Industry still treats script-writers as underdogs

 MUMBAI: As the last of day of FICCI wore on, the scriptwriters talked about their forte—screenplays and stories.

With a panel of film and ad writers, including scriptwriter and ad film-maker Rensil D’Silva (of Rang De Basanti fame), moderated by the NFDC managing director Nina Lath Gupta, it shaped up to be an interesting insight into how the industry has changed in terms of scripts and still not changed when it came to scriptwriters.

Scriptwriter Anjum Rajabali (of The Legend of Bhagat Singh fame) said that films were a method of storytelling and ironically enough, the only job that was considered no-specialist was that of a script writer. Everyone has a story to say, has an opinion and a voice. And right from the spot boy to the producer suggested their thoughts to the writer in the business. Everyone claims that there is a dearth of scriptwriters in the market and they are not wrong.

Rajabali said, "It’s true that there are not many good writers in India for two reasons–formal training for writers is not available and the film industry has a very casual attitude towards the craft." He also stressed that a marriage of art and commerce is needed for a good movie, which is difficult as the parameters of a movie being viable are not clearly defined.

The appeal of today’s movies was put forward by writer and director Vinay Shukla. Films affect the trends and lifestyles of the youth and also bring about society changes. He said the youth is the primary audience today because the housewives are predominantly watching saas-bahu serials. "This phenomenon has helped the cause of contemporary cinema", Shukla said.

But the treatment of a subject and not the boldness of subject helps the film at the box-office, he mentioned, citing the example of Cheeni Kum versus Nishabd. But over dramatization or melodrama lets down a film. The main keywords to look for the success of a film include, according to Shukla, short, subtle, not over-dramtized, Western and shades of grey.

The Writer’s Guild of America was represented by member and scriptwriter Rex Weiner. He said that for a movie to keep the box-office register ringing, the script needs to be strong. It needs to have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in linear fashion. For the audience to be hooked on to the story, they need to be constantly asking themselves ‘what happens next’ every minute.

Chak De! India and Khosla ka Ghosla writer Jaideep Sahni started out by saying how scriptwriting, in the start, paid him at least 70% less than his previous job. He said that the major issue was that people define movies now as single-screen and multiplex movies. What, he asked, was the distinction? According to him, anybody wanting to write a script needs to understand that things will not be easy for the first two years. People do not, by default, respect scriptwriters too much thinking it’s a job that anyone can do. But the film industry is slowly waking up to the fact that a good film can be delivered only with a good script.

Originality in terms of concept and treatment is important. The NFDC does have a department where screenplays and scripts are read and analysed; giving people a platform to start off from. But it’s not enough. One comes back from this seminar with a clear perspective of how life for a scriptwriter is tough but not much on how to market or sell your script.