Posts Tagged ‘FWA’

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The 4th Indian Screenwriters Conference

SO NEAR, SO FAR: DO OUR STORIES REFLECT INDIA’S REALITY?

The Film Writers Association is back with its biggest, most prestigious and popular event for Indian Screenwriters.

Date : August 3-4, 2016
Venue : St. Andrews Auditorium, Bandra West
To register :  Click here

A quick summary of sessions

1. THE FEMININE FACTOR
Are female actors getting better roles now? Is our audience comfortable only with stereotypical women characters? Are we ready to have a more realistic gender equation on screen?

2. SERIAL KILLERS
Does our current TV content reflect our times and society? Why are we stuck in some unchangeable grooves? What is the way out?

3. WRITERS & PRODUCERS: PARTNERS OR ADVERSARIES?
Writers feel they are undervalued while producers complain of lack of quality scripts. How can this relationship be made more collaborative, more mutual, and more productive for both?

4. LITTLE BIG FILMS
Small films, driven by strong scripts and the passion of the filmmakers, are increasingly ending up as surprise successes. What is the scope and future of such efforts?

5. DECODING THE DIGITAL
The exodus of producers & studios is moving towards the web. What is the business of web entertainment like? Is the Internet answer to our creative and economic issues?

6. THE BUSINESS OF TV WRITING
The leverage of the TV writer is growing; it appears, with him/her turning into a producer. Is this the model for all TV writers to move towards?

– Reputed journalist and Ramon Magsaysay awardee, P. Sainath will deliver the keynote address, while the renowned poet Ashok Vajpeyi will be the Chief-Guest.

– Confirmations are streaming in from the invited speakers, panelists and special guests, including Javed Akhtar, Gulzar, Siddharth Roy-Kapur, Ronnie Screwvala, Gaurav Banerjee (Star), Anooj Kapoor (SAB TV), Ritesh Sidhwani, Jaideep Sahni, Sriram Raghavan, Vishal Bhardwaj, Danish Khan (Sony), Ravina Kohli (Epic), Juhi Chaturvedi, Rajat Kapoor, Hansal Mehta, Jayesh Patil, Aatish Kapadia, Purnendu Shekhar, Shridhar Raghavan, Nagraj Manjule, Neeraj Ghaywan, Sonali Jaffer, Shashi Mittal, Varun Grover, Himanshu Sharma, Sudip Sharma, Saurabh Tiwari, Biswapati Sarkar and many more writers, writer-directors, and producers.

– On August 3, Dastangoi performance from 6:30 – 8:00 PM

– Click here, here and here to read some of our previous coverage of the conference.

 

Film Writers Association (FWA) recently did a workshop on “pitching your story”. Filmmaker Vikramaditya Motwane, screenwriter Shridhar Raghavan & Kamlesh Pandey, and producer Ram Mirchandani shared their ideas and experience about the process.

It’s great that FWA is finally taking some initiatives that will help the new writers. Just wish the video/audio was done professionally. And big thanks to the person who transcribed the entire video.

Watch the video or click here to read the transcript.

 

WWI-FWA Workshop 2015

WHAT : 5-Day Screenwriting Workshop

by Anjum Rajabali

and

Vishal Bhardwaj (Haider) , Sriram Raghavan (Badlapur), Jaideep Sahni (Chak De India), Juhi Chaturvedi (Vicky Donor), Ritesh Batra (Lunch Box), Vikramaditya Motwane (Udaan, Producer: Queen), Shridhar Raghavan (Dum Maro Dum), Akshat Verma (Delhi Belly), Sharat Kataria (Dum Laga Ke Haisha), Anand Gandhi (Ship of Theseus), Navdeep Singh (Director: NH-10), Sudip Sharma (NH-10)

WHEN : April 29 – May 3, 2015

WHERE  : At Whistling Woods, Film city, Goregaon (East), Mumbai – 65

Presented by Whistling Woods
(in association with FWA & Living Bridge Pune)

WORKSHOP : The last few years have marked the beginning of an exciting era for Indian screenwriters! More films are breaking the conventional mold, based on bold scripts. Badlapur, Udaan, Haider, Dum Lagaa Ke Haisha, Queen, The Lunch Box, Vicky Donor, Ship of Theseus, Delhi Belly, Chak de India, NH-10.. the list goes on. What’s more, the audience is welcoming these with pleasure.

