Scriptwriters seek out factors for success

MUMBAI: Scriptwriters Rex Weiner, member of WGA (USA), Vinay Shukla, Jaideep Sahni, Anjum Rajabali and Rensil D‘Silva today spoke on the ills that plague the art and craft of scriptwriting and sought to find measures that need to be taken to ramp up this very important industry. MD National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) Nina Lath Gupta moderated the session.

The session began with Weiner saying that today writing was all about big budgets. He stressed that as against earlier writers just told a story and did not have to worry about budgets.

So what makes a good script good and a bad script bad, he asked.

"The best scripts are about human behaviour intimately observed. You need audiences to ask what‘s next? The more specific a character becomes ironically the more universal he becomes," Weiner says.

But it was Vinay Shukla of Godmother fame who gave an interesting overview of what today‘s audiences want.

He cited the examples of the recent hit films like Mithya, Khosla ka Ghosla, Chak De and Metro and analysed why the offbeat films had worked.

Shukla pointed out that Chak De had no obligatory songs, no heroine and no romantic scenes and went on to say that today it is the youth that is the target audience, unlike yesterday when films were made keeping housewives in mind.

Now housewives have been lost to the Ekta Kapoors of today he commented.

Shukla advised writers to shed their inhibitions at a time when values are changing, saying that it‘s not the boldness of a subject but the treatment that makes a good film.

Linear narrative is no longer the rule of the thumb (a la Metro) he said.

He analysed why a film like Halla Bol had flopped though it had raised pertinent social concerns. Shukla said that it is not that social concerns do not stir audiences but the contrived melodrama let down audiences.

Outlining a few factors that scriptwriters should bear in mind Shukla said a script should be short, subtle, not over dramatic and western.

"Dil Chahta Hai brought in casualness and Chak De solidified this. Characters in our films are only black or white and that‘s why most of our films look the same. Three dimensional characters are the need of the day and if the subject is city based then the need is to be western," Shukla averred.

Anjum Rajabali stressed that there was a historical reason why there was a dearth of successful scriptwriters in our country and held that this was because there is a lack of training.

"In the old times writers did not go to any school of writing but they learned all about it by observation. But now some amount of learning is important which is not happening," he said.

Rajabali added that the attitude towards writing functions has to change.

Drawing a parallel with the pharma industry he said that there was a huge fund for R&D and there is no sword dangling on the head of a scientist as he labours over research.

Rajabali pointed out that the pharmas invest in thousands of scientists and only five succeed. So why can‘t the film industry too do the same he asked.

A writer should be made a stakeholder in the film making business, as this will make good business sense, he said.

Rang de Basanti‘s successful script writer Rensil D‘Silva did not agree that we lacked good writers.

He felt that India does have a good pool of writers but we are not looking at them. He believes that if one taps the advertising world which he thinks has great writing talent and get even 10 per cent to work this will be a huge number.

According to Rensil the only problem why one does get good writers is because people do not pay well. Unlike in Hollywood people here do not want to invest in scripts. He wondered that if Manoj "Night" Shyamalan got $5 million for his script in the USA, what would he get had he written the script in "Pondicherry"?

The best note of hope came from Jaideep Sahni, who said that as the film making business had grown in the last few years by leaps and bounds it has also affected the writing side.

Sahni who has penned the famed "Chak de" and has also written and co-produced Khosla ka Ghosla said that he disagreed that writers were now writing for only multiplex audiences.

He stressed the fact that Chak de had nothing in the story that was ‘multiplex‘. In fact everything was rural, even some of the actors.

Sahni said yes the writers wanted money but they cannot be bought. They should be made partners.

He requested filmmakers and corporate houses not to invest in writers but to invest in the process of writing.

He believed that as the investment takes place there will be an army of writers to service the industry. Writers need to be paid for R&D and this will help give birth to quality writers.

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