Script writing: my goals for 2009

                      2008 has been the most productive year for me until now as far as script writing is concerned. Though on paper I have only around 140 pages of a 1st draft, I have done regular systematic work last year.

When I plan for next year I have to take into account that I will be very busy in the second half of next year with my exams coming up. Currently I am putting average one to two hrs per day in scriptwriting.

 On most of the holidays I go into some coffee shop and punch the keys for around 3-4 hrs.
That kind of thing is not going to happen after next July until December. Whatever writing I am going to do I will have to fit in inside the study schedule. Long continuous sessions of writing will be injurious to my performance in exams. I will have to break it into 30-40 minute bits squeezed into intervals between sessions of reading. Outlining I can do during boring lectures and while travelling.
So the current average 2 hrs writing/day will come down to 1 hr/day in the last 6 months of 2009. I will have to take that into account while setting goals.
My goals are
1) Complete 1st draft of ‘the three’ by mid february. Throw in a quick rewrite by march end. Not sure whether I will be able to squeeze in a second rewrite before July considering my thesis submission deadline in June. If not, one rewrite will do.
2) Show it to my friends while on vacation in July. Get the feedback. Then put in the 2nd/3rd rewrite by end of August.
3) Restart outlining ‘River bends’ after finishing the first draft of ‘the three’ in February. Write the full treatment by April end. The confusion is whether I should start writing a first draft of River bends after that or should move on to outlining other concepts that I have. The game plan is to start meeting contacts in the film industry in 2010. Should I have a completed draft and 10 treatments by then or 2 full scripts and 5 treatments? I am thinking about the first option more because there is more chance that one will read a treatment rather than a full script. You need one script to show your writing skills. If you have more number of well etched out concepts from different genres there is more chance that some one will find one of the them interesting. A draft takes lot of your time.
4) Increase the number of my contacts with people with similar interests. However good one’s scripts are, one cannot be a successful movie writer without good social skills. More than 80% of writers in film industry get their 1st work through contacts rather than the quality of their work. So the process of reaching out should continue.
5) Continue this blog. It is also a part of socialising. When I put my goals here I hope I am under more pressure to fulfill them. but one thing I have realised after starting this blog is that blogging can be a deterrent to actual script writing. There should be no confusion regarding priorities. A very popular blog with thousands of followers is not my dream. I would rather become a scriptwriter. Daily posting is an unrealistic and unsustainable goal. Once in two three days will do. Even once in a week is OK for me. I have decided that if this blog proves to be too much of a distraction for my writing there should be no mercy in killing it. Any way right now I think I can handle this.

Photo by ToniVC


Rab ne bana di jodi- 9 scriptwriting flaws



 Yeah what you guess is right. I had written down 10. One of it was too harsh. Considering the fact that this is a better movie from the Yash raj stables  I didn’t want to sound harsh.

Here is my take on the script flaws.

1.    Mixing of different tones. As you would have noticed it’s a different kind of movie until Raj makes his entry. Raj is not only a different  kind of character but a different  world of cinema altogether. Raj  appears  unreal because every thing around him is too real in the movie.(except may be the dance competition). You build up a subtle true to life kind of thing and suddenly some thing jumps into the frame and screams in your face. And again in the final 30 minutes or so movie tries to jump back into the initial tone.

2.    The story really failed because it couldn’t become a satisfying love story. Is it Raj’s love story or Suri’s love story? Naturally it should be Suri’s. Most of the screen time is occupied by Taani’s budding love for raj. The  shift towards Suri comes like a sudden sharp turn on the road. And its over by the time we see it. Love stories connect in the subtlety in the initial part of the lovers’ love. Look at DDLJ. Or Kuch kuch hota hai. Or Hum dil de chuke sanam. The tricky part in writing is where  audience know they love each other but the couple doesn’t acknowledge the truth. Love grabs the audience  when it goes on with pauses and subtlety. But here writer rushes it when he finally gets into the good part. May be he was scared of steering it close to Hum dil de chuke sanam. 

3.    One’s supporting characters need to be three dimensional. Look at Suri’s friend. He is like a genie who materialises when Suri needs some help or a shoulder to cry on . He doesn’t appear to be having a life of his own. Ok  its not possible to go into side stories just for character exposition. Real challenge for the writer is to introduce small small character tidbits in the main scenes itself  without causing it to appear forced.

