"Nobody writes dailies by choice" : scriptwriter Irshad Kamil

He is one of the few writers in the Indian television industry who took up scriptwriting out of choice, not chance.

Irshad Kamil started writing for television in 1998. Starting off with writing from Chandigarh - he wrote two serials, Ravindra Peepat’s Na Jaiyo Pardes and Lekh Tandon’s Kahan Se Kahan Tak from there, his first assignment in Mumbai was writing the dialogues for Manish Goswami’s Kartavya.

Soon followed Drishtaant, a serial produced and directed by Pankaj Kapur, Smriti on Channel Nine Gold and the more recent Choti Maa…Ek Anokha Bandhan on Zee and Sony’s Dhadkan. Kamil is currently writing the dialogues of Love Marriage, the new show on Zee. 

The fact that Kamil holds a doctorate in Hindi Literature only enhances his level of understanding and flow of thought as a writer, besides making his usage of the language flawless. Indiantelevision.com correspondent Amar spent time with Kamil, to uncover the writer within the man and to understand the man behind the writer.

How did your journey into the world of letters begin?

I did my doctorate in Hindi Literature, specialising in poetry. As a student of literature, I studied poetry and drama extensively and always had a flair for writing. After a brief stint as journalist with The Tribune and The Indian Express, I got to write my first serial Na Jaiyo Pardes in 1997 while I was still in Chandigarh. That was how I started writing for TV. Then during a visit to Mumbai, I was introduced to Lekh Tandon at a party. Lekhji offered me a serial Kahan Se Kahan Tak for Zee TV, which I wrote from Chandigarh. Thanks to the success of this serial, I soon had to move to Mumbai and there’s been no looking back since.

What is your forte - story, screenplay or dialogues?

Dialogues are my forte. I think of screenplay as visual poetry and dialogues as spoken poetry. As a writer, I feel dialogues play a very important role in making the transition from one scene to another smooth and in bringing out the psychology of the characters. I also believe in the importance of something called unspoken dialogues. For instance, if one has to propose to somebody, it can be done by some beautiful gestures and does not always have to be said in so many words. I had carved out such a scene in Drishtaant and the effect was just beautiful.

What does giving a different speech to each character mean?Well, each character speaks in a different way and his speech depends on three factors - his home, company and profession. Depending on these three factors, each character has a distinct identity. The identity of a character inspires his thought process and the thought process inspires the speech. Moreover, positive and negative characters also speak differently.

"Writers get breaks easily

because the producer

does not have

to invest anything

in testing them"

What form of screenplay do you like to be given to you?

I like the screenplays to be brief and to the point. I look at the content and as long as the content is spelt out clearly, I don’t need excessive detailing or suggested dialogues.

Which subjects appeal to you as writer?

I like subjects that have a feel of realism about them. I also like family dramas that tackle realistic problems.

Does writing require isolation from people?

It helps to be in isolation when one is penning one’s thoughts. But that is not indispensable as I have concentrated even when there have been many guests at home. But otherwise, one needs to be an interactive person and talk with as many different people as one can, because that gives a different perspective about characters.

Do you read a lot?

Yes. Due to my background in literature, I would read a lot of books on literature, but today I like to catch up with books on psychology because it helps me get psychological insights into disparate characters that I don’t know well.

Is it correct to have separate people do screenplay and dialogues like we have in our country? 

Ideally, the screenplay and dialogues should be done by the same person, but the problem is that this can only happen if all writers are fluent in Hindi. But in India, what happens if a person from the South visualizes fantastic screenplay but cannot come up with appropriate dialogues? In this case, having a separate person to do dialogues becomes necessary. But it is also unfortunate that a lot of writers who believe they are quite good with the language are actually quite weak at it.

With such intellectual moorings, how do you relish writing dailies that actually symbolise the worst form of commercialisation? 

Actually, nobody writes dailies by choice. It’s just that very few weeklies are being made nowadays, so that one doesn’t have much choice but to take them if one has to be in business out here. In fact, one of the first serials I was offered after coming to Mumbai was a daily. Today, of course I won’t do the same.

What are the major failings of new writers?

The main problem with writers over here is that only some 20 per cent of them took to writing by choice, the rest became writers by chance.


"Such was the level of research that went into "Dhadkan" that I would speak to doctors to authenticate correct names of medicines and these were actually used in the dialogues"

But why is this so? 

See, it’s easiest to get a break in writing even though getting a quick break does not mean you are a good writer. Writers get breaks easily because the producer does not have to invest anything in testing them. He basically has to ask the writer to develop the first four episodes of a story and any new writer will jump at the opportunity. And if the writer comes up with something really good, the producer takes him on, as having him will reduce the costs vis-?-vis a veteran writer. But then a lot of writers fizzle out after a while, because they cannot sustain their output levels over a period of time.

Have you ever felt a great disparity between what you have written and how the director has actually executed that scene?

Yes. Whenever I have felt such a problem, I have spoken to the director and made him understand my point better and more often than not, this disparity has been taken care of.  A writer needs to be in constant interaction with the director. I have always believed that directors should be a part of all brainstorming sessions on the script, no matter how hectic the shooting schedules are.

Who are your favourite directors?

Lekhji (Lekh Tandon), Arvind Babbal, with whom I’ve worked onKartavya and Choti Maa… and Deepak Bavaskar, with whom I’ve doneSmriti.

Scripting, being the backbone of any project, requires immense concentration and sustainability of fresh ideas. Have you ever felt mentally exhausted doing a project?

No, I take care of it by taking a complete break from work after a project ends. So, after Choti Maa… and Dhadkan ended, I did nothing for a month, except read a couple of novels, catch up with old friends and watch TV. This kind of helps me to re-charge my energies and get back to work with a fresh mind.

Can you tell us about a research-oriented script you have worked on?

Yes, Dhadkan was one such. Fortunately, the producer had also set up an in-house research team that would co-ordinate with the writers. For instance, whenever I would suggest that a certain disease be covered, the primary call on extracting information on the disease would be of the production house’s research team. Once they fed me information, I would start weaving it into my story. Subsequently, I would also download information on the disease from the Internet. Such was the level of research that went into the writing that I would even speak to doctors to authenticate the correct names of medicines and these were actually used in the dialogues.

What are the projects that you have in the pipeline?

Well, I’m doing the dialogues of  Love Marriage. Apart from this, I’m writing two daily soaps that will come on air in the next few weeks. They are Pyar Koi Khel Nahi for Sahara and Lakshmanrekha. Besides, I’ve written the lyrics for two movies. The first one, Socha Na Tha, being produced by Vijeta Films, will release in December. Hopefully, after that I will start writing movies.

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