jaideep Varma

The above writer is a fringe filmmaker/writer (Local, Hulla, Leaving Home) and should have very little credibility for those seeking fame and fortune in the entertainment world. The piece, even if it did not provide any food-for-thought, hopefully at least entertained a bit.

With the positive reviews pouring in from all quarters, i was waiting for some contrarian views. Because what’s the fun if we all are on same page. Though there have been few such views too, and criticism mostly have been looking at the big picture and the issues involved. But Runcil Rebello believes that the film is about “the smaller picture”. And he also writes about how the film is different from the book.

kai-po-che

In Abhishek Kapoor’s Kai Po Che!, it’s all about opposition – ideas clashing with each other, and sometimes both winning, sometimes just one. There is the age-old money versus passion squabble, further highlighted in the academics versus sports issue omnipresent throughout Indian homes. Then there is the overarching notion on which the film is built: friendship versus ideology, and friendship does not always win. There is also Mathematics versus Biology.

Kai Po Che!, adapted from Chetan Bhagat’s The Three Mistakes Of My Life, is a story set in Gujarat around the turn of the millennium. The nineties were done and dusted with. Internet, Nokia mobiles, malls were making their introduction into daily Indian life. The Indian cricket team would become a leading Test-cricket playing nation in the following decade. Religious politics had not yet reached a fuming and flaming high.

But Kai Po Che! doesn’t have its eyes set on such large-scale issues. Rather, it is content telling the story of three friends: Ishaan (Sushant Singh Rajput) – flamboyant, impulsive, passionate, Govind (Raj Kumar Yadav) – logical, ambitious, money-minded, and Omi (Amit Sadh) – simple, lovable, easily swayed, who set up a sports equipments store-cum-cricket training academy-cum-Maths tuition classes. This film is as much an ode to friendship as it is about the decay of that lovely bond.

The idea of opposition isn’t hammered into our heads. It’s brought up now and then, never over the top. Just like the film. The story (written by Abhishek Kapoor, Chetan Bhagat, Pubali Chaudhuri and Supratik Sen) does not veer much from the book, and if you’ve read the book, you’d realise then that it is a story tailor-made for Bollywood. And yet, the writers and the director stitch the film into an altogether different piece of fabric. The film is removed from typical Bollywood treatment. No star actors, no item numbers, no over-the-top treatment, just three songs (Hell! The soundtrack by Amit Trivedi [with lyrics by Swanand Kirkire] includes a garba-beat song in Shubhaarambh, but the film’s garba scene isn’t picturised on it. Unexpected.) Instead, Kai Po Che! is about the small moments in the fabric. Don’t lose sight of the smaller picture.

Characters, especially Omi’s, oscillate, not able to settle on one thing. He, at times, goes where the wind blows, and sometimes marches to the beat of the other drummers of the show. He may not always like what he does, but he is loyal to any cause he signs up for. Govind and Ishaan, on the other hand, are the proverbial immovable object and unstoppable force. They’d go to any distance to get what they want, albeit what they want is in diametrically opposite directions. Govind has to let loose, has to understand that not all things in life are solved by Mathematics, but some by Biology too. Ishaan’s sister Vidya (Amrita Puri) would be his teacher in this regard. Ishaan has to grow up, has to not let anger affect his decisions, but his mind. Ishaan, and to a lesser degree, Govind too, do not care about how religion plays into their plans. They are fine with sitting on the fence when it comes to this particular power struggle, letting Omi handle the dirty work.

What these three have in common, though, is something India is obsessed with: cricket. Cricket (and films) are said to heal wounds. In this film, it is the historic 2001 Calcutta test match between India and Australia that plays the role of mediator and doctor. It is also cricket that brings together children of two opposing homes, Omi and wiz kid Ali (Digvijay Deshmukh), under one roof.

Abhishek Kapoor has a knack for staging event situations. In Rock On!! earlier, he staged rock concerts in a way no Indian film had before. In Kai Po Che!, he goes large scale, but doesn’t make them the focus of his movie. The eye firmly remains on the three friends. Earthquakes, cricket matches and the Godhra Riots form the trifecta of incidents around which they break and mend. Tough decisions are made, mostly on impulse and emotion. When calamities strike, there is no time to think. Govind, Omi and Ishaan choose their respective sides all on basic instinct.

