Television

SWA award winners Nitin Keswani & Bhavna Vyas and the craft of comedy

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MUMBAI: Writing comedy is serious business. Ask any producer – TV, film or OTT –  and he or she will tell you, finding a writer who knows how to tell the funnies in a manner that sends the audience into splits is more challenging than going bungee jumping. Just a handful of writers hold sway over this space. And getting their time calls for an even greater effort as they are so much in demand from all quarters.

Amongst those select writers who have a good command over this genre are Nitin Keswani and Bhavna Vyas. While Keswani won the SWA award for TV comedy for his story for Tarak Mehta ka Ooltah Chashmah, Bhavna Vyas pocketed the best dialogue trophy for her work on Baavle Utaavle.

Indiantelevision.com got into an email exchange with them wherein they spoke about how they go about the task of scripting and story development. Both Nitin and Bhavna were succinct and brief in their responses. Read on to get some insights from them.

Nitin Keswani

· On what makes a story stand out in the comedy genre.

For the comedy genre of story writing, I first believe characterisation is very important as characters drive the plot and enhance it. So plot is essential but character sketching is of foremost importance to build up a comedy story line. Carefully sketched out characters give life to the plot and make it interesting.

I passionately dwell deep into every character’s individual personality traits...it’s like I literally live each character myself by behaving and acting like them so that I can ensure to extract the sketched character traits from the actors in the best possible manner.

I usually draw my inspiration from real life characters and public figures. It could be a chaiwala or a prime minister. I keenly observe them, note down their individual traits.

· On the process he follows while writing.

 I always take breaks rather than writing at one go as I can use my imagination to build up the story line further. I usually have discussions with friends and my team to get inputs on my idea and to set my imagination with a logical perspective.

I usually don’t follow any classic storyline for acts, because in real life there is usually no classic structure. I believe there should not be a fixed pattern of story writing as that would be very monotonous. To bring in creativity with the changing times, storytelling also has to have a change rather than classic fixed acts.

I usually think of the cliff-hangers by observing real life situations around me. I do not promote episode breaks or freeze points – if the story is convincing and interesting, it will automatically draw in the audience’s attention and people will be awaiting to watch the next episode

Bhavna Vyas

On the challenges she faced while writing the dialogues for Baavle Utaavle.

I had never written a TV  comedy show before Baavle Utaavle and I wasn’t much of a comedy show viewer either. So I guess mentally I had a free playground to play with words. 

Writing the dialogues was one of the toughest experiences in my writing career. Not only because it was my first time as a dialogue writer but mainly because the concept was about an Indian joint family from a small village, where every character directly or indirectly thinks or talks about sex. It was definitely a tough job to make the characters (especially females) respectable and enduring even when they are constantly talking about "double bed", "wedding night" and  "satin nighties."

And another challenge was to weave meaningful interpersonal relationships, relatability and love story in the blanket of humour. I am grateful that it turned out right. 

On how she went about writing the dialogues for each character.

I observe real people a lot and in detail. And then I create characters around them. Pick any character from the show and you will feel you have met such a person somewhere. In fact, the way the characters use to sit, stand, sleep or eat everything is what we all have seen around us. It’s a myth that village people don’t talk about sex. They do; just like people in metros. Everything my characters expressed via dialogues were picked up from real life observations only. And maybe that’s why they seemed relatable. 

On her journey as a writer.

I came to Mumbai to become a writer in 2005. I  started my TV career as an assistant with Shashi ma’am and  Sumeet (Mittal) sir for almost two years. Then I started writing daily soaps independently and joining Ye Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai as a screenplay writer in 2011 became the turning point of my career. Overall, the journey has been extremely good. And I’m very grateful for that.

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