Posts Tagged ‘Kamlesh Pandey’

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.


Since the last two years, FFI or Film Federation Of India has suddenly changed its stance. Earlier all the jury members used to be in the presser to announce the name of the film selected as India’s entry for the Oscars. Now, it’s all a big secret. And that’s quite baffling because nobody says why it’s a secret. More because none of the renowned film festival or prestigious film awards keeps its jury a secret. I can’t think of any. In fact, most take pride in announcing the names of their jury members. It becomes more important when a controversy like this happens – why can’t the members publicly endorse and fight for the film they picked to represent the country? I don’t have any answers.

So here’s the list of the 19 FFI jury members who picked “The Good Road”.

1. Gautam Ghose – Filmmaker, Chairman of the jury
2. Rupa Ganguly – Actor
3. Agni Mitra Paul – Fashion/Costume Designer
4. Sujoy Ghosh – Filmmaker
5. Onir – Filmmaker
6. Bharthiraja
7. N Shankar – Filmmaker
8. K P Kumaran – Filmmaker
9. Mahesh Kothare – Actor/Director
10. Suhasini Mani Ratnam – Director/writer
11. Indraneel Bose
12. Sanjay Verma
13. Kamlesh Pandey – Screenwriter
14. Ramadoss Naidu
15. Kavita Lankesh – Director/Writer
16. Vijay Patkar – Actor
17. Aarti Anand
18. Vidya Sagar – Music Director
19. C V Reddy – Filmmaker
Strangely, we spoke to at least six of them and all are repeating the same lines – it was unanimous decision to pick The Good Road. 19 people and all felt that TGR was better than everything else. or all have been told to say the same thing? Now that the names are out, am hoping at least some people will speak up why The Good Road is better than other films. Seriously, forget The Lunchbox. Just tell us what we are missing. They need to enlighten us and make us see what’s great about TGR. Some of the names are quite well known and they know much more about cinema than all of us. So it will be good to know what’s good in their books and why. Waiting.

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 ?


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


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!


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.


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!

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.

Mr India 2 – details

Posted: May 10, 2009 by moifightclub in bollywood, etc, News, writing
Tags: , , ,

Bollywoodhungama’s Devansh Patel has done a long interview with screenwriter Kamlesh Pandey. Though he hasnt revealed much details about the sequel but Kamlesh has spoken about the plans for Mr India 2 (Mr India’s sequel), how they are going about it and about his interactions with Shekhar Kapoor ( director of Mr India).

Here is the link to the interview. Do read.