The film, though, has been meticulously planned. If Anay Goswami’s cinematography portrays Gujarat in a favourable light, Hitesh Sonik’s background score livens up the lives of the three friends. Deepa Bhatia transitions from one date to another finely, giving her best cut in the crucial scene during the riots.

Sushant Singh Rajput and Raj Kumar Yadav play their roles well. They really look the part, and so does Manav Kaul, being crafty and smart as Bittoo mama, Omi’s political leader uncle. Amrita Puri is cute and plucky adequately. In fact, the casting (by Mukesh Chhabra) is impeccable. The one actor, though, to make the most impact is Amit Sadh. From portraying a simpleton to a political henchman, Amit Sadh’s eyes, and hair, speak.

All these people, eventually, are just holding the manja. It is Abhishek Kapoor flying this kite, cutting every other kite in his path. He’ll be the one screaming kai po che! at the end of it. And what a delight it has been to watch this kite soar great heights.

 

P.S.: If you’ve read the book, you’ll understand the flashback and the conclusion has changed; all for the best. Below are a few details of what is different in the film.

(SPOILERS AHEAD!)

Chetan Bhagat, in his book, The Three Mistakes Of My Life, had Govind as the lead character. The biggest change is towards the end. In the riot scene, Omi is the one who protects Ali, Ishaan and Govind from his uncle. Omi dies in the process, and Ishaan doesn’t talk to Govind for years because of the revelation that his sister and he were in a relationship. Govind eventually, before committing suicide many years later, writes a letter to Bhagat, who he is inspired by, thanks to his two books Five Point Someone and One Night At The Call-Centre, who then intervenes and brings all of them together again. An utterly melodramatic end to the story, which thankfully was changed.

Another important section that was missing from the film was the part where the three friends finance a trip for Ali and themselves to Australia to receive cricket coaching. The Australians, seeing the marvel that Ali is, offer to train him but only if he eventually plays for Australia. Ali here in an outright dramatic fashion proves his patriotism for the country by shouting that he’ll play only for India and then they return to India.

Also, Vidya and Govind sleep together on Vidya’s eighteenth birthday at her home itself in the book. This too was changed in the film.

Also, missing in the book is the Diu section. The three friends are basically saints in the book, not leaving their pol to do things normal twenty-something guys would do i.e. to drink.

Abhishek Kapoor also changed the narrative by making all three characters equally important, thereby removing the crux of the story from the ‘three mistakes’.

The rest of the movie is pretty faithful in its adaptation.

Abhishek Kapoor’s new film Kai Po Che has released today. The reviews so far have been unanimously positive. But does it mean anything beyond that – The Big picture? Over to filmmaker Hansal Mehta who connects the dots.

Kai Po che

4 reasons for not watching the increasing number of films released every week –

  1. I am perennially broke
  2. I am lazy
  3. I need to work
  4. My wife is not in the mood
  5. I am hoping I get invited for a preview/premier.

The past few weeks have been different though. The spate of films released and due for release stared at me in the face because

  1. They featured friends in lead roles
  2. They were directed by friends
  3. They were produced by friends
  4. I was looking forward to the films
  5. I felt compelled to watch them

I am going to limit my post to the Hindi films I saw because in the case of foreign films:

  1. I feel inadequate commenting about commenting on them
  2. I did not feel like watching many of them
  3. I am waiting for uncensored DVDs of some of them
  4. I don’t get invited for previews of these films

In the past few years, most significantly 2012, I am seeing a pattern in films that are successful (relatively) and appreciated. A majority of them stand out for their choice of actors, their choice of subject, their non-formulaic narratives and a host of other similarly intellectually stimulating reasons.  One factor that has begun to increasingly stand out in these films is sheer audacity. The more I think about what drew me to watch the films, to like some of them, to dislike some of them and to find some of them memorable was the lack of apologetic film-making that has mostly led our films towards pathetic levels of mediocrity.

I’ve noticed that many film-makers no longer feel pressured to make the same formulaic nonsense with the same boring people over and over again. Many of the older directors also seem to realize the futility of formula and are trying hard to reinvent. Those who aren’t will soon be history.

