Amberdeep Singh 33, Abohar
“Surviving and proving your worth in Mumbai is not easy”
Background: After studying at Government Senior Secondary School in Abohar, Amberdeep studied BCom at DAV College. Being disposed towards theatre, he decided to join a theatre group called Aks Abohar, after which he pursued master’s in theatre and television from Punjabi University, Patiala.
Abohar to Mumbai: As soon as he was a postgraduate, Amberdeep moved to Mumbai and started assisting directors such as Lekh Tandon, Raj Kanwar and Guddu Dhanoa. “While assisting them, I was also involved in writing scripts and dialogues for some projects. That’s when I realised where my heart lay,” says Amberdeep. “My father was a journalist, so I guess writing is in my blood! The writer within me emerges as soon as I open my laptop,” he smiles.
Claim to fame: Amberdeep debuted in the Punjabi film industry as the scriptwriter of the 2008 Punjabi movie Chak De Phatte, for which he also co-wrote the dialogues. Next, he co-wrote the story of Chal Di Da Naam Gaddi, a serial aired on Zee TV in 2008. For the popular TV soap Baa, Bahoo Aur Baby that aired on Star Plus, he wrote the dialogues, while for SAB TV’s serial Gunwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Ambderdeep co-wrote the screenplay and dialogues. The script for Gurpreet Ghuggi, one of the contestants in comedy reality show Hans Baliye was also co-written by him. Since 2010, he has been penning the script of TV show Comedy Circus. In Pollywood, he wrote the dialogues of Singh Vs Kaur, and penned the screenplay and dialogues of Daddy Cool Munde Fool.
Hurdles faced: “All those who come to Mumbai are talented, hence the surge in competition here. But, surviving and proving your worth amidst them is not easy,” observes Amberdeep.
Money matters: From R25,000, which he earned for his debut project, Amberdeep now earns R2.5 lakh per month for Comedy Circus. Presently, he charges R21 lakh to write the story, screenplay and dialogues of a film, and R15 lakh for writing only the screenplay and dialogues. “Comedy Circus pays its writers well, but not every production does. While content is paramount in determining a project’s success, scriptwriters are not given their due. In the Punjabi film industry, the scenario is now changing,” he says.
Upcoming projects: He has written the dialogues of Jatt & Juliet 2, and the story, screenplay and dialogues of upcoming Punjabi films Viyah 70 km and Bathinda Bancouver Bathinda. He has also written the screenplay and dialogues of Punjabi No 1 and Jalandhar Bypass.
Rajesh Beri 49, Chandigarh
“I travel a lot, because of which I come across different people who inspire me to write”
Background: An engineer from PUSA Polytechnic, New Delhi, Rajesh stumbled upon scriptwriting despite having his way with words since he was in college. “I wrote poetry in college, so most of my friends used to ask me to write poems for their girlfriends,” he laughs.
Chandigarh to Mumbai: Rajesh’s move to Mumbai in 1986 was not motivated by his Bollywood dreams but was aimed at securing a job as an engineer in the Indian Railways. However, in the railways, he participated actively in cultural events. “Once, I organised a ‘kavi sammelan’, where famous poet and satirist Shail Chaturvedi heard me and encouraged me to write more,” recalls Rajesh. The self-proclaimed daydreamer says he is like a child who wants to be set free. “I also travel a lot, because of which I come across different people who inspire me to write.”
Claim to fame: Rajesh began his career in the entertainment industry with the game show Saajan Sajani, aired on Zee TV in 1999. Since then, he has written 32 serials in Punjabi and Hindi. Some of his popular shows include Ranbir Rano (Zee TV), Bhabhi (Star Plus), Shanno Ki Shaadi (Star Plus), Kehta Hai Dil (Star Plus), India Calling (Star One), Sangam (Star Plus), Shubh Vivah (Sony TV), Sohni Mahiwal (DD National) and Kabhi Toh Nazar Milao (Sony TV). However, Rajesh’s career high came when his name was included in the Limca Book of Records in 2009 for writing the screenplay, dialogues and lyrics for 1,328 episodes of TV serial Bhabhi, aired on Star Plus.
Hurdles faced: “Since I had a secure job, people took my work seriously. Hence, my period of struggle wasn’t too pronounced. Undoubtedly, one comes across all sorts of people, but if you are talented, no one can stop you,” proclaims the writer.
Money matters: “Only when one gets recognised does money start flowing in. Once your name is made, things are easier,” states Rajesh, though he refuses to divulge the amount he quotes for his pieces.
Upcoming projects: Rajesh has written two upcoming Hindi movies for the film production company Mukta Arts.
Barry Dhillon 43, Patiala
“Not many realise that TV is a writer’s medium and only those who are truly creative survive”
Background: A graduate from Mohindra College, Patiala, Barry’s creative side surfaced during youth festivals, where he took part in poetry competitions and plays. In 1995, while doing master’s in theatre and television from Punjabi University, Patiala, Barry got the chance to portray the lead in a soap called Rinn Pitran De, aired on Doordarshan.
Patiala to Mumbai: With dreams of becoming an actor, Barry shifted base to Mumbai in 1996. “But, acting required pleading with the top honchos of various production houses, which I couldn’t do. So, my dream of becoming an actor didn’t see the light of day,” he says matter-of-factly. Barry landed the job of an anchor for a news programme called Hamari Mumbai aired on Mumbai Doordarshan. “I also had to write the script of the show and realised I had an inclination towards writing,” says he, and adds, “I am a hardcore romantic who laughs even while facing problems in life.”