Gradually but steadily, the scriptwriter seems to be moving centre-stage!

This workshop will not only cover all the basics of the screenwriting craft, encouraging you to develop competence as a screenwriter, but also expose you to how these stalwarts let their imagination fly with conviction. So, here’s your best chance to learn, via rich interactive sessions with writers who are redefining Indian screenwriting today!

WORKSHOP INSTRUCTOR: Anjum Rajabali (Drohkaal, Ghulam, The Legend of Bhagat Singh, Raajneeti): Heads the screenwriting departments at Whistling Woods Mumbai and FTII Pune, and is an activist with FWA. Conducts screenwriting workshops, and script labs and fellowships for screenwriters.

FEE: For FWA members: Rs. 7500/- (Inclusive of taxes, tea/coffee, lunch)
For non-FWA members: Rs. 10000/- (Inclusive of taxes, tea/coffee, lunch)
*If you wish to become an FWA member, please visit www.fwa.co.in

REGISTER : To register for the workshop, please call 30916003 or email: kanchi.parikh@whistlingwoods.net

flyer-bigPITCH YOUR STORY/SCRIPT TO PRODUCERS

Do you believe that you have a wonderful story or screenplay? Either for a film or a TV serial or an Animation film, documentary or a children’s film? Or even a gaming idea? And are you keen to pitch it to leading production houses?

The Film Writers’ Association (FWA) and FICCI FRAMES bring you an opportunity to do so in a programme called ‘Frame Your Idea’.

– Venue: FICCI FRAMES, Renaissance Hotel, Powai, Mumbai.
– Dates: March 25-27

MARCH 25: PITCHING FOR FILMS
MARCH 26: ANIMATION, GAMING, KIDS PROGRAMMING
MARCH 27: PITCHING FOR TV PROGRAMMES

Production houses who will listen to your pitch are:

* Film
Dharma Productions
Disney India Studios
Excel Entertainment
Sikhya Entertainment
Phantom Films
ROMP pictures

* Animation
CFSI
Cartoon network
Pogo
Nickelodeon
Disney kids
Sonic
ZeeQ
Discovery kids

* Gaming
Reliance Games
Nazara

* TV
Star Plus
Zee TV
Life OK TV
Channel V

– Our advice is that you should have at least a written story before you decide to pitch it at these producers. (If you already have a script, all the better. But, at least a story.)

– You will get 10 minutes to pitch your story to each producer, before you move on to the next producer.

– Do remember that you will have to pay a registration fee. FICCI has to meet its cost, and it is their rule. So, make sure that you extract maximum value by throwing your best work at them.

Here’s what you have to do:
1. First go online and register for Ficci Frames. (Registration charges for ‘Frame Ur Idea’ are actually Rs. 5000/- per day. However, for FWA members there is a 50% discount. So, for FWA members, the fees are Rs. 2500, plus service tax.)

2. Fill the ‘Frame Ur Idea’ form online, and receive a confirmation email.

3. Turn up at Ficci Frames on the day of your pitch and go for it!

– Online registrations close at 7 PM on March 23.

– If you’re unable to register online, then just land up at the venue on the relevant day at 8.30 AM, and register on the spot. Bring your membership card along.

– For those who are unsure about how to pitch, FWA has organised a Pitching Workshop where senior writers will guide you with the help of examples. At FWA office, on March 23, 5-7 PM.

– For any further queries, write to the Film Writers Association filmwritersassociation@gmail.com and they shall forward your mail to the relevant person.

– For more info, click here

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!

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.

If you liked the Day1 report of the FWA Seminar by Mr Screeny, there is more. Here is the Day 2 report – the good, the bad, the ugly and the goss. Quite long but worth it. Do read.

FWA Seminar @NFAI Pune – Day 2

9 am, usual crowd, catching hold of whatever seats that were available with many many people standing in the aisles. Day 2 was better since there were more filmmakers than pedantic film critics/scholars talking about cinema.

Session 4 – Anger and Rebellion: The New Wave Cinema (plus the Angry Young Man’s Evolution)

Govind Nihlani

The 70s was a decade of discontent with the Naxalbari movement, the Bangladesh war & eventually the JaiPrakash Narayan movement against the corruption & the failure of the state. People started feeling restless & cheated and there was a built up of discontent in the country and then the Jai Prakash Narayan movement happened which led to Emergency being declared. Every line was censored, the civil liberties were taken away, the freedom of expression was impounded.

