If a newspaper report could turn into pathbreaking Hindi film Paan Singh Tomar, it is the effort of film's scriptwriter, Sanjay Chauhan, which goes beyond words.
The success of this Irrfan Khan-starrer biopic not only reaffirmed the importance of research in filmmaking but also revived the significance of strong script and the fact that a realistic approach can work well in commercially driven milieu of Hindi cinema.
"The success of Paan Singh Tomar will alter the viewpoint of those filmmakers who think that a film can work with item songs with no focus on script," says Chauhan in Chandigarh on Saturday for Adab Foundation's ongoing Chandigarh Literature Festival (CLF) being held at Law Bhawan, Sector 37.
He quips, "I am not saying that popular cinema will change. It cannot because, at the end of the day, it is commerce. However, the success of films like Kahaani is shifting focus on scripts, which were ignored in the last decade or two."
He says that Hindi cinema started off well with directors like Guru Dutt and Bimal Roy, who made classics, but eventually came a phase when there was hardly any focus on script, as writers were hired to write dialogues for films copied from Hollywood DVDs.
Is cinema also turning more realistic?
"Every film cannot be realistic. But today films are based on different stories, which are also creating sensible audience," says this Bhopal-born journalist-turned-scriptwriter who has to his credit films like Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster, I Am Kalam and Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Maara, and Dhoop.
Do we hope to see more biopics?
He says, "Writing Paan Singh Tomar was difficult since we just had a one-page newspaper article. It took us over two years to research the subject because, sadly, athlete-turned-rebel Paan Singh Tomar's record was available nowhere, neither with the sports authorities nor with the Army. We frequented his village, talked to people, including dacoits. Another year was spent in writing the story with director Tigmanshu Dhulia.
He wanted to start his career as a filmmaker with this story but things got delayed. We made this film because we were convinced about the character and its human essence. The credit of the film's success goes to the director and actor Irrfan who captured this very essence," he adds.
Was there any pressure on you as a writer?
"There was a pressure to replace Chambal's local dialect with Hindi, but I took a stand and it paid off. Indian cinema is at its best when it narrates stories of its land." Currently working on the script of a film titled Hari Bhai Oscarwale, he informs, "I am also doing research on a poet, a project I cannot divulge about much."
Day 2 at CLF
Morning session on Urdu writer Sadat Hasan Manto focused on his tragic characters such as Toba Tek Singh and Sugandhi. Punjabi writer Gulzar Singh Sandhu and Urdu litterateur Rubeena Shabnam discussed important events of Manto's life.
Afternoon session had TV host Ravish Kumar and Avinash Das of Mohalla Live discuss the trend of micro-fiction.
Another session saw writers such as Altaf Tyrewala and Aditya Sudarshan discuss the significance of local urban stories in literature.
Palash Mehrotra talks about his book The Butterfly Generation (11 am)
Teri-Meri Kahani - Pratyaksha Sinha, Madhav Kaushik and Geet Chaturvedi's discussion on their stories (12 pm)
Theatre and Music - Piyush Mishra in conversation with Neelam Mansingh (4 pm)