I don’t like playing to the gallery: Rajkumar Santoshi
Filmmaker Rajkumar Santoshi says writing comedy doesn’t mean you should be crass or resort to vulgarity.
"There are different kinds of comedy. Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro is quite different from Andaz Apna Apna, which in turn is quite different from Chupke Chupke. When writing any comedy script, the writer first needs to be honest to that particular genre and form.
However, whatever the form, it’s equally important to keep the writing simple. There shouldn’t be any complication in writing comedy. So, if it’s a romantic comedy, there should definitely be some naughtiness in the dialogues but it shouldn’t be vulgar.
It’s true that certain films do have humour that is rather crass but then, everyone has different tastes, and sometimes writers feel that a particular kind of comedy will work for the masses. They end up writing films that can make you cringe. What they don’t understand is that these kind of films may work in the short term, but in the long run people will forget about them.
Besides, it’s not always about ‘educating the masses,’ it’s more about being a responsible writer. If you have the talent to write funny lines, then there’s also some responsibility that comes with it. One shouldn’t look back and regret the kind of work one has done.
If you can’t watch a film with your family, then what’s the point? I understand that people do all kinds of things to earn their bread but still, some degree of responsibility should be there.
I also think that we can’t laugh at ourselves much as a nation. RK Laxman’s cartoons which took potshots at the government were an exception. Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron also made fun of the society of its time. But despite such precedents in cinema, I don’t think there are many people who can laugh at themselves, or at realistic situations.
Personally speaking, as far as comedies are concerned I like and appreciate Raju Hirani’s work. He doesn’t need to resort to needless vulgar content to make people laugh and that’s commendable. Of course, stalwarts like Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Gulzar and Basu Chatterjee have done amazing work when it comes to dialogue writing overall.
As far as I am concerned, whatever I am today as a filmmaker, it’s because of Govind Nihalani. I learnt the grammar and entire craft of filmmaking from him, but it’s like learning a language, say English. Once you’ve learnt it, what you do with it is entirely upto you. Nihalani never approached the comedy genre as such, but if he did, I’m sure he would’ve been amazing there too.
And yes, I’ve been asked about Andaz Apna Apna sequels a lot! But if I made films keeping just the audience in mind, then I would have made Ghayal 2, 3 and 4 followed by Damini 2, 3 and 4!!
When I make a film, I try to be sincere to the character and story. I believe that the audience should share the highs of the main characters. I don’t believe in writing dialogues just to get claps and seetis. Honesty to the script is of utmost importance.
When I wrote Damini I kept the characters and the genre in mind. The same logic applies to all my other films. I write as the character would think, not what Rajkumar Santoshi would think.
The kind of punchlines that writers come up with these days… sab bakwas hai! The character should come through from the writing. The script should not be about the writer’s efforts to just showcase writing skills. Bombastic dialogues are fine if the script demands it but I don’t like playing to the gallery.
There’s no scope for improvisational comedy in my films, it’s always prepared much in advance. I make sure that what I have written is rehearsed ahead of time.
And that was the case with Andaz Apna Apna. It might seem spontaneous but it was all there in the script. Take any popular line – Teja mein hoon, mark idhar hai – it was all in place in the script!
But a film’s success depends upon the market of the time, and when Andaz Apna Apna released, the marketing bit was done in a hurry. The distributors were new, the lead actors were not in town, and hardly anyone knew what the film was about. Which is why it didn’t do as well immediately after release.
The writers in the past had some solid grounding in the arts, be it literature or something else. That reflected in their work. But these days that class is missing from the writing. It’s because people are more interested in copying.
They will pick up some Korean film and simply copy the concept. The rights are acquired easily and it requires much less imagination on their part! Some say that writers don’t have enough incentive to write because the stars walk away with all the attention… Woh sab bas bahaana hai!
If your writing is appreciated by people, then as a writer it will obviously make you feel good. Besides, these days the audiences are smarter, so they are well aware of who writes the dialogues, the script etc. Lack of incentive is just an excuse.
So my advice to aspiring writers would be that before beginning to write, inculcate a habit of watching good films to absorb the art of writing from there, or even from books. Only when you have a strong base can you expect to produce good writing. "
–As told to Asad Ali
From HT Brunch, December 14
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