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Pink ‘air-lifted’ this Kahaani writer’s career

Meet Ritesh Shah, who is credited with many critically acclaimed films.

lucknow Updated: Oct 03, 2017 17:23 IST
Deep Saxena
“Pink got me recognition and I started getting direct feedback from the audience.”
“Pink got me recognition and I started getting direct feedback from the audience.”(Deep Saxena/HT Photo)

Besides being commercially successful and critically acclaimed what’s common between Pink, Airlift, Kahaani, D-Day, Madaari, Commando and BA Pass?

Well, all of them have been penned by the same person — Ritesh Shah.

“Yes, I wrote them all (some co-written) but the real recognition came with Pink,” says super talented writer who is in Lucknow these days for Kumar Mangat’s production Raid, starring Ajay Devgn and Ileana D’Cruz.

“In the industry people knew me for translating stuff but Pink changed everything for me. It was like a lottery after 11 years of hard work,” says the ace writer who began with writing fiction in school days.

“Delhi has a culture of theatre and I joined Act One Art Group on backstage. And soon the amateur actor turned into an accidental playwright,” says Ritesh whose one of the plays prompted him to move to Mumbai.

“It was suggested by a friend who believed one of my plays should have been made into a film. I landed in Mumbai but we failed to connect with it and I shifted my focus towards television,” he says.

“One day, I accompanied my friend for a story session. We had some chit chat over tea and as luck would have in store they offered me to write the film, instead of him. My friend sportingly suggested me to take it up and we are still very good friends. That’s how I got my first TV series Kagaar,” reminisces Ritesh.

It took him around 6 years to get his first film Sujoy Ghosh’s Home Delivery.

Pink turned the tide!

“Pink got me recognition and I started getting direct feedback from the audience. I feel blessed person that it came from my pen and I was chosen to do that,” says the writer who also scripted another blockbuster Airlift the same year.

“Pink brought more focus on me as its makers — Shoojit Sarkar and Ronnie Lehri — believe writers are the real hero. And with Amitabh Bachchan rendering those dialogues, it made all the difference,” he says.

Ritesh feels after Queen the focus has been more towards content in the industry and filmmakers’ belief in him has cemented a lot after releases of his successful films.

“After a hit there is more pressure on you to deliver another hit. I used to work hard earlier too but now I try to work even harder,” he says.

Lucknow connection

He first came to the state capital to shoot a photo feature in 1997. “So, my introduction with Lucknow happened with monuments, delicious food and observance of pace of life. Otherwise, my exposure to the city is through Vinod Mehta’s books and writings,” he says.

Talking about Raid and its city connect he says, “This is a combination of certain incidents back in 1980s and probably the best place to tell this story was in Lucknow. The texture of the film matched with the city.”

“After living in Mumbai when you stay here for long you understand that it’s more human here. People here interact more. They are interested in what you are doing or will tell what they are doing. For people like us it’s a blessing as people here talk willingly,” he says while revealing a trade secret: “Writers basically lifts plots of real life characters they meet and interact.

In that sense, culturally rich cities such as Lucknow, Bhopal or Pune offer a lot more options for people like us to extract from here in terms of content.

Happy phase for writers

Ritesh says in the last 10 years position of writers has improved in terms of recognition and remuneration. “I dread that new one must still be struggling as I too have gone through that phase but things have drastically improved.

“There is always a fight for credit and fee but it’s much better for established writers,” he says.

“There is lot of focus on content. People too have started taking interest in us as they search us on internet and give feedbacks. So, there is nothing to complain,” he says.

Chef is next!

The team from Airlift is doing it with Saif Ali Khan in lead. “I was reluctant initially but the director was very upbeat about it. It’s an adaption of Hollywood film Chef but I eventually did it as I thought that I have a story to tell in that plot. Though adaptations are a thankless job but I would say it’s a good Indian adaptation. I hope it work well for all of us and Saif as he is a wonderful actor.”

He is content writing and is in no hurry to go towards direction. “I am happy writing 2-3 films a year. To direct a film I need at least 2 years. I will better write and have good director friends to do that job better than me. I will ideally like to write and produce than directing. And, when I want to then I will probably direct someone’s good script that writing myself and directing it,” says Ritesh who will soon be teaming up again with Shoojit.

“Currently the team is making October which is a Juhi Chaturvedi (Piku-fame) script. I may come together as co-writer for their next Uddham (on freedom fighter Udham Singh). For a team like that of Shoojit, who are great creators, I am always ready even it’s for a petty job,” he says.