The ‘character versus plot’ debate in scriptwriting




Originally published here at passion for

(Warning: spoilers for Dev.D, Race, Swades)

A lot has been said about this. But I thought I should add some points.

Basically the debate is whether development of a story starts from a set of interesting characters or an interesting plot thread. The question may sound absurd or irrelevent. As long as one develops a story, what does it matter whether you start from a character or a plot twist? But it does matter to the final product. And I think that remembering from where you started will help to improve the script.

For example consider Dev.D. From where did it start? Creative process most probably started on imagining Dev and Paro and Chandra as contemporary individuals with the newer sensibilities. Then comes this notion of Devdas as this irritating, self serving, defiant character (As I said earlier in my blog, the creative turning point of the script). Every thing picks up from there, from the characters. And where does that end? Changing the plot of the source material. Because when the characters change, what they bring about to happen also should make sense. Even Devdas drinking just only because of Paro doesn’t make sense any more. Because the new Dev is too self absorbed to do that. He has better reasons to drink. For this generation dying by drinking is not heroic. And wallowing in self pity is not heroic. And understandably the latter half of the story shifts away from paro. Here is an example of characters directly influencing the plot. But I personally feel that the end didn’t do justice to the consistency of his character. Continue reading


Hypomania and creativity


The link between creativity and mental illness has been well documented. It is said that Sylvia Plath, Earnest Hemingway, Vincent Vangogh and numerous others had suffered from Bipolar affective disorder (that is fluctuating episodes of (hypo)mania and depression).

Mania can be described as to be exactly opposite of what depression brings. Hypomania represents the lesser degree of mania. Hypomania is characterised by cheerfulness, increased confidence, increased goal directed activity, decreased need for sleep, overgrooming, disinhibition etc. Obviously with these features it is unlikely that a person’s family members would take him to a doctor. Because in their eyes, the person is more productive, happy and active than before.

With all the research relating mood disorders and creativity, the exact nature of the relation has remained speculative. One of these days we had a debate regarding this. The question was whether actually people with Bipolar affective disorder are (qualitatively) more creative or whether we get to see more of their works because they are (quantitatively) more productive? Continue reading



Post ‘Slumdog Millionaire,’ watching an earlier Danny Boyle movie is not going to be a neutral exercise. But let me tell you, this is a really original movie. Both in terms of screenplay and direction. I can imagine why despite being good, this movie failed to garner significant audience attention. The element of fantasy where Saints and other Godly people flit around the screen and hold man to man conversations with our protagonist may have put off some people. And Danny Boyle is sometimes more interested in story telling rather than the story itself.

Essentially the story is about what happens when a bag of money lands on the cardboard hideout of a 7 year old kid. He believes it is from God, to do good to the world.  This movie would have gone in an entirely different direction in typical Hollywood fanfare. Goons, cheap thrills, larger than life intelligent kids, too much sanity and uptightness…It would have ended up as a Home Alone sequel. The great thing about Frank Cottrell Boyce is that this story becomes much more than all this. It is about innocence, virtue and the love and longing of a boy for his dead mother. What makes this movie so endearing to me is that the 7 year old kid here has a real voice. And  the simplicity of his morality appears genuine. Its not easy to write stories with kids as central characters. In the hands of lesser writers, kids end up precocious.

Light: A short film review

This review of mine was originally published in Shortz.

The good thing about this short is the universality of the experience it is trying to talk about. The compart-‘mental’ising power of technology and its effect on human relations has been conveyed through a simple story albeit one that happens in every home. Its really a good concept which I could easily identify with. But it is undermined by the lack of effective techniques so as to provide the necessary impact.

 ‘Light’ does not take its lighting seriously. When there is supposedly only one light source in the whole house that is the candle, the shadows fall in all the wrong places. At times two shadows are visible, pointing towards two different light sources. When family members come into the room or when grandma lights the candle, the shadows betray the mistake. A simple thing that could have been done was to fix the camera position in an upper level in most of the shots so that the candle is not visible. Then one could have put the lighting source on the table itself. Continue reading