Television's Qalam gets off to a rousing start

MUMBAI: The second edition of's scriptwriters workshop and forum, Qalam, was flagged of today at Time & Again Banquets in Mumbai's Lokhandwala Complex in Andheri. An impressive turnout of leading scriptwriters, producers and creative directors from television channels was the day's highlight.

This apart it attracted close to 60 newbie scriptwriters, about 10 professionals trained in film, and another 30 other professionals with exposure to television. Their single mission: gain an understanding about writing for television, through interactive panel discussions and also individual speaker presentations.

Qalam has the backing of Sony Entertainment Television, which has come in as the presenting sponsor while multimedia company UTV has come on board as the associate sponsor. Others who have supported the event include BAG Films and Siddhant CineVision, who have taken up the stationery sponsorship.

The day's proceedings got a tremendous launchpad with the key note speech of noted scriptwriter Akash Khurana, who is the COO Motion Pictures & Music, Nimbus Communications Ltd. 

"Caution. Rejection and frustration are very much a part of a creative person's life but don't let it stop you', Khurana told the eager gathering. 

According to him a good writer should basically offer an intriguing story, get people involved in it and at the end of it all make complete sense. He offered in a nutshell what according to him is a prerequisite of a story: a fascinating subject, a great title, insight or an action and a hook. 

"We have good writers what we need are good mentors" he said as a conclusion to his speech.

The first session of the day was a panel discussion on the business of writing for television. Moderated by CEO Anil Wanvari, the panel had representation from the leading television channels and included Sony Entertainment creative director Saurabh Vanjara, advertising professional-turned-producer-writer-director-turned filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri, TV director Sanjay Upadhyaya, TV scriptwriter Vinod Ranganath and Star India creative head Deepak Segal. 

The panel agreed that writers should set aside any illusions or possesiveness they have about their ideas, stories, concepts. 

"While the writer is important, television programming is a product that emerges out of the creative teamwork of a bunch of people which includes, producers, the writer, the director and on top of it all,the television channel," said Segal. "They have to function like professionals do in any other career," added Agnihotri. 

"Writers have to understand that channels are investing lots of money in the idea and hence they should have a lot of say as they are also dealing with advertisers who are putting in their money in the hope of getting a sustainable TV show," pointed out Vanjara.

"There's a lot of pain, a lot of hard work," said Ranaganath. "The TV writer has to function within this framework and yet be creative. TV scriptwriting is a career which is worth following."

The panel discussed how television writing is different from writing for any other medium. While sharing their personal experiences as creative professionals the members of the panel charted out what a television writer is exactly supposed to churn out. They discussed both the threats faced by the writer and his shortcomings.

'So you want to be a writer?' questioned former Sony programming head and now scriptwriter Rekha Nigam. An interactive session that began with an introspective question turned out to be an animated one with all the participants chipping in with their ideas as they went about drawing up character sketches of two main protagonists for a story that had been suggested by one of them.

Saurabh Vanzara came up next and methodically presented what television channels look for in a writer and in a script. He emphasized on the importance of writers fleshing out the entire story, the need for a concept, the screenplay. He offered a comprehensive list of musts a writer should know while presenting his story to a channel.

"Interesting!" exclaimed celebrated writer, director and editor Vivek Agnihotri while explaining what a good story should be like. During the course of his session Vivek discussed what a content provider, namely the writer, should, would and could expect from a channel.

Post lunch saw an informative yet entertaining panel discussion between situational comedy and film writer Sanjay Chhel, TV scriptwriter-director Vijay Victor Acharya, TV scriptwriter BM Vyas, director-producer Ajai Sinha, Agnihotri and Saurabh Vanjara. The discussion centred around how a writer should go about developing an idea into a written story. Some interesting pointers were drawn up about what constitutes a good idea and a story.

Acharya came on next and held forth in an interactive session with the wannabe scriptwriters. His pitch on creativity and reality served as a reality check as he spelt out what precautions writers should take while penning their scripts. According to him "even the most unbelievable ideas can seem real when you treat them accordingly and realistic idea seems far-fetched if it is treated so."

Upadhyay's session followed next and he dwelt on what the relationship between a director and a writer is like and should be. 

Ranganath followed with a short session on how scriptwriters can sell their scripts. "The key thing is being clear about the idea, the target audience," he said. "Narration is a skill writers will have to pick up when making their presentation to producers or channels. Also, delivering a package which consists of the one-liner, the concept note, episodic wrap-ups, screenplay etc go a long way in helping the writer sell his idea."

Concluding the first day of Qalam was the veteran writer and Film Writers' Association secretary Rajendra Singh. He spoke about the threats faced by the amateur writer while highlighting the more serious aspects of TV scriptwriting. He offered a pointer or two as to how a writer - be he a novice or a pro - safeguard his work.

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