4.    The too convenient a plot problem solver called ‘Rab.’ Taani has proclaimed her love for Raj. She has agreed to run away  also. Now script writer faces a problem. He wants her to stay back out of love for Suri. But how can she shift gears suddenly when she is already all set to follow ‘supposedly’ another person? Not enough time for spontaneous love. So suddenly she starts to see Rab. Problem is not only of implausibility. Real problem is that audience feel cheated. They are waiting all the time to see the love blossoming between Taani and Suri. Now that love appears  like an implant on her mind. 

5.    Taani not being able to recognise her moustache-less husband has already being talked about a lot. But it would have been forgotten if it was the only liberty taken. Scriptwriter couldn’t make it count.

6.    More unbelievable is the sudden effortless transition of Suri into the persona of Raj. For the story it is required. But writer here haven’t attempted to make it believable. He could have delved on the initial struggles and clumsiness while Suri tries to be raj. Seeing his ease in switching on and off one couldn’t help wondering- why Suri really want to behave like Suri when he has a choice not to?

7.    The coincidence of Raj and Taani becoming dance partners. We are ready to suspend disbelief if it is necessary. But it was such a rough twist of a coincidence (or help of Rab)  to bring them together. A simple solution  could have been Raj scheming and bribing  to be her partner.

8.    The fight between Suri and the sumo wrestler. Script writer suddenly losing the restraint  is not the only problem. If Suri can fight with a sumo wrestler to make Taani laugh what was the need of creating  raj? Why cant Suri himself shake a leg? Crack some jokes? Talk more? That act of Suri makes him loose consistency regarding his behaviour.

9.    The drizzle that makes your wish come true. Come on man when we thought we had seen enough of shooting stars…. Its ok if rain is something that reminds Taani of Raj. But this wish coming true in rain- the dejavu is too much to bear. 

I think it would have been better to fully establish the Raaj- Taani love angle in the first half itself and devote more time for Suri in the second half (to avoid the antics of Rab). But  its easier to point out problems in a finished work. The real hell is facing those blank pages/screen. To spin something out of nothing. The rest of it, the whole world can do.


Script progress

Its said that writing is rewriting. In that case I havent even started writing. I am working at an average of 45- 60 minutes per day on this script tentatively titled ‘three’ for the last 1 year. I did outlining for about 4 months. When I had an rough order of events from beginning to end I started writing the scenes. I would rough write (in my dictionary, a more thorough kind of outlining of scenes including dialogue) on some days and write the scenes on some other days. Now 60% of scenes are also over. I am not having much of the dreaded ‘2nd act jitteriness’ may be because I have outlined well.
Hoping to finish the first draft by end of january 2009. I am not comfortable with brainstorming a first draft and then doing 10 rewrites. I plan a lot before putting anything on paper and consolidate as I move on. So I don’t think I will have to sweat much in terms of rewrites. May be one or two drafts that’s all. That too the main objective will be to cut down the length and compress it.

Is terrorism reversible?

Salman Rushdie responded to the article by Arundhathi Roy here .

His argument regarding the issues paraded by terrorists is this:
”Ask yourself the question that if the Kashmir problem were resolve tomorrow, if Israel-Palestine reached a lasting peace, do we believe that al-Qaeda would disband? Do we believe that Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad would put their guns down and beat them into plough-shears and say we would now be farmers because our job is done.
I mean the point about is that is laughable, right? And the point about that is that that is not their project. Their project is power. This is a power grab by the most obscurantist, revanchist, old-fashioned, medievalist idea of modern culture that attempts to drag the world back into the middle ages at the point of modern weaponry …”

There is a problem here. Of course the terrorist outfits will not disband because these are solved. But the terrorism will lose its impetus once the Palestine- Kashmir- Iraq- Iran issues are solved. These outfits are headed by madmen who dream about ruling the world. But they are successful in convincing people. As long as these issues are bleeding actively, there will be people ready to be convinced to become suicide bombers. Because its not very difficult to show that some unfair things are happening in these places.
There are hundreds of cults in the world. Many of them advocate mass murder or ethnic cleansing.(Remember the infamous cult in Japan which released poisonous gas in a subway?)
Why suddenly the current terror outfits enjoy a popularity and power that none of these are able to procure? Its because terrorists are able to capitalise on some genuine suffering that has been going on. Even If you are able to remove that, the leaders will go on preaching. But they wont be enjoying the same following any more.

