A good film must tell a good story. So said the late Ismail Merchant, who along with director James Ivory and writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, had produced classic British period cinema. But it must be told with realistic conviction, and it is only a flawless script that can push a movie from one frame to another smoothly, even engagingly.
The master of the macabre, Alfred Hitchcock, emphasised this time and again. He spent 90 per cent of his life and time searching for and locating good scripts. Mind you, he worked with one genre, crime, and crime alone, and if a filmmaker were to be interested in many genres, as is the case now with most helmers, he needs to do much, much more work.
"The script is the blueprint or template of the movie. Like a blueprint for a physical construction, such as a house or multiple-level building, if it’s faulty the building will fail", wrote Raúl daSilva, director and author of several books on cinema.
But in India, the script is the least of concerns. Writers are ill-paid – if at all. What they invariably get are the leftovers after the stars (a huge chunk of a film budget goes to them), directors and production men are paid off. Writers are hired and fired even as a shoot is in progress, and they are told to pen scripts that please stars and producers (even directors are ignored here). Each of them has his own axe to grind, his own image to promote and own ego to pamper.
"Failure is seen where the script was either incompetently written to begin with or had been a good or superior work by a sage writer, but went into stew as directors, producers, and studio executives with little or no true comprehension of script, story or scenario structure began to dip in their ego-tainted pens" DaSilva opined.
Indian cinema, at least much of it, is a sham when it comes to script. Nobody cares how the story is narrated, how it travels from one situation to another. If authentic incidents cannot be figured out, coincidences are thrust into the script. Highly unbelievable acts are introduced, making a mockery out of the movie.
Take Bollywood’s Singham (Lion, remade from Tamil) where an honest cop, essayed by Ajay Devgn, is called upon by the script to do the most humanly impossible tasks. The man literally jumps in the air (much like a lion) to give a deathly blow with his palm (like the lion does with its paw) on the opponent’s head. If this is not enough, the policeman takes on an army of baddies with his bare fists! Evil is thus vanquished.
In other films, lovers are carted away with lightning speed from their humble rural homes to most exotic locations in Dubai, Switzerland, New York and Paris among others. A series of utterly stupid situations are infused, often coincidences, for the boy and the girl to meet and fall in love.
In Agneepath (Path of Fire), also from the Bollywood stable, the mortally wounded protagonist, played by Hrithik Roshan, drags and lifts the huge villain to the high branch of a tree to hang him! India cinema heroes seem to develop magical powers.
If all this was enough, a characters helps a woman deliver a child with the help of a vacuum cleaner (3 Idiots) or an attractive journalist perches herself atop the bonnet of her editor’s car to armtwist him into letting her do a challenging assignment. This was in No One Killed Jessica.
Surely, scripts have slayed stories.