From that environment emerged a phenomena in Indian Cinema – the angry young man – Amitabh Bachchan-Salim-Javed, Om Puri-Naseerudin shah (Aakrosh, Ardhasatya), Mirch Masala etc. Parallel cinema picked up. You can see how the then contemporary/current socio-political situations were reflected in the cinema of those times. Even at the time of partition, partition based films were not being made but now, thanks to the discontent, there were films based on partition like Garam Hawa.

Rashmi Doraiswamy – presented a very well analyzed paper on the angry young man phenomena specifically with regard to Salim-Javed’s films. (Don’t remember anything sadly from it- because again it was almost a read-out-word-to-word-from-her-article than an impromptu/informal discourse with notes’ consultation)

Ashish Rajadhyaksha – showed clips from Albert Pinto ko Gussa kyun aata hai, Arvind Desai ki Ajeeb Daastan and stated it was a very interesting film written by two very different writers – Vijay Tendulkar & Cyrus Mistry. Albert Pinto clipping was the scene in which Naseer comes up to the gang – Satish Shah, Avtar Gill and requests them not to do ‘lafda’ with Dominique. The whole scene was apparently improvised by the actors lending a very realistic portrayal.

I went one day to Saeed Mirza’s house and saw a big board with lots of charts, papers, diagrams etc stuck – almost in an expanding spiral-esque manner. I asked Saeed what it was. He coolly replied “my script”!

Kundan Shah

I feel we’re reading too much and doing a lot of analysis of the angry young man vis-à-vis Salim-Javed’s films. Their scripts were not socially rebellious, but more parasitic. How many angry people have turned into a smuggler ala Deewar ?

We have lots of talent in India but how do we crack it ?

JBDY was made thinking it will not release. We were almost making a home video since we had the freedom to do anything. The budget of Albert Pinto was 2&1/2 lakhs. I was the assistant & the clap continuity guy and everything on Albert Pinto. During the middle of the shoot Saeed had to go meet the producers so I had to ask him how he wanted the scene (which to be shot) to be directed.

I wanted to be an assistant on a foreign production film which was being made in those days – Gandhi. The perks were tempting – 10,000 rupees salary for 6 months, plus 10,000 rupees allowance. And the job was ‘limited’ – crowd management. I got the job through some contact.

I asked Saeed what do I do ? Should I go ahead with the job or write my script? He said “Don’t be silly. Write your script!” . And I started writing JBDY.

The reference to ‘gutter’ in JBDY was intentional. I was the secretary in my society building, and there was a gutter leakage probem in my building. I used to see that every morning the gurkha would drain out the ‘gutter ka paani’ in a bucket. And he would do this everyday without fail. I always used to wonder what happened at night and I put that and many such references in my film.

Jahnu Barua

Don’t worry I only have half a page so you guys are safe from a long boring lecture.

Anger – Anger of a filmmaker – I will talk through my experience. I grew up with anger. The environment in which I grew up, gave me anger. When I came to FTII, I was an angry young man. I learnt filmmaking and when I passed out I was still an angry young man. I made many films as an angry young man. Today, I’m still an angry man – though not so young.

Anger is the catalyst for the filmmaker. If the anger isn’t there we can’t make films. I don’t know if my films will be called ‘New Wave’ or not. I try to put in 100% anyway.

I come from the North-East – at any and every moment, one can get angry easily. The things that happen there are unbelievable. Compared to them, the incidents that happen in Mumbai are nothing. I make films to not to overcome my anger, but somewhere we get to understand a few things. I just kept on making films & never tried to analyze these things. I don’t know the definition of ‘New Wave’ and never tried to analyze it either. I don’t even know how to categorize my films.

Films should come from the heart – regardless of what one wants to make. ‘Commercial’ or ‘Arty’ – films should be truthful. I feel the intention of the filmmaker becomes clear while watching it – whether it comes from the heart or whether it has been made for a different purpose.

I often quote – A screenwriter is the first to be contacted and the last to be paid – may be even not. And if you are a writer-director like me, the writing fee is almost forgotten. They say “Your writing fees is in the director fees”. I try to express my anger in my films – how do I do it ?