Claim to fame: Initially, Barry wrote scripts for TV serials Tune Da Tuna, Rangla Punjab, Partapi and Vichora, aired on Alpha Punjabi. He stepped into the Hindi TV industry as the writer of popular shows such as Kahiin Toh Hoga, Kumkum and Jeet for Star Plus, Dill Mill Gayye and Geet — Hui Sabse Parayi for Star One, Twinkle Beauty Parlour for SAB TV, Reth and Banoo Main Teri Dulhan for Zee TV and Savdhaan India – India Fights Back for Life OK. Barry claims he is one of the few scriptwriters who receive fan mail.
Hurdles faced: “It’s very difficult to survive in Mumbai without any support. Also, excessive work makes a soap writer’s life lonely since there is no time for socialising. It’s when I fell severely ill that my friends suggested I take time out to meet people,” he recalls.
Money matters: From making R500 per episode when he started out, Barry now charges R75,000 for writing the story, screenplay and dialogues of daily soaps and R15-20 lakh for a film.
“Scriptwriting is a lucrative medium. But, very few people realise that television is a writer’s medium and only those who are truly creative can survive there,” says he.
Upcoming projects: Barry has written a show for Star Plus, Is Dil Ka Kya Karoon, that goes on air next month. He is also ready with the script of a Punjabi movie for which he will soon wear the director’s hat as well.
Surmeet Maavi 39, Ropar
“From starving to living in slums, I faced it all in Mumbai”
Background: Surmeet’s fascination for advertising prompted him to do master’s in mass communication from Punjabi University, Patiala. He followed it up with a two-year stint in journalism while simultaneously joining a theatre group called Chetna Kala Manch in Chamkaur Sahib.
Ropar to Mumbai: “When I moved to Mumbai in 1999, there wasn’t much being done in Punjabi films and TV. In Mumbai, I worked as an assistant director for TV serials Partapi and Kaun Dilan Diyan Jane, both aired on Alpha Punjabi.
I was also the chief assistant director for Kamyabi Zindagi Ki, aired on Doordarshan, and an associate director for Daane Anaar De, aired on Zee Punjabi,” says Surmeet. “I am happy to earn by doing what I love the most. I also keep travelling and meeting people, which helps me discover new characters,” he adds.
Claim to fame: Surmeet’s first project was TV show Lakeeran for Alpha Punjabi, for which he wrote the story, screenplay and dialogues. “My poetic skills come in handy when I write,” he says. For Kahin Toh Milenge, which aired on Sahara One, he wrote the dialogues. “I also wrote some episodes of reality TV shows Awaaz Punjab Di, The Great Punjabi Comedy Show and Comedy Ka Maha Muqabla and even translated scripts to Punjabi for Big CBS Spark, History TV18 and Discovery Science,” he adds.
Hurdles faced: “From starving to living in slums — I have faced it all in Mumbai. But, when things improve one faces the risk of leading a monotonous life. Neck pain is a common occupational hazard for TV serial writers.”
Money matters: For Lakeeran, Surmeet earned R4,000 per episode. He now charges R7 lakh for penning the story, screenplay and dialogues of a film. “Money comes with success; it is creative satisfaction that might be evasive for a writer.”
Upcoming projects: Surmeet has written the story of upcoming Punjabi film Ishq Mohabbat Balle Balle and co-written the screenplay and dialogues of another Punjabi film, Chak De Phatte Chalo Lahore. He would be writing three Hindi films this year and even appear in a cameo in Punjabi film Heer & Hero.
Naresh Kathooria 35, Gidderbaha
“Once your name is made, you don’t worry so much about finances”
Background: After graduating from DAV College, Bathinda, Naresh moved to Patiala to pursue master’s in theatre and television from Punjabi University and later conducted theatre workshops for children.
Gidderbaha to Mumbai: From 2002 till 2006, Naresh visited the offices of renowned directors in Mumbai in the hope of getting a chance to assist them. His big break came in 2006, when he wrote Bingo, a TV show for Doordarshan. “Unlike other writers, my work doesn’t finish after I’ve written the script. I keep myself involved in the project till it gets released. Making people laugh satisfies me,” he says.
Claim to fame: TV show Bingo’s TRPs went from 0.5 to 3.5 in two months, claims Naresh. He later co-wrote the scripts of TV serials Chaldi Da Naam Gaddi and Hans Baliye and Punjabi film Chak De Phatte. From 2009 till 2011, Naresh wrote the script for comedy reality show Comedy Circus.
In 2012, he co-wrote the screenplay and dialogues of Punjabi film Carry On Jatta, which turned out to be a laugh riot. More recently, he has co-written the screenplay and dialogues of Punjabi film Lucky Di Unlucky Story and the story, screenplay and dialogues of the film Jatts in Golmaal.
Hurdles faced: “If you’re inexperienced, people don’t trust you enough to invest in
your story. Work gets easier after results are delivered,” he says.
Money matters: From getting R2,000 per episode for Bingo, Naresh earned R2 lakh per month for Comedy Circus. He claims to have recently asked for R1 crore for a film project. “Once you have made a name for yourself, you don’t worry so much about finances,” he says.
Upcoming projects: Naresh has written the dialogues and co-written the screenplay of upcoming Punjabi film Bhaji In Problem and written the story, screenplay and dialogues of Naughty Jatts. He also has an untitled Punjabi film in his kitty.