Posts Tagged ‘Javed Akhtar’

 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!

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.

As always, thanks to Pavan Jha.

Yes, thats the cake. And no, its not a typo for PLUM cake. Its a SLUM cake! Aur bolo ? Not only the idea is disgusting but even it looks fugly! Imagine, you are eating a slum at a birthday party. How moronic! Well, its Bollylalaland. It was Javed Akhtar’s idea, cut by Shabana Azmi and bollywood biggies danced their way to glory.

Click here to read to Guardian piece on slum cake. Click here for the party pics and here for the party report. And if you wondering about Vidya Balan’s weird wardrobe, well, headgear was the theme of the party.

Mr Screeny is back. For those of you, who don’t know him, click here to read his first post. This time he attended the weekend seminar at NFAI Pune and here is all the details from the Day 1. The good, the bad, the ugly and the goss.

The day began with a BIG queue at the NFAI – and with a mammoth crowd of students, film industry people, media professionals, writers directors, and aspirants. Felt a little bored of the over scholarly talk & lectures and didn’t take any notes whenever I felt there was too much to write/too irrelevant/too soporific; but ‘on the whole’ the first day was okay dokay. Had taken down few notes whatever I found interesting, and am paraphrasing it all below

Imtiaz Hussien – FWA committee member (& dialogue writer of Parinda)

The term ‘Melodrama’ originated in the 1780s and means two diametrically opposite things in German & French.

In German it means – a passage of opera with music

In French it means – a passage in which characters say nothing but the music conveys/says everything.

Kedarnath Outy – the chief of NFAI (spoke about preservation of films)

Since the inception of Indian cinema, there have been 43000 Indian films released.

The NFAI has only 5000 odd films!

I passionately request you all to if and when you come across original film material (footage, print, rolls etc) please contact us. The corporate do not bother to give us the prints because they are lying with the film labs. When we request the labs, they say they’ve written umpteen times to the corporate/production houses informing them of their film footage lying around; but the corporate regard it as a recording & archiving formality and do not bother replying back. In such cases, the onus often should be taken by the film buffs and volunteers like us to help preserve film culture.

Anjum Rajabali

The purpose of this seminar is educational so that it leads to a better understanding of cinema. Until 2004 there was no screenwriting courses in India. And then FTII introduced screenplay writing course. Since then we’ve tried to hold as many interactions between film writers/aspirants & the professionals.

We were also trying to get Salim-Javed together for this conference (after a gap of 31 yrs., they would be sharing a platform together). Both had readily agreed to the idea. Javed saab had even said “It would be a privilege to hear him speak on screenplay”. However unfortunately, Salim Khan couldn’t come due to ill health.

Session 1. How it all Began: Genesis of  and Influences on the Early Indian Script

Adoor Gopalakrishnan

When I joined FTII in 1962, there was no separate course in screenwriting. The course was Screenplay writing cum Film Direction. Most people who joined hated screenplay writing then. Today when I see this big an audience for a screenwriting seminar, I feel a lot has changed since then. May be part of this change is thanks to the Bombay Film Industry.

In Malayalam films, script wasn’t the starting point of the film. Many a times it was written on the sets ‘fresh’& ‘hot’ (Taaza taaza). One or two films written this way became successful, and it therefore became a trend to write the script on the sets only! The writer would be sometimes standing in a pose under a tree, busy writing the next scene which was to be shot. Whenever we saw someone standing in a pose on any film set, we knew immediately that he was the writer!

In 1985 a screenplay of one of my films got published, but nobody read it. Nowadays, the sale of film scripts has increased, not for learning how to write for films, but to write for TV. My scripts will be a bad choice if one wants to read them and learn how to write for TV.

When my films get screened abroad, foreign film fraternity often comes unto me and asks “In India, do they make films like you do ? Don’t they only make ‘song & dance’ films ?” For them the only exposure to Indian Cinema is ‘Bollywood’. It takes time for me to explain that I’m as much an outsider in ‘Bollywood’ as they are!

We are heir to a great tradition of Art but have we really imbibed from it ? Very little is taken from our culture except song & dance and melodrama.

Bombay makes high budget rich looking commercial masala films and all other regional cinema makes poor imitations of the same. The commercial cinema is either derived from Hollywood and/or the tradition of Parsi theater.

Coming back to the FTII course then, the 1st 2 yrs. was about writing & basic elements of direction and in the 3rd year we were taught advanced direction.

Many directors have no sense in drama, because they have no interest in writing.

A director has to bring his vision to the script and understand the written form – how to convert it dramatically on screen. Otherwise, the writer will write the script, cameraman will shoot it and editor will edit it – and the film can be made. A director is NOT an organizer of talents – there are production managers for that.

My colleagues wanted to be in Bombay Film Industry; not to be against the ‘system’, but to be absorbed by it.

“You have to READ to WRITE”

Screenplay is the very basic material on which the film is built on. It’s your idea of the film. You can hardly explain the film on a screenplay. It eventually finds its completion in the film that is made out of it.

