Confessions of a Bollywood Scriptwriter

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“Most producers don’t know how to read a script. The development heads in corporate and big production companies are the worst.”

Everybody in the industry wants a bound script. Nobody reads it. Aamir Khan made it trendy to demand a bound script, but people don’t understand what a structured piece of writing it actually is. I suggest you do a hurried man’s guide to scripts in your magazine to explain it.

Most producers don’t know how to read a script. The development heads in corporate and big production companies are the worst. Unlike actors and directors, they don’t understand basic storytelling. They are young flunkies wielding power, because they are related to someone important or studied at NYU or something.

A script in Bollywood is subservient to the director’s whims and the actor’s ambition. Unless you are a high-flying scriptwriter like Anurag Kashyap, you must bow down. Or, find a director who understands collaboration.

Everyone in Bollywood fancies themselves as writers. Probably because they think anyone can write.  A director once told me, “I treat my writers like shit. Are you up for working with me?” I declined. The layman thinks the story of a film was thought up by the director.

It’s not fair to say that nothing original comes out of Bollywood. Its originality is in Bollywoodising everything, including Hollywood. Ghajini is a good example of that. It added hyper-emotionalism, revenge, love, without even understanding the concept behind Memento.

Many actors like Akshay Kumar and Salman Khan are still in the habit of hearing out scripts. New ones like Ranbir Kapoor and Imran Khan read the script.
This isn’t the golden age for scriptwriters, though Abhijat Joshi got paid a crore or two for the script of 3 Idiots that he co-wrote with the director. He got the amount after the film was a superhit, unlike the director and actors. Bollywood thrives on iconification. In the 70s and 80s, scriptwriters Salim-Javed were huge and wielded as much power as Bachchan. But that wasn’t the golden era for scriptwriters. It was the golden era for Salim-Javed.

Ghostwriting is probably how a scriptwriter learns the ropes. Then they move on. They want to make a name for themselves but don’t get that recognition. Think of the last good Hindi film you saw, do you remember the name of its script writer? This pushes them towards direction.

(This scriptwriter has been in the industry for six years)