After Maine Gandhi Ko Nahi Maara, I feel I’ve sobered down. And I’m sad that I’ve sobered down. When I wrote it, my anger was it’s peak. Why ? I’d met militants, seen bloodshed, suffering & death at close quarters. I met a woman who was raped continuously for 2 months both by the army & the militants. When she narrated her story, I instantly wanted to make a film on her. I even wrote the script.

But I asked myself – will my film be able to resolve her problems ? NO

Will it matter to the audience and will they take an interest in solving her problems ? NO

I studied the whole problem differently and tried to get into the root cause. What is missing in our society ?

Then I wrote Maine Gandhi… not to express my anger but to resolve my anger. And I’m happy I made that film. But sadly I had sobered down after that.

I remember how people perceive the ‘art’ filmmakers. I was invited to a university seminar on Media’s Social Responsibility and one after the other there was a lot of attack on the ‘art’ films. One of the speakers kept referring to them as ‘mad off-beat filmmakers’. Every time he said that – the audience would look at me.

My first film was produced by NFDC. The ‘new wave’ films need promotion and NFDC itself may not be enough.

Oscar! Oscar! Oscar!  – Satyajit Ray made 32 films and not one of them went to the Oscars. Let us not please look at the Oscars. And let us not please concentrate only on Mumbai. India is a reservoir of stories. Every home has a story. Find them.

Open Forum – (questions from other writers/filmmakers and audience)

Govind Nihlani – Have we as a society lost anger ? Where is the anger ? Are we filmmakers writing anything in anger ? Are we even having any anger ? Do you see anger in films ?

Saeed Mirza- Times have changed. Example – Tere Bin Laden – it’s a minor but an important film. Anger is expressed in humor. The whole concept of terror has been destroyed. To me that’s also an angry film. JBDY was also an angry film.

I have tried to mix my anger with my personal struggle. How do you make an idea to a narrative ? I start from my personal and then go to the social, and slowly the text becomes richer.

If we refuse to see the turmoil & tension in the land we will still be making bad commercial films. We turn a blind eye to the problems – North East, Naxals, MNS, Telangana, Kashmir, Tamils vs Kannadigas.

Shama Zaidi – Why in films is anger a male preserve ?

Saeed Mirza – What about Mirch Masala & Godmother ?

Govind Nihlani – How is anger handled in the ‘new wave’ tamil cinema ?

K Hariharan – In tamil cinema the representation of anger has changed & shifted from the pleasurable zone to the disgust/disturbing/’Bibhathsa’ zone

Govind Nihlani – Many a times, anger is used as an excuse to extract vengeance. It deteriorates into vengeance and from being social it degenerates to personal.

Bhavna Somaiyya – What about the anger of Sridevi in her dance scene in Lamhe or Salman’s anger at his father in Maine Pyaar Kiya- when he goes to his room and punches the sandbag ?

(I don’t know how the panelists responded to the above question since I was busy banging my head away at the nearest wall at the sheer stupidity of the aforementioned question. Apparently Saeed Mirza explained to her that they were talking about a different kind of anger – angst)

Session 5 – Urban Foibles and a New Individualism: Current Trends in Indian Scriptwriting 1995-2010

Kundan Shah

I’m trying to be a practicing filmmaker and am making a ‘sponsored’ film on the theme – Overfed Urban and Underfed Rural. If I say what we see & what the truth is, the script may get rejected. So now I’m writing a neutral/backup (not so hard hitting-real) script in the event the first (more honest) one gets rejected.

Anees Bazmee is not the beginning and ending of writing. New talents are not getting a chance. There is a lot of illiteracy in the film industry.

Ranjani Majumdar

showed clips from Dombivali Fast, Being Cyrus & No Smoking talking about the urban view that the filmmakers created in these films

John Mathew Mathan

Dictionary defines the word ‘trends’ as a popular preference or latest style/fashion.

Is storytelling about something as fleeting as fashion ?

Bheja Fry started a new trend. Similarly may be even Peepli Live might start a trend.

My initiation into cinema was through Ankur, Bhuvan Shome, Sara Aakash, Garam Hawa. By the time I wanted to make films, NFDC had stopped producing films. If you are making a film like Gandhi, you need money.

