‘Unless we recognise the importance of a film writer, wooing international audiences is a distant dream’ – Kamlesh Pandey


In an industry obssesed with actors, the script writer has become the worst victim. Notwithstanding the fact that it is the script writer alone, who can guarantee a film’s success.


 


The case in point being the super success of Rang De Basanti, a purely content driven success. In a candid chat with Businessofcinema.com, veteran film writer Kamlesh Pandey, who penned Rang De Basanti, shares his thoughts about the contemporary phase of the Indian film industry, which has suddenly woken up to recognise writers as the architects of success.


 


Excerpts:


 


With your film Rang De Basanti, the scriptwriter is back in limelight. What is the new scenario like? 


I feel there has been a great change in the industry’s perception towards a films script and I would credit Rand De Basanti for it. Though there are numerous examples of good film scripts like Munnabhai, but post Rang De Basanti, an increasing number of producers feel that a scriptwriter’s contribution is of paramount importance. But, it will still take a while before the perception takes a firm rooting.


 


Is it a fact that Rang De Basanti had to wait for five years to find a producer despite being a great script?


Unfortunately yes! But, then you are dealing with people belonging to the herd mentality. They are driven by formulaic ideas and are too scared of trying out original ideas. You won’t believe; people used to ask me who is playing Basanti in the film, which was actually hilarious. When people have no understanding of good ideas, that’s bound to happen.


 


Moreover, when we were narrating the idea of RDB to producers, there were a spate of movies being made on Bhagat Singh, I guess more than six, and this scared the producers thinking that this is another film on the same subject. 


 


If good scripts are so important, how would you explain the success of many films that have been straight lifts of Hollywood films or don’t have a great narrative to back?


You have to understand that the audiences are largely naïve and can be dissuaded or persuaded easily. Same is the case with these films. When there is a crisis of good narratives, the audiences have little choice and are bound to watch what is being offered.


 


Such tactics becomes cheap gimmicks in the long run and harms the prospect of creating good cinema. Moreover, our industry is driven by actors, it’s not the narrative but the star cast that is offered as a bait to lure the audiences. Even, established producers are keen to finalise stars before the script is ready and in such a situation it becomes a star oriented affair.


 


You can sell any non-sense through this approach. Moreover, the media has also understood the star concept in a limited way. They are so fond of actors that they have become film illiterates, which further aggravates the problem. I expect the media to be more enlightened. 


 


Despite producing the highest number of films in the world, why are we still unable to impact the audiences globally? 


If you look at Hollywood, which no doubt has a global appeal, they have an organised system, which makes sure that a script writer merits considerable importance during the making of any film project. In fact, they sign the writers before the actors. Now, in this kind of a situation they encourage new narratives to be conceived and executed and the sensibilities of their narrative cuts across geographies.


 


We, in Bollywood, have the exact opposite approach. Firstly, it is unfair to its writers and anyone who wants to become one has to stroll the producer’s dog before being heard once. Moreover, our narratives are rooted in local sensibilities, which become a stumbling factor for the audiences abroad.


 


Unless we recognise the importance of a writer in films, wooing international audiences is a distant dream. In the words of Steven Spielberg, “If our writers don’t do their job, no one in Hollywood will have a job.” That’s the importance of a writer. 


 


With increasing corporatisation of Bollywood, has filmmaking become a more organised affair?


Of course it has. But, it will take a while before the phenomenon grips the whole industry. The writer, who was sidelined post 1970s, is slowly creeping back to his deserved place. With corporatisation there has been increase in the accountability, the scripts are being evaluated before the start of a new project to minimise risk. The concern about good scripts is growing. Somehow, the producers are beginning to realise that no star cast or no foreign location can alone guarantee a hit.  


 


What films are you scripting at the moment? 


I have completed writing Dilli 6 for Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra. The film is set in old Delhi and I spent considerable time researching the subject. There is another untitled project that I’m doing with him at the moment. Apart from that I have penned down Mukta Arts produced Yuvraaj and have also signed a three film deal with BR productions.

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