In early June 2009, the classrooms of IIT Chennai, reverberated to a different beat. For once, the blackboards in this prestigious institution were not filled with sine curves and abstract models of quantum mechanics. It witnessed what some would claim is equally elusive: the art of screenplay writing.
Hosted by Kamal Haasan, some 250 were selected for the five-day Chennai International Screenwriting Workshop, from a ten-year-old to a 65-year-old retired professional, an eclectic mix of film professionals, bloggers, software engineers and others. And, a unique film assignment has come out of this. Thirty short films on the theme of Chennai are to be produced by Haasan. The participants have been invited to submit a one-page story synopsis that they think best expresses Chennai’s spirit.
“What is it about Chennai that fascinates or irritates you most or even makes you have a love-hate relationship with her? That’s the question,” reveals K Hariharan, Head of LV Prasad Film and TV Academy, Chennai. The first batch of filtering will whittle the number down to 60, which will be fleshed out into ten-minute screenplays. From this, 30 will be picked to become the anthology titled Chennai that Haasan will release in March 2010 under the banner Rajkamal Films International.
Further, the writers will be invited to watch the film being shot. The directorial repertoire is formidable: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Rituparno Ghosh and Shekhar Kapur have already expressed their interest in directing some of the shorts. Then there is Haasan, of course.
“I have been told Mr Kamal Haasan is personally going through the 250 synopses and will be shortlisting the final scripts himself,” says Manoj Jahnson, an enthusiastic computer science engineer from Anna University, who has grown up watching the stalwart’s films. He then gets down to proof-reading his page for the third time in ten minutes.