Sunday, March 21, 2010

The plot thickens

Scriptwriters are a beleaguered lot in the Hindi film industry. They’re underpaid, often denied credit and rarely allowed to own copyright to their work. Film-maker Sriram Raghavan quotes his brother and fellow writer Sridhar to describe the writer’s position in the pecking order: ‘They say the script is the backbone of the film but the writer is mostly treated like a toenail.’

As the recent controversy surrounding the amendment to the Copyright Act has shown, it’s going to take a while before writers are elevated from toenail to tailbone. In the meantime, young writers have a leg up to look forward to. Over the past three years, there have been a few script labs in which writers are mentored by experienced hands. These are fairly common abroad, especially during film festivals. The Sundance Film Festival has a prestigious Screenwriters Lab; in 2005, Meera Nair started Maisha, a lab in Kampala for writers from a few African countries and the Indian subcontinent.

According to scriptwriter Anjum Rajabali (Ghulam, The Legend Of Bhagat Singh) mentoring writers is important, as the practice of screenplay writing in India is not as rigorous as it should be. Rajabali, who heads the scriptwriting department at Whistling Woods, has been a mentor at several labs—he participated in Maisha, at the NFDC Script Development Workshop in Goa in 2007 and Sankalan, a lab organised by NGO Baiscope and Mahindra Media and Entertainment Business in 2008 in Mumbai. A lot of his advice, he says, involves the basics of scriptwriting and “honing one’s intuition’’. Sriram Raghavan (Ek Hasina Thi, Johnny Gaddar), who was a fellow mentor at Sankalan, insists that writers must choose the right subject. “Does your story have the potential to be an interesting and unique film?’’ he says. “Writing is fun but it’s also tough and lonely. So the writer must have the patience and enthusiasm to live with the subject for months, sometimes years before it’s actually made into a film."

Full report here Times of India

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