Storytelling is different from Reportage, which is a big business.

According to a fable, once in a city which had a temple with statues of gods, a theft took place – some idols were stolen. People stepped up vigilance and issued death penalties/warnings to catch the thief, but still the thefts didn’t stop.

One fine day the thief was finally caught. When asked why he committed the crime he replied “I was a nobody before I started stealing. Today the whole city knows me”

Is this the reason why people write ?

People are looking for resolutions, the answers to the things they don’t/can’t understand. And if there is no resolution then they’ll not spare us.

Frank Capra says – “Thou shall not bore thy audience” That is my most important mantra.

What do I need in a story for me to decide this is the story worth telling ?

TIME – an abbreviation for

Thought provoking,

Information,

Motivation (does it move/touch the audience),

Entertainment

If you tell a story which is believable, then the TIME capsule is complete. The best example is – Gandhi. On 15th August every year, they show Gandhi on TV. Films like Godfather, Pulp Fiction withstand the test of time.

Bhavna Somaiya

Kamal Hassan says “I take my critics very seriously so they better do their job well”

What I look for in a film ?

To me it’s like buying a sari in a sari shop. I’m paying for it and give me a fantastic sari. Don’t ask me if this border is correct or that color is good. Just give me a fantastic sari.

Astitva – The turning point in the film isn’t the scene when Tabu sleeps with Mohnish Behl. The turning point is the scene when she narrates the incident to her city friend & her husband.

Dil chahta hai – I was surprised during the Aamir proposing to Preity Zinta at her engagement scene. After the resolution, I felt Aamir should bend down and touch her foster father’s feet. But then I thought may be he won’t do it. Eventually when Aamir did bend down to touch Preity’s foster father’s feet, I was surprised since the director is from an urban upbringing and it is not a part of his culture to do the same.

When I questioned Farhan later about the same, he said the touching the feet suggestion had come from Aamir Khan.

DCH showed real parents – no gajar ka halwa, no sone ka kada – just like how I would be with my family

Rensil D’ Silva (came in wearing a cap onstage which had FBI written on it)

I wanted to make a ‘real & dark’ film about terrorists bombing metro stations in USA but the budget wasn’t enough. So I had to rope in Kareena Kapoor & Saif Ali Khan and put in songs to get the budget I wanted. These are the sort of things one has to do. (Here’s a question Mr Rensil D’Silva – why the ‘aspirational’ USA ? Aren’t there enough bomb blasts in Mumbai, Malegaon, Delhi, Ahmadabad, Pune, Bangalore and of course the punching bag state of India- Kashmir. Or would you rather make a film about the american victims of terror than us Indian victims of terror ?)

There is no reason for angst anymore. This is the best time to be making films. Mainstream cinema is making ‘different’ films. The fact that personal, individualistic, quirky films like No Smoking & Being Cyrus get made is very assuring. These films would not be possible otherwise. The trends are what we make behind the camera. It really is an optimistic time.

Open Forum – (questions from other writer/filmmakers and audience)

Q) Why are so many comedies being made ?

Kundan Shah – People come to the multiplexes to seek an instant gratification – hence the comedies.

Q) Film length ? How much is too much?

John Mathew Mathan – If you are saying something interesting then there is no time limit. If you don’t have anything interesting then even 30 min is too much.

Q) The films not addressing ‘real’ issues ? I come from a small town where people have stopped going to cinema halls since the quality of films are so bad.

Rensil D’Silva – It’s all about ‘aspirational’. My driver aspires to wear jeans like me and a T shirt like the one I’m wearing. He is not interested in seeing films on problems. Why would anybody be interested in seeing films on their problems when they aspire to be someone better/for something better. Hence people do not watch films on real issues/problems. Even my maid only watches ‘happy’ films.

(Needless to say the above swooping statement was met with a furor from the audience)

Abhishek Sharma ( Tere Bin Laden) – There is a difference between someone living in a small town and someone who has come to Mumbai to work. The former are happy living where they are and the latter have come to the metro looking for work and wanting to be someone in life. Hence somebody like say your driver working in Mumbai may not like watching ‘multiplex films’.

Q) Where have all the writers gone ? Why aren’t there any more writers ?

