"The thrust of every programme is the suspense element" : Sameer Mody

He is the scream-master of television. With a string of suspense thrillers to his credit like X-zone, Thriller at 10, Saturday Suspense, Captain House, and the current Shhh... Koi Hai on Star Plus, scriptwriter Sameer Mody has established himself in the television industry.

Coming from a family of performers, Mody began his career as a painter. After a brief stint with theatre as an actor he accidentally began to write for theatre. Thereafter began a series experiments as a scriptwriter for television. Meanwhile he had begun assisting Vinta Nanda and fondly calls her his mentor.

Despite the thriller writer tag, he has been responsible for few reality based shows and sitcoms as well. He is currently co-scripting Zee's Kittie Party.

Excerpts of a tete-a-tete he had with indiantelevision.com's Trupti Ghag -

When and how did you get bitten by the writing bug?

Well, it seemed like a natural progression at that time. My parents were professional dancers so I always was artistically inclined. I used to write poetry as a hobby. Meanwhile, a friend asked me to fill in as a scriptwriter for a telefilm Saundarya Kaha. By then I was hooked.

What are the essential requisites of a good writer?

It is extremely crucial that a writer has a point of view. A writer, needless to say, is creative, what is important is that he has to have individualism. There is no point in churning out clones.

Do you write with a particular channel in mind?

Not necessarily. But there have been times when I have been approached by producers to write a story of a particular genre with a particular channel in mind. I am quite sure that this not a solitary case. Personally, I think this should be the norm.

It is nice to romanticise, but at the end of the day, your work has to be saleable. It is helpful to know what the end product looks like, so you start working backward. You are subconsciously aware of the channel's choice. If you work around it, I guess there will be no ego clashes or creative problems because neither your work is tampered with nor do the channels interfere unnecessarily.

"The sitcoms overseas usually have sexual overtones. We are culture bound people so that is a no-no for us"

Your work profile consists of different genre of serials. What is the genre that you enjoy writing for and why?

I can't really pinpoint a particular genre. Writers should not have a fixed working style, they should be versatile.

But I am always keen on introducing an element of thrill or suspense. Thrillers drive the TRPs. Every programme's thrust is the suspense element.

Tell us something about your writing experience for different genre.

Writing is both a science and an art. What changes with change in genre is the application of either. To give you an example, writing for a daily soap follows the science rules. Not that the writer's creative contribution any less but emphasis is on dialogue delivery, presentation, different character sketches rather than the story. It is based on certain set formulae and is analytical in approach. You have to stage few fake progressions as well, they may be used in the story ahead. While the weekly is more of a story telling.

Thrillers are a different ball game altogether. It is my forte, I guess. I personally enjoy writing a thriller as it give me scope to think differently. Comedy, on the other hand, is very challenging.

And why do you say comedy is challenging?

Take a look at the sitcom history, usually a sitcom is either a hit or miserable flop.

The sitcoms abroad are usually a rage; they have a freedom of expression. The sitcoms there usually have sexual overtones. We are culture bound people so that is a no-no for us.

What do you have to say about channel interference in a scriptwriter's arena?

Well, I will not deny that. I think to an extent that is fair enough, as their money is at stake too. Besides, for any successful relationship, the partners need to come to a understanding. Compromise is the survival strategy.

How do you go about writing on an everyday basis? How do you deal with writer's block?

A writer's job is a lonely job. I might be siting in a room full of people buzzing around me, but I am usually working alone. It is a little challenging initially, but after a while, it comes easily.

But it is a job like any other. I may have a mind block but that means I have to try harder. If I am stuck, I begin asking myself questions and the answers are usually my clues for the next part.

Are the newcomers given a raw deal in this industry?

Isn't that true for any other industry! I agree that there is certain amount of exploitation and even the pay structure is unfair. But that is just for beginners, seniors I presume are paid fairly well.

Scripts nowadays seem to borrow heavily from their foreign counterparts. What do you have to say about it?

Ideas are all around. I might get an idea the same time as another person siting in another corner of the world. He might make something out of it earlier than me, that is simply not my fault.

Although, I don't deny that plagiarism occurs. It is very much prevalent but not as much as the fuss created.

"We have had enough of the family drama"

Unlike others, the Hindi television industry has a set of dialogue writers and a different set of script writers. What do you have to say about it?

I guess it is a dicey situation. It is very difficult for a dialogue writer. The characters are not his handiwork so he is uncomfortable with them. There is certain amount of chaos but we will have to live with it till we find solutions.

As an insider, where do you think our television industry is headed?

I am not really sure. But personally, I think the current television scenario needs to be changed. I am against the portrayal of women in soaps and family dramas. It is definitely retrogressive, we do not have women of substance on the screen.

I think that the public is looking for some real emotions, real tears. We have had enough of the family drama. My bet is on the reality shows and sitcoms. We need a change, but I am not quite sure if the social dramas will be off air.

What projects do you have currently on hand?

Besides Kittie Party, I am also working on a reality based show for Doordarshan called Talaaq Kyon.

I also have a few movie projects on hand, I will be writing dialogues and screenplays. The Hindi film industry is looking at television as a competitor and I guess that is what is breaking the ice. Film gives you a larger scope to express, as it is a visual medium. It is much more detailed and vibrant.

If not a scriptwriter, what would you been?

I guess I would have been a politician.

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