"The writer's task is to facilitate the director's vision" : Ajitabh Menon

Like other wise men, Ajitabh Menon believes that success is not reflected by quantity but quality. He has been extremely discerning about the projects he has undertaken. At 26, Menon is one of the more sought after writers on TV, with two of his serials- Hubahu andHum Pardesi Ho Gaye hitting bull's eye.

Menon, who started off with Khwaish, a youth series on Sony and went on to write one-off episodes of Rishtey and Aap Jo Bolein Haan To Haan… on Zee is now concentrating on writing two movie scripts, one of which will be directed by Parvati Balagopalan, Hubahu's producer.

In a candid interview to indiantelevision.com correspondent Amar, Ajitabh speaks his mind. Excerpts:

How did Ajitabh Menon evolve into a writer?

I've done a diploma course in film and TV production from XIC, Mumbai. I wanted to be a director and in fact, still want to be one, but breaks as an writer came in easy and hence I took to writing. I have graduated in psychology because then, I wanted to be a counsellor. Even though I did not finally become one, my study of psychology has helped me in understanding and writing about characters very different from me.

Which are the subjects that you like to tackle most?

I would love to work on as many subjects as I can, except the regular soaps depicting make-believe family dramas.

"My study of psychology has helped me in understanding and writing about characters very different from me"


With Hubahu producer Parvati Balgopalan

What is the starting point of your writing - an idea, a concept, the complete story?

That could be anything, even something that could strike me from this conversation we are having right now. You never know where a potent idea emanates from. It could be from a newspaper story; another movie or it could be a concept you and your producer/director have been thinking about for some time.

Do you like to work on your own concepts or are you comfortable working on concepts given to you?

I believe concepts don't emanate from one person. They are the result of extensive deliberations among a team. At least that's how I work. Like for instance, in the case of Hubahu, Parvati, Nupur and I just started working on a germ of an idea- identical twin sisters exchanging positions and this move backfiring to dramatic effect.

Do you subscribe to the view that TV is a writer's medium?

I wouldn't totally agree with this. This statement is used because TV normally tends to be very verbose as it is. By and large, it is a restrictive medium with constraints on visual freedom. I do believe that on TV as well as in cinema, the writer's task is to facilitate the director's vision. To that extent, it is not a writer's medium.

What do you think makes one an effective writer?

A psychological insight into disparate characters, the ability to suddenly make a moment dramatic, the ability to make a character appear larger than life and the ability to be sensitive to things one is normally not cued in to, without being affected by these things.

How many projects do you like to work on simultaneously?

Not more than two.

A still from Chhota Muh Badi Baat
"Concepts don't emanate from one person. They are the result of extensive deliberations among a team"


What is your writing schedule like?

There is no proper schedule. Mostly, I like to write late into the night but again I might just start writing anytime I feel up to it and am in the right frame of mind.

Does writing in isolation help you to concentrate?

On the contrary, I like writing when there are people around, so that I may instantly take their feedback.

Does TV writing pay well?

It pays me well. I don't know about others. Actually a lot depends on the team you are working in, your own credibility and the like.

How important is effective narration in selling a concept?

Very important. Actually, people seldom have time to read entire stories and they go mainly by what is narrated to them. Hence effective narration is quintessential. As far as tips for effective narration go, one has to be all excited and charged up about the story and tell it passionately. At the end of your narration, if the listener gets the impression that you've made a point, your job is half done.

"Hubahu was written in consultation with Sony, so there was no way either of us could be unhappy with the output"


On the sets of Hubahu with director Nupur Asthana

Have you felt a channel's intervention interfering with your work?

No, not at all. In fact, channels have been very cooperative and helpful. In the case of Hubahu, Sony has been completely involved in all discussions concerning the writing of the first thirteen episodes. It was actually a good thing because the episodes were written after taking them into confidence and hence there was no way either of us could be unhappy with the output.

How much time does it take you to write one episode ofHubahu?

Not more than two and half days taking into account the entire script- the story, screenplay and dialogues.

Are you choosy about writing offers coming your way?

Yes I am. See, its very important for me to work on projects I thoroughly enjoy and with people I relate well with. Recently, I have refused an offer from a reputed producer because I didn't like his way of putting things across.

How many re-writes go into your final script?

On an average, my third draft is the final draft. But again it is contingent on so many factors.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

Directing movies.

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