The other panelists/speakers weren’t too interesting. A word of request to the super arrogant Shama Zaidi…..

….We respect you for your costume work in Shatranj ke Khiladi (Satyajit Ray, Premchand – two greats), your writing in Bharat ek Khoj, Garam Hawa, Mandi and many many such superb films (and your work as an Art director too in many such films). We also know that as a panelist you do get asked some slightly peripheral questions at times. But you could do your HUGE IMDB LIST a great service by replying in a non dismissive, polite, humorous manner. I mean cummon – your paper talks about the roots of Hindi-Urdu cinema and starts from 1853 – Wajid Ali Shah’s court (an interesting though self-important self reference to Shatranj ke Khiladi – one might argue) and if a naïve screenwriter asks you about a question related to the 1920s films, you turn around and needlessly retort “I don’t know about 1920s. I wasn’t born then!”; “I think this question is completely irrelevant” in a tone which would outrival Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s famous two words “Shut up!!!”

And Kaushik Bhaumick – the other panelist. I don’t have any remarks for him, because I slept through his whole lecture.

Atul Tiwari – the audience woke up when he started talking, thanks to his witty one liners, intelligent puns and wonderful Javed Akhtar-ish sense of humor.

During the break, I met Adoor since I have myself been trying to lay my hands on his films for quite some time but to no avail. I asked him where can I see his films subtitled ? No DVD shops in Mumbai/Chennai/Delhi have it. And I doubt if any subtitled copies are available in Kerala. He said the only way to get to see 2-3 (of the whole lot) was through Amazon !!!

I told him it was ridiculous to pay the extra shipping cost when the films ideally could/should be available in Kerala/Trivandrum/Cochin/Munnar any-friggin city down south.

“No. there is no other way” – he said with a rather I-know-it-sucks-I-can’t-help-it expression

Session 2  Dramatic Highs: Melodrama and our Cinematic Form

Clips were shown from various Indian films – Meghe dhaka Tara, Subarnarekha, Kannathil Muthamital, Mughal-e-azam, Shejari, Pyaasa and others and ‘melodrama’ was discussed using terms like “hyperbolic cinematization”, “orchestration & amplification of emotion”, “dizzying camerawork”, “stylized & exaggerated movements” etc.

The other two panelists (not mentioned below) used scholarly english words in their papers which were grandiloquently pontificating with hyperbolic propensity towards 14-alphabets-long-words which might be good to read (if it were a TOI editorial) but listening to them was a unwieldy task thanks to the soporific hallucinogenic monotonous style of speech.

Kamlesh Pandey

When I started screenwriting, I had predicted that the 1st star of the film will be the screenwriter, and ‘they’ used to laugh at me. Today I look at the interest in screenwriting, and I feel very happy.

What is Melodrama ?

My Marathi theater friends would joke that Melodrama is ‘Melo’ Drama (‘Melo’ in Marathi means Dead). i.e. dead drama

I remember an ‘intellectual’ journalist once asked a question to RD Burman –

Q) When the hero and heroine are sitting in a boat in a lake singing a song , it is a considerable co-incidence that they might be ‘good singers’, but where the hell does the orchestra come from ? Orchestra kahaan se aata hai ?

A) Arrey Idiot – jahaan se camera aata hai!!!

Films are for life, and not about framing life. If I want to see life why would I spend 200 bucks to go to theater to see it when I can easily go down to the streets and see ‘life’ for free!

All film language is derivative of everything including real life. The heart of melodrama is big enough to accommodate anti melodrama & realism. Ardhasatya & Zanjeer have the same appeal for me.

Tezaab is Awara set in the 90s. The introduction sequence of Anil Kapoor in Tezaab is the same as the introduction sequence of KN Singh in Awara. It shows how much cinema has travelled in a span of 30-40 yrs., the hero has become the villain.

Dil – I asked the director Inder kumar “If Saeed Jaffrey (rich father of madhuri) is so rich then will he not hire a detective to investigate if Anupam Kher (the poor father of Aamir) is indeed a big industrialist or a raddi-wala ?”

He replied “You are the only one who is asking this question. Trust me, no one else in the theaters will ask the same”

People don’t go to theaters to ask questions. Entertain them, but don’t let them down.

We don’t have a 3rd ACT (the resolution) in life but we need one in films. Life doesn’t make sense. Films however, give us the vicarious pleasure and the hope to live. They help us make sense in life. When we see heartbreak in films, it prepares us to deal with our heartbreaks in real life. Life is what we are. Movies are what we want to be.

Cinema/Theater is a gym for emotional fitness. In spite of having 60 TV channels we still go to theaters.

K Hariharan (Tamil film director)

During the time when there was a tremendous anti North India and anti Hindi sentiment in tamil Nadu, the Dravidian movement found its voice in the ‘new wave’ of tamil cinema. Directors like Bharathiraja, Mahendran, Balu mahendru, K Balachander etc went and made non commercial films and ‘village films’ which were similar in spirit to the ‘parallel’ cinema of Shyam benegal, Govind nihlani, MS Sathyu etc. They existed along with the commercial tamil films until the ‘phenomena’ of manirathnam invaded the tamil cinema screen, and everything ended up looking more aesthetic & ÁD film’ like rather than the raw & visceral.  (wrt the kanathil muthamital title track with simran & the kid) Don’t you think this is an AD film ? I mean you could safely release this song segment titled as ‘Vimal Saris’!!!