Ever since I made Shahid, I’ve been asked over and over again about how the trend of biopics is on the increase. The media unfortunately reads trends very poorly and looks for convenient analysis. Trade pundits who have in the past thrived upon silly generalization are very shallow in their understanding of artistic/creative decisions taken by film-makers or in analyzing the success of films that don’t fall into their formulaic comfort zones. The truth is that book adaptations, biopics and stories inspired by true events are an indicator and not trends in themselves. We now have film-makers looking for newer stories to tell. We have film-makers looking for new ways to tell stories. We have film-makers who are fearless. We have film-makers who are not afraid of audacity.

Whether it is Talaash, Gangs of Wasseypur, Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu, Vicky Donor, Special 26 or Kai Po Che, I notice a fearless streak in the directors and the team that has made these films possible. Even potboilers like Dabangg, or before that Wanted, or the recently released ABCD have displayed a certain audacious vision. Rockstar had the audacity to be deeply philosophical and sometimes mendering while pretending to have commercial trappings. A certain Anurag Kashyap whose films either got banned or termed as jinxed is now celebrated because of his delightfully indulgent Gangs of Wasseypur or his subversive take on Devdas. Sujoy Ghosh redeemed himself with the surprising Kahaani. Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Pan Singh Tomar was commercially successful. English Vinglish marked the successful return of a Bollywood diva who churned out some of the most cringe-worthy films of my growing up years. The list could be exhaustive and I’m sure it will soon dominate successful box-office lists. On the other hand there has been a steady increase in films (Ship of Theseus, Miss Lovely, Peddlers etc.) that have found appreciative audiences in international film festivals and critics. These films have shown a fierce independence in their making while giving alternate Indian cinema a new lease of life and an unpretentious, fresh form of expression. They have been audacious in their abandonment of what we perceived as ‘art-house’ or ‘parallel’ cinema in India. They were unabashed in their treatment, style, narratives and expression. These and many other films that I have viewed over the past year and this year have challenged audiences, provoked critics and subverted formulaic convention with amazing audacity. Even more encouraging is the fact that producers, actors (including some stars) and trade have begun to embrace the audacious breed, backing them to the hilt.

So what is the point I’m trying to make? It’s simple. Audacity is in. Safe is not safe anymore. Take the second installment of Dabangg. It disappointed because it succumbed to ‘ingredientization’ and failed to live up to the fearless audacity of the first part. Films like ‘Zila Ghaziabad’  or ‘Jayantabhai Ki Love Story’ are passé. They will continue to get made. They will continue to remind us of everything that is unimaginative and about how we have allowed ourselves to be taken for granted all these years.

So here is my two bit gyaan. Whether you aim for the mainstream or the alternate space, make it audacious. Just making it big will soon cease to work – neither for the makers or the audience. Yes, we will have regular installments of successful franchises. We will have ridiculous remakes. We will have mindless, story-less films – but my guess is that all of them will work for their audacity and not for their adherence to convention.

Audacious will soon be safe. Safe is already dangerous. It could soon be suicidal.

Film Writers Association (FWA) has announced the 3rd Indian Screenwriters Conference. The central theme this year is “Untold Stories : Screenwriting and the truth of our times”.

– Venue : Venue: St. Andrew’s Auditorium, Bandra (W), Mumbai

– Dates: February 25, 26, 27, 2013

– Only FWA members can attend. So if you are not a member of FWA yet, do become one. Click here to go to FWA site for more details.

And here’s the programme detail..

screenwriting-215x300Day 1 – Monday, February 25

1000-1020: Introduction to the Conference by Convenor & Co-Convenor, ISC

1020-1030: Welcome Address by President, FWA

1030-1100: Minister HRD (expected) declares the Conference

1100-1130: The Chief Guest’s address

1130-1145: Tea/Coffee break

1145-1230: Keynote Speech by Shiv Vishwanathan

1230-1300: Audience Q&A with Keynote Speaker

1300-1400: Lunch break

1400-1545: Do screenwriters have a social responsibility?