My writing routine

If you really want to have a body of work to show, you need to really write. Its obvious. Every one likes to talk. Browse. Take part in discussions. Comment. Get worked about the lack of quality in our scripts. The real tough thing is to sit and write. There will be lot of ideas. The tricky part is not to lose faith in them while trying to write them. The real problem is our own insecurity whether we can write. I guess we don’t want to face that insecurity. At any cost.
Expert advise for writers is ‘write everyday.’ regardless of inspiration. But how do you do that? The day job. Friends. Family. Other hobbies. Going out. Late nights. How do one do it?
My answer is ‘wake up early.’ Early morning you cant bring yourself to waste your time browsing or watching movies. Put an hour to write in the morning. Gradually the habit will be ingrained. And slowly but steadily you will have some work to show the world.

Quality difference in film scripts in different languages

Originally published
here on

I have heard repeated comparison in Kerala that tamil movies are much ahead of malayalam in terms of script quality. What is the real difference between those two? And how do they compare with current Hindi and Indian english movies?

I think the strength of tamil movies is in their treatment. When you examine theme wise there is not much variation. Most of them (we are talking about main stream movies) deal with criminal heros or a love story told in an unique way. Even if you take a movie like ‘Subramanyapuram’ which was recently acclaimed for its realistic portrayal of 80s you see ‘gone wrong’ criminal heros and a love story. Same with Selvaraghavan- one of my favourite directors. What makes them different is the courage for unconventional endings and unsuspected twists. The protagonists of these movies does not represent the life and concerns of majority of middle class Tamil population. Setting may be close to life but story is not.

When you come to Malayalam first thing you notice is the dearth of classy directors. There is no one now who has a signature in their visual style. As once John Abraham said every director is doing the ’supervising job’ for the script writer. Malayalam has its share of ‘commercial exercises’ like the recent Twenty 20. But in the last month there was another hit movie in Kerala called ‘veruthe oru bhaarya.’ (Roughly translates as ‘a wife of no utility’). Its about a wife who is stuck in menial jobs with no time for herself. So she informs her inconsiderate husband that she is resigning from the ‘house wife’ job (not a divorce – mind you). Movie is about her husband trying to prove that doing house hold jobs is not such a big deal. Needless to say he fails miserably. Such a movie cannot be generalized for presenting the status of scripts in Malayalam. But still theme wise Malayalam movies remain closer to life though in patches and stripes. They fail when they get into desperate comic situations. Of course tailor made stories for the mega stars doesn’t help either.

But I think currently the best scripts are coming out in Hindi. I am not talking about the movies in which you throw in a star and starlet with beautiful locations and 50 crores and you hope to get a blockbuster. I am talking about the so called ‘multiplex’ movies. Movies like Bheja fry, A wednesday, Amir etc has carved out a niche for themselves. They rely on a smarter script rather than star faces. Some times story situations go over the top but usually they get away with taut treatment. The reason these movies are good is that they understand the importance of a good script. You don’t have to cut your story to size to incorporate the image of the star.

I think that’s the message for the regional movies also- especially malayalam. Avoid stars and your writer is free to write a better story.

Is Mumbai attack India’s Sept.11?

Following the Mumbai attack I am seeing a blind fury against politicians in blogs. If any reaction is too extreme I am skeptical about the utility of the response. Because its going to be short lasting. Before Mumbai attack was everything going fine in India? Terrorist attacks occurred before also. So why we were not in a blogging frenzy in the intervening period?

Blasts in Assam were around 1 month back. Death toll of 66 or more. Why it didn’t evoke such a reaction as now? Because it was local factions so that it doesn’t threaten us? Or because north east has been always a far off frontier for us? May be we are not sure such a place even exists in India.

What all makes Mumbai attack different from previous terrorist attacks? Definitely the scope and organisation. But do we need it to realise that we are not safe ? We know it for decades! Does this ear mark a new era of our intelligence agency like it did for US? I don’t think so. It cant happen just overnight because politicians are very worked up today. Because good intelligence requires painstaking patience and time. It would take years to infiltrate an organisation. In the scenario of hundreds of parallel cells for every 100 attempts you deflect there will be one successful attempt.
Then why doesn’t it happen in US? Definitely at the cost of privacy and human rights. And fat money also. I know I know you are ready to give all that up. But thank god its not going to happen in India just because you are all worked up. Because its going to be a Faustian bargain.
So what can we really do at this juncture? The greatest thing will be not to have knee jerk reactions. Think about it. Did the terrorists really think that after this attack India will abdicate Kashmir? They need to make the moderate muslim population in India feel vulnerable.What they need is some sharp reactions from the right wing so that the recruitment queues to their cells will fatten. So that they don’t have to come in boats from Pakistan to do what they need to do.