Manish Gupta – They’ve all become directors ! Me, Anurag Kashyap, Abbas Tyrewala, Abhishek Sharma, Anees Bazmee, Rumi Jafry…

Session 6 – The Road Ahead: Globalism, the Digital Revolution and Other Attractions

This was more or less an open session with discussions involving questions posed from the audience. The panellists were – Rakesh Om Prakash Mehra, Paresh Mokashi, Rohan Sippy, Navdeep Singh, Satish Manwar, Abhishek Sharma, Vikramaditya Motwane, Vivek Agnihotri & chaired/moderated by the very polite and all accommodating Anubhav Pal.

Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra – Let us flash-forward to 2025. Will America successfully ‘entertainise’ (invade the film industry) India like they have done Europe already ? A film like Avatar today grossed a lot in India– not just in the English version but even the subtitled & regional language dubbed versions were lapped up all over the country.

West has already invaded all over the world with media, books, movies, TV etc. Will we be watching ‘Americanised’ entertainment in India or will they be watching ‘Indianised’ entertainment ?

Vikramaditya Motwane – Roger Ebert said in his review of Udaan that the film could have been set anywhere. This year has been a watershed for Indian film industry since we have a film in every important film festival all over the world. What’s more – these films are showing India in a non regressive, non tourist manner.

Rohan Sippy – The commercial film industry is also failing. We need to decide if we will follow the Hollywood model of Indianization or should we be telling ‘Indian stories’.

ROM – The more Indian our films are, the more global they will be. The story has to originate from our soil, our ideas. However, one grouse that I have is with characters singing songs. Regardless of whether he/she is a doctor, gangster, cop, engineer, businessman – he/she still lip-syncs to a song. As a result of which audiences abroad do not take us seriously.

Anubhav Pal – When you are telling a ‘local’ story, do people abroad identify ?

Satish Manwar- Yes. eg: Pather Panchali is so rich in the sense of its aesthetics. It is not a difference of urban/rural. It’s the sense of aesthetics which matters. People from Vidharbha like the film (Gabhricha Paus), people from LA like it too. The issue from your side needs to be genuine & we need to be honest to the creative process, and the aesthetics of the process of filmmaking.

Paresh Mokashi – That is the way to go ahead. We need to know the usage of cinematic language in our films, regardless of our subject. We’re discussing-focussing more on content but not on the technique. Two films based on the same subject are different. Why ? It’s the filmmaking material. Deewar, Sholay both were popular films with Amitabh Bachchan but similar films with the same actor have flopped. There are some ‘art’ films which are attention holding. Similarly there are some ‘art’ films which are boring. Just having a good subject doesn’t guarantee a good film.

RS – We have to appeal to ourselves culturally, and make it work in our own market, and then work it in a market that is not ours. eg: Stephen Chow’s films are set in Hong Kong but have a universal appeal.

Abhishek Sharma – Tere Bin Laden wasn’t about Osama. It was about a journalist from a 3rd world country wanting to live the ‘American dream’. The journalist could not have been an Afghani since their lingo is too different. An Indian journalist would’ve been too unbelievable. Pakistani culture & lingo is very much like ours. Hence it had to be a Pakistani journalist. People ask ‘then how come it is an Indian film?’ Because, it is a film told by an Indian storyteller with his roots.

Just because the audience liked Udaan, Tere Bin Laden, Peepli Live doesn’t mean suddenly the audience has become mature. The audience was always there. We need to mature. The writers, producers, directors all of us.

Sometimes people from marketing asked me ‘What is your Target Audience?’ How can a writer say what his script’s target audience is ? Tere Bin Laden ran not just in India but also in Dubai – among the Indians, Pakistanis & the Dubai sheikhs!

Vivek Agnihotri – Somewhere the NRI market has also accepted Hindi films. During the making of any film the oft asked question is ‘How will the NRI audience react to this film ?’ And we started catering to them gradually in our films. Soon the common man got lost from our films. It is very sad. I think it is the best time to write Indian stories. There are problems all over India. 70% of Indians live in villages, average income is less than 1$. We’re celebrating throughout the year with festivals all along. We should emerge as a country making films about us – the real us. The minute we say ‘small town’ – we think of Bihar/Jharkhand. All this is thanks to the Indian media. Literature is another area which we’ve ignored for long.

