In Bollywood, stars have always taken centrestage, holding more importance than directors, producers, scriptwriters and sometimes, even the film. Many have slammed this ‘star system’, alleging that it relegates meaningful cinema to the background. However, things are slowly changing and today, each is slowly earning their place in the sun. This is especially true for writers. No longer just another name on the title card, they are being recognised as the backbone of new-generation films.
So much so, that many greenhouses have come up with the sole purpose of nurturing scripts and script writers. Utpal Acharya, former country head of a renowned production house, has now founded his own studio to give young writers a platform to sell and develop their scripts. Called Indian Film Studios, it aims not only at backing new writers, but also developing ideas into full-fledged scripts.
Says Acharya, “Several writers are not able to pitch their stories or scripts to the right production house. Many a time, they also find it difficult to sell their stories to a production house, which have a set formula to buy scripts. They do not know how to reach out to established producers. So, I came up with the idea of offering them a platform to help them develop their concepts into films.”
The studio started operations in November last year and receives four to five stories on a daily basis. “We will begin work on a film by the end of this year; two more will follow soon after. Our studio has tied up with a few investors who want to encourage content-driven cinema,” he adds.
Kunal Kapoor, who has been part of films like Rang De Basanti (2006), Don 2 (2011) and Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana (2012) to name a few, has now initiated a process to encourage and support new-age film writers. He had started his company, Ketto, to work on social causes, but now he has spread its reach to include “creative causes” as well. He believes there is a huge talent pool as far as film writing goes. “I see a lot of potential in today’s writers who hail from diverse backgrounds.
But, it becomes a challenge for them to find someone who will finance their project without laying down a clause. They still look for commercial viability. Ketto aims to discover good writers and help them get their films released,” says the lanky actor.
While it is still early days for a just-launched production house to back multiple projects, Kunal feels crowdfunding can become the key. “Today, a large section of moviegoers have easy access to social networking sites or digital platforms. We host our ideas online and those interested can provide funds,” he explains.
It seems established production houses are also realising the demand for original ideas. Zeishan Quadri, the writer of Gangs Of Wasseypur (2012), was lucky to have earned the support of Anurag Kashyap-led Phantom Films. After finding a toehold in tinseltown, Quadri tried his hand at direction. His debut directorial venture, Meeruthiya Gangsters released last month and garnered positive reviews. Says Quadri, “The industry is opening up for new writers. The industry is opening up to new writers.
Number of films, which have fetched a good response by critics as well as the audience in the past few years, are script-driven. A new writer should not only reach the right producer, but also find a director who will do justice to the script. A new writer should not only reach the right producer, but also find the director who will do justice to the script. If a writer finds a good director, it becomes easier to get producers .” Karan Anshuman, a film critic, who wrote and directed Bangistan for Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani’s production house. “Today, big production houses have understood that apart from star-driven films, those based on real concepts can also make an impact at the box office.”
Several big and small production houses are now scouting for new writers, says Utpal and adds: “Some of them are planning to create a separate division to promote new writers and ideas. Films sans stars also have a market now.”
Since there have been instances where writers were unhappy with their pay or denied due credit, what should budding writers watch out for while dealing with big-ticket studios?
Karan says, “They should be clear about the credit and money while pitching a script. A confident writer should not sell a script at a throwaway price. Also, in this industry, film studios never say no. One should not wait indefinitely for a studio to respond; they should approach other producers.”
Although, the industry seems to be opening up to new ideas and young talent, but it has a long way to go, feels renowned writer Anjum Rajabali. “Scripts have certainly become important. However, rarely have I seen a production house or studio being able to confirm a project merely on the merit of the script. They still look for commercial viability,” he rues.
The veteran writer mentions that a dialogue between producers and writers will take the industry to newer heights.
“Change will not take place by itself. It will happen when there is a dialogue between producers and writers, something that we are trying to encourage. We are trying to negotiate that writers get fair royalty and credit for their work. It will encourage good content and fair business,” Rajabali says.