War has become an indivisible part of Israeli screenwriter Motti Lerner’s life. Besides being witness to one, all of his work – plays, scripts and films – are political dramas that depict the state of his conflict-ridden nation. “I hold myself responsible for everything that’s going on,” he says. “It was my obligation to create a discourse that would bring change. However, only the opposite happened.”
Having lived in Delhi for three months, Lerner conducted screenings of his film, Spring 1941, at various locations in the city from Tuesday till Thursday. The screenings he followed up with a workshop on screenwriting. “I want to learn about Indian culture, meet filmmakers and see movies. I want to use what I learnt in India to write better political dramas,” he said.
Spring 1941 is about three people in Nazi-occupied Poland, whose lives change due to living under the constant fear of being killed. “It’s disconcerting that people speak about war so openly, but the truth is, Israel has paid a high price to survive. I’m trying to bring that out through my experience of the struggle,” he says.
His workshop on political playwriting, Lerner reckons, will highlight the personal nature of his kind of social reflection. He says that writers today can experiment with a more direct approach to their story and don’t have to employ literary devices to allude to a bigger picture. “You have to find a personal angle to whatever you’re writing. Earlier, you had to make do with metaphors and allegories, but today, you don’t want to be abstract,” he says.
During his stay here, Lerner met director and playwright Mahesh Dattani. The duo went over his play Final Solution, which is about two Muslim boys finding refuge in a Hindu household during the 1992 Ayodhya riots. He says, “We later saw that there were subtle differences between the play and the movie. But I have to admit that when I first read it I was astounded by its similarity to Spring 1941!”