We have explored the ‘Sringar Ras’ a lot in our films – art for pleasure’s sake – the entire bandwidth of guy meets girl, love, different shades of it – eventually to a pleasant culmination etc etc. However the current ‘new wave’ in Tamil Cinema (directors like Bala, Ameer, Sasikumar, Cheran, Mysskin) are making films on the less travelled path of ‘Bibathsa Ras’ or the emotion of disgust. The raw violence, the energy, the ambition to not shy away from uncomfortable zone all are the characteristics of this new school of filmmaking and the best part is – these films are successful! 

Chitra Palekar

We make films with ‘heightened drama’. I remember when our first film (directed by Amol Palekar) was screened at a film festival, a foreign film critic argued with us about why we had songs & dance ‘melodrama’ in our film. I replied that in our traditions, we have songs for all occasions, every festival and even every time of the day. It is our culture. “Apun toh aise hi hain!!!”

Session 3 : A Song and Dance About Everything: Music, Song, and Lyrics in the Script

Vinay Shukla (talked about music in 50s-60s-70s)

Songs were a part of the narrative and not an ‘item’. A very good example would be ‘Jab Pyaar Kiya toh darna kya’ from Mughal-e-azam in which an otherwise introverted & shy Anarkali proclaimed her love for Salim in front of the whole world. And we believe it and how! That is the strength of a song

Songs & Melodrama are two distinct features of the Indian script. We are a country of songs. The first film Alam Ara had 7 songs.

The ‘sufi fakir’ singing a song “De de khuda ke naam pe” was another common feature in many film songs even till the 70s-80s eg: Pran singing ‘Kasme Vaade Pyaar Wafa sab’ from Upkaar; where a normal personal drama/situation spreads to a universal appeal thanks to the song & lyrics. Songs universalize a specific dramatic situation.

We also had a ‘theme song’ eg: Kaagaz ke Phool ‘Dekhi Zamaane Ki Yaari’ which was used throughout the film to punctuate the protagonist Suresh Sinha’s journey.

A song can condense or expand time and hence is a very important tool to be used for cinematic advantage. It can act as the ‘bridge’ between the credible & the incredible for the audience to walk through it, willingly suspending disbelief.

Javed Akhtar was to be the chairperson of this session but he couldn’t come due to some reasons. As a result Swanand was asked to be the chairperson for the same. Atul Tiwari remarked “Ek din maine aapse kahaa tha ki aap Javed Saab ki jagah lenge”

Btw – Saaed Mirza & Kundan shah were walking through the aisles when it was announced on stage that Javed Akhtar wouldn’t be coming, and the audience heaved a big sigh of disappointment – “Oh Noo”.

The two filmmakers half muttered under their breath “That is so sad” – “It breaks my heart” – “Oh dear dear dear…”

It was interesting to observe such a private sarcastic disapproval of Javed Akhtar by the two. Clearly they do not think too high of the the man for whatever reasons, some which they spoke about on Day-2 when they came on the panel.

Swanand Kirkire

These days a dangerous trend has started thanks to Ibn-e-batoota. The producers want some similar sounding nonsensical lyrics from everyone.

“Sir ek word de do ibn-e-batoota jaisa. Gaana HIT ho jayega”

When I’m writing my own screenplay, I myself find it strange to put in songs.

The day ended with a rendition of ‘Bawra Mann’ by Swanand (it was almost mandatory wasn’t it ?), much to our delight.

Post on Day 2 coming soon. And it was much better than Day 1.

Lil late to discover it but as they say, better late than never. Atleast for the record!

Remember the popular Iktara song from last year’s Wake Up Sid ? We discovered Kavita Seth and realised that Amit Trivedi can kill Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy with just one song. The trio had the rest of the album. But nobody played anything beyond Ikatara. And many are still playing it in non-stop loop.

Had lot of doubts since the song came out. It sounded so different from rest of the album. And then got to know that there is a male version too. And the male version is not in the CD ? It was released much much later. Was it a official release ? Not sure. A good friend mailed it to us as we were desperatley looking for it. So, whats the story ?

Intially Amitabh Bhattacharya wrote the male version of the Iktara song. Everyone liked it. But Javed Akhtar doesnt like sharing credit on music albums. Its should be only him or let anyone else write all the songs! But it was too good a song to let it go. 

To solve the problem Javed Akhtar rewrote a new version of the same Iktara song. It was recorded in a female voice and was put in the album. The male version of the song remained in the system and was released much later after the release of the film.

For better comparison, here is the lyrics of the male version and click here for the lyrics of the female version. Thanks for it Goonda, the only person who doesnt like the song! Or better click on the play buttons of the video attched and decide for yourself. First the female version and the next is male version.