Moderator: K. Hariharan

Panel: Javed Akhtar, Tom Schulman, Rakeysh Mehra, Girish Kulkarni, Dr. Chandraprakash Dwivedi, Vinod Ranganath, Gajra Kottary

1545-1600: Tea/Coffee break

1600-1745: How does our popular cinema and TV portray women?

Moderator: Ranjani Mazumdar

Panel: Ashutosh Gowariker, Anurag Basu, Kumara Raja, Preiti Mamgain, Satyam Tripathi, Ila Bedi

Day 2 : Tuesday, February 26

1000-1130: The charge of the new ‘write’ brigade!

Moderator: Pubali Chaudhuri

Panel: Juhi Chaturvedi, Habib Faisal, Ravi Jadhav, Akshat Verma, Reema Kagti

1130-1145: Tea/Coffee break

1145-1330: Is the old order cracking? New ways of storytelling.

Moderator: Govind Nihalani

Panel: Urmi Juvekar, Anurag Kashyap (TBC), Sanjay Patil, Bejoy Nambiar, Abbas Tyrewala

1330-1430: Lunch break

1430-1600: What is driving TV content? Is it changing? Can it?

Moderator: Saurabh Tewari

Panel: Tripurari Sharan, Vivek Bahl, Sukesh Motwani, R.D.Tailang, Charudutt Acharya, Gul Khan

1600-1615: Tea/Coffee break

1615-1730: The new brigade of TV!

Moderator: Anuradha Tewari

Panel: Raghuvir Shekhavat, Mihir Bhuta, Amal Donvar, Swati Pande, Chinmay Mandlekar, Mrinal Jha

Day 3 : Wednesday, February 27

1000-1145: The empty playroom. Why such few children’s films?

Moderator: Chandita Mukherjee

Panel: Gulzar, Nila Madhab Panda, Preiti Mamgain, Farhan S., Anand Sivakumaran

1145-1200: Tea/Coffee break

1200-1330: The light through the fog: Implications of the amended Copyright Act for film and TV writers

Moderators: Rajesh Dubey & Anjum Rajabali

Panel: Souvik Biswas, Nikhil Krishnamurthy, Sai Gopal, Ameet Dutta

1330-1430: Lunch break

1430-1545: Writer-Producer Bhai-Bhai! The Minimum Basic Contract for film writers

On stage: Dharmesh Tiwari, Vipul Shah, RameshSippy, Nikhil Krishnamurthy, Anjum Rajabali

1545-1600: Tea/Coffee

1600-1730: The way forward! What FWA has for you in the next one year.

On Stage: The Executive Committee of FWA

Conducted by: Vinay Shukla & Kamlesh Pandey

1730-1745: Vote of thanks

– To know more about the topics and the speakers, click here and scroll down to “A MORE DETAILED EXPOSITION“.

– 850 screenwriters and writer-directors are expected to participate. This is the most important event for screenwriting in the country, and ought to impact the profession in a significant way.

– Confirmed participants include : Salim Khan, Javed Akhtar, Gulzar, Ashutosh Gowariker, Anurag Basu, Rakeysh Mehra, Govind Nihalani, Sriram Raghavan, Sudhir Mishra, Amit Khanna, Vipul Shah, Jabbar Patel, Vikramaditya Motwani, Bejoy Nambiar, Abbas Tyrewala, Amole Gupte, Habib Faisal, Navdeep Singh, Girish Kulkarni, Umesh Kulkarni, Lekh Tandon, Abhishek Sharma, Shridhar Raghavan, Kumararaja (Aranya Kandam), Rituparno Ghosh, Hariharan, Urmi Juvekar, Ishita Moitra, Manu Rishi Chadha, Leena Yadav, Prasoon Joshi, and others.

– Also, Tom Schulman (Oscar winner for ‘Dead Poets Society’) and Rebecca Kessinger (Asst. Executive Director of Writers’ Guild of America) will be there as guests since FWA and WGA are planning several collaborative initiatives.

(all info from press release)

– If you are completely clueless and confused whether to attend or not, click here and here to read our coverage of previous FWA conference.

WHY?

The world needs to know. Anyone?

Here is the trailer.

And here’s the answer

Tip – Sumit.