If I get into direction, the writer in me will suffer. : Mir Muneer

Mir Muneer is a trendsetter. After writing Chunauti, Campus and Challenge- some of the most successful youth based serials on TV, Muneer re-wrote trends with Saans.

Muneer is also the brain behind the novel storylines of Amanat and Aashirwaad and is currently busy penning the screenplay for Choti Maa- Ek Anokha Bandhan. If the last few months have been relatively quiet for this writing powerhouse, things are bound to change with Saanjhi- the latest soap from the Neena Gupta stable, scheduled on go on air in January.

Muneer strikes one as an extremely modest person. Unlike other writers who bear a grudge over the recognition and pay that TV writing fetches, Muneer is content on these counts. He has no plans of venturing into movie writing. After a decade and half of writing for television, Muneer is still all charged up and feels that there are innumerable stories still up his sleeve that he would like to develop in the coming years.

Excerpts from an interview with Indiantelevision.com's correspondent, Amar.

How and when did you decide to take up TV scriptwriting as a profession?

The ability to think and pen down your ideas into worthwhile stories is God's gift. I enjoyed reading literature and would write plays while studying at Bhavan's College in Mumbai. From there, I guess it was a logical extension to start writing television serials.

Where do you draw your inspiration?

I can't think of any particular source, except that I draw heavily from my experiences of life. It could be anything - from my relationship with my daughter to incidents from my college days.

Do you write in English or in Hindi?

A mixture of both, actually. I write the screenplay in English because I'm habituated to doing it this way. The dialogues are written in Hindi.

In order to create the desired impact in a scene, it is very important that the same person writes the screenplay and the dialogues.


How has story telling on Indian television evolved in the last 15 years?

Where are the stories today? Serials are just an accumulation of 'scenes'. One of the few serials that does have a good story, which I can think of at the moment, is Sarhadein. But, frankly, I feel story-telling today is virtually non-existent.

You are one of the few veteran writers who are writing their own dialogues nowadays. Your comments?

Yes, I know many veteran writers do not like to write the dialogues because it can sometimes get monotonous. But I feel that in order to create the desired impact in a scene, it is very important that the same person writes the screenplay and the dialogues. I've written the screenplay and dialogues for most of my serials, with just a few exceptions. For instance, I write the screenplay for Choti Maa…, while the dialogues are written by a writer in Bangalore because the serial is shot there.

Does TV writing tend to be very cumbersome, what with writers having to plan out the commercial breaks too and accordingly plan out the pitch of each scene?

I usually don't write an episode keeping the breaks in mind. I just maintain the freeze point of the story at the end of each episode. Planning out the breaks does put some form of a burden on my creative freedom. So I leave this task to the directors.

Neena Gupta in a still from Saans
By watching movies, you can develop a few ideas, but there is no substitute to reading rich literature.

Do you find the channel executive producers acting overbearing nowadays? How often have you had to re-work the script of an episode after a channel EP disapproved of it?

No episode of mine has ever been rejected in totality. The channels have sometimes asked for minor changes - either I have managed to convince them to do it my way or they have convinced me to do it their way. Everything has been in good faith.

How many projects do you like to work on simultaneously?

One. (laughs) But last year, I was writing all of six serials simultaneously- Saans, Palchhin, Abhimaan, Aashirwaad, Aanchal ki Chaaon Mein and Ittefaq. How I managed to do that is a miracle. Actually on TV, you can't plan things precisely. You might want to start two projects this year and two more in the next. But a situation might arise when all these projects are approved around the same time, needing you to work on four projects simultaneously. Then there could be old friends who might want you to write something for them and who you can't say no to.

Do you have assistant writers helping you out?

No, because like I've said I write the dialogues myself. There are writers who get the credit for screenplay and dialogues but who actually have assistants helping them out with the dialogues. But I don't operate that way.

What is your writing schedule like?

I start writing at 6:30 in the morning and continue till about 1:30 pm or 2:00 pm, with a small break or two, in between. I like to have my meetings post lunch.

They have been built upon at least one facet drawn from my personality... I don't really feel alienated from any of my characters.

A still from Amanat, scripted by Muneer

Many writers feel dissatisfied with the money and recognition that TV writing gets. Do you agree?

No. I find TV writing very satisfying. I have absolutely no complaints.

Many writers feel that there is a huge difference between what they have written and what ultimately comes out on screen because the director has other ideas. Have you ever felt the same?

No. The reason is that I have mostly worked with directors who are personal friends -Neena Gupta, Rakesh Saarang and the late Sanjiv Bhattacharya, with whom I vibe very well. After having worked with somebody over a period of time, you automatically develop a level of trust and understanding and as such do not experience this problem.

Many veteran writers also take to direction. Have you ever wanted to direct?

No. That's because I feel I still have innumerable concepts that I would like to work on as a writer. I enjoy being a writer and by getting into direction, the writer in me will suffer.

Do you personally relate with any of the characters you have created?

In fact, I relate with all of them. That's because they have been built upon at least one facet drawn from my personality. Let me put it this way - I don't really feel alienated from any of my characters.

Where are new writers falling short? What is your advice to them?

My advice to aspiring and fresh writers is to read a lot of literature. I feel shocked when young writers who come to me offering assistance are found wanting in the basic flow of either language - English or Hindi. That explains why dialogues sound so clichéd nowadays. By watching movies, you can develop a few ideas, but there is no substitute to reading rich literature.

Which has been the happiest moment of your career?

The telecast of the first episode of my serial - Bante Bigadte way back in 1985.

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