More than 20 years ago, the general lament among movie and theatre producers and directors was the woeful lack of good scripts. Mahesh Dattani, the Bengaluru-based playwright, once told me that if the English theatre scene in India were to improve and reach a decent standard, there have to be good writers.
The picture was not different in cinema, and while Hollywood and Europe spent huge money to hire talented scriptwriters, Bollywood and the other ‘Woods’ in India paid scant regard to this vital segment of filmmaking. Writers got shameful fees, and were treated no better than ‘extras’ (now renamed junior artists). Sometimes, their scripts were stolen by producers or directors and passed off as their own.
In these two decades, there has been no change, or just about.
The recent Chetan Bhagat drama, in which he accused the makers of 3 Idiots of not giving him and his book the credit they deserved, has helped highlight the importance of story and script. His story, Five Point Someone was scripted into 3 Idiots by Abhijat Joshi and Rajkumar Hirani. And the script has not holes but craters.
Here are the examples: A paralytic man gasping for breath is taken to hospital on a two-wheeler that stops just inside the intensive care unit. The doctor says well done. A vacuum cleaner’s pump is used to suck a baby out of its mother’s womb. Medicine is made into a mockery! To boot, the movie is peppered and spiced with a string of coincidences.
Let us take the recently released Pyaar Impossible. Writer Uday Chopra (who also plays the male lead) makes a desperate attempt to try and seduce viewers by dressing up Priyanka Chopra in her skimpiest best. Fine, I have no problem with this, but what about her boss? Does he not think that it is improper to dress like that for work? There are any number of other flaws in the film that makes it less believable, less authentic.
Again, the official website of Chance pe Dance, by Ken Ghosh does not even list the name of the scriptwriter. So Mr or Ms Anonymous wrote it minus a thinking cap. Here is the Shahid Kapoor character, who has no money to buy food, but drives a car. Obviously, the car plays a major part: it turns into his little caravan when he is thrown out of his flat, because he cannot pay the rent. So the car is a must for the plot however implausible the contraption may appear in the given situation.
These scripts have been so written merely to push the story or to bring it to a certain point in the movie or to seduce frontbenchers. It does not matter if Ms Chopra looks silly in those skimpies and out of place in office as long as she attracts catcalls and gets audiences into theatres. Mr Kapoor had to have a car to sleep, for he could not possibly camp on the sidewalk. That would be too demeaning for a Bollywood hero. Yes, we have to have to heroes like the character essayed by Aamir Khan in “3 Idiots”, who had to perform magic to impress fans. Who cares if these feats are far removed from reality and could even contradict proven facts.
Unlike in the West, where writers have enough clout to strike work and cripple the entire industry, India is a different ballgame. Scriptwriters are dime a dozen here, each undercutting his fee to keep his head above water and his body in some shape. It does not matter if he has to sell his soul for that.
- Gautaman Bhaskaran has been writing on Indian and international cinema for over two decades.