AP – Was it a conscious decision to set Manorama in a small town with the protagonist being a cop who is a drunkard ? (Mr Pal – next time please watch the film before asking an intelligent looking question on it.)

Navdeep Singh – It was not a conscious decision to set in a small town. Every story has its time & space and yes we have been not seeing the rural India/small town India in our Hindi films, unlike the tamil films where they have been exploring that territory a lot authentically.

AP – How come the protagonists in your films are outsiders ?

ROM- Story ki requirement hi waisi thi. Ek mein gori aa gayi aur ek mein apna hi aa gaya. Otherwise the kind of requirements I have to cater to are weird. Sometimes I’m asked “Interval daal do, interval mein samose bikte hain”. Why should I put an interval so that samosas can sell ? My 3 ACT structure has to become a 2 ACT structure now.

Do your personal cinema, tell the story you tell best. Why put someone else’s story ?

Writing is scary, it is terrible & I say please don’t make me a writer. I’m not a true writer.

A screenplay is a story told in pictures. It’s not on stage (play), it’s not in the mind (novel).

If we’re only deliberately making social films, we should be making documentaries.

Bottom line – make what you feel.

Open Forum – (questions from other writer/filmmakers and audience)

Q) What is the difference between an ‘art’ film & a ‘commercial’ film ?

VA – It all depends on budgets. In my mind every film is a commercial film.

VM– Sadly it’s the stars. Without AB Jr, Dilli 6 is a non commercial film.

Q) Would you have taken SRK as Dada Saheb Phalke in your film ?

PM- SRK as Dada Sahib Phalke ? ………………. I’m still thinking

AS – Even Asoka ?

PM – As far as the ‘cross-over’ is concerned, Jan Aranya, Pather panchali crossed over 40 yrs ago. If it is a good film, it will cross over.

ROM – The South American films have done it – Ya tu Mama Tambien, City of God, Pan’s Labyrinth all have crossed over to become big hits. I remember the director of Pan’s Labyrinth’s previous film wasn’t that big a hit – because it was too ‘local’. He corrected it in his next and the cinematic idiom was more appropriate in the next. We need to remember – more pictures, less words.

Q)You say your film was to be a realistic depiction of the struggle of the football players to save their club. Then why was Billo Rani there in the promos ?

VA – Why was Billo Rani there in the film itself ??? There is a lot of pressure while making a film and we all succumb to it.

Q) Why are there workshops for the writers when it is the producers who need to be ‘educated’ ?

ROM – Write a good script. Pehle likho toh sahi yaar!

AS – As far as tips on pitching/summarizing a script is concerned, I can tell you from personal experience working in adlabs for 4 yrs as an executive, you need to sell yourself – the one liner, the idea, the USP. Most of the scripts don’t have an act – write damn good scripts. Executives do not read beyond 15 pages if the script doesn’t interest them. And if it does, then they finish it and forward it to their seniors – and the same 15 page rule applies to them too. Never ever say/compare it with other films in your pitch – like ‘this script is Pretty Woman meets Chandni Bar’. Write great original scripts and original one liners.

Q) Would you continue making regional films ?

PM – Yes I want to make more Marathi films.

SM – No. There is no money recovery. I’m a filmmaker and I want to explore every genre. My film was shown everywhere abroad and people all over the world enjoyed it. However at a screening in PVR Mumbai, only 15-20 people were there. I want to reach to more people.

Q) Can you make a film not in your language/culture ?

ROM – Write a script yaar pehle. Murgi ne anda diya nahi aur butter chicken khaane ki baat kar rahe ho.

AS– I just made one about Pakistan, and I’ve never been there before.

Q) Does it have to be set in Mumbai or Jamshedpur or Rajasthan ?

ROM – Yaar ek script toh likho yaar. Woh sab baad mein kar dena.

VM – If you have a story to tell you can set it anywhere in any language. Stories do not need to be rooted. They’re local but the impact needs to be global.

And that was it more or less. Quite a few irrelevant & stupid questions and quite some standard responses. Apparently Rakesh Omprakash Mehra wasn’t so arrogant as before.

Was quite a decent 2nd day – more so since there were more filmmakers than scholars. Not that scholars cant be fun but pedantic ones – Nooo. May be the next time it should be paid because the discussions were quite digressing at times, and the bad questions asked by the audience members hurt man, really hurt.