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Film writer Shagufta Rafique says men still get the best lines

The hero always walks away with the last line, or the villain, or the father. The daughter, the wife are without a voice, writes film writer Shagufta Rafique.

brunch Updated: Dec 12, 2014 19:41 IST
Shagufta Rafique
Shagufta Rafique
Hindustan Times

“Things will improve only when female writers come up with dialogues for women”
Film writer Shagufta Rafique says men still get the best lines

"Because most writers have been men, the men on screen have always had the last word! In fact, most of the lines written for women were quite silly. They hardly talked on screen, they didn’t have a sense of humour. They were submissive. And those were the only female characters we had. Even today, there aren’t many dialogues for women that stand out.

When was the last time a line was written for a woman that was powerful? is the odd film like Damini but even there, the taali-waale dialogues were given to men. In recent times, I can only remember Vidya Balan’s dialogues from The Dirty Picture which were strongly female-oriented. Otherwise, it’s always been the hero who walks away with the last line, or the villain, or the father. The daughter, the wife, the neighbour’s wife are without a voice.

Things can only improve when female writers come up with dialogues for women that are more in line with proper commercial cinema. The women characters with decent dialogues are more common in the arty space.

In the past few years, women writers have come a long way. Zoya Akhtar, for example, is a very good writer. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara was a hit, and Zoya did a great job, but would it have been as successful if it didn’t have Hrithik in it?

It’s only when there is a script with rank newcomers, that a writer’s true merit can be assessed. And I think I am the only person who has made male-oriented films with newcomers who were in shaky stages of their careers.

For example, Emraan Hashmi was going through a low career phase when I wrote Murder 2. Even Shraddha Kapoor and Aditya Roy Kapur had flops in their suitcases when I wrote movies for them. I have never written for stars but my films have been successful. So personally I would say a writer is good when the person manages to write for actors who are either new or relatively less known.

Come to think of it, I have been like a male member in my family! In any case, there were more men in my family growing up, so when there is a strong male presence around you, you imbibe a lot of male attributes. This kind of background helped me become stronger. And perhaps that’s why I find it easier to write for men.

However, the women in my films aren’t dumb. Shraddha had an equally important role in Aashiqui 2, as did Bipasha Basu in Raaz 3. In Murder 2, Jaqueline wasn’t just a pretty face. In fact, Jaqueline has a line, Mujhe samajh mein nahin aata ke main tumhari mohabbat hun ya aadat. That sticks with the audience.

Basically, even if the female characters in my film have 25 per cent screentime, I ensure they have something meaningful to say. The trend where a woman character is all about a shy lover lowering her eyes has to change. This situation can change only when more writers fight for scripts which are headed by women.

Ultimately the responsibility lies with writers to stand their ground and demand scripts which will give scope for women-oriented dialogues."

– As told to Asad Ali

From HT Brunch, December 14

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First Published: Dec 11, 2014 17:50 IST