Monday, August 28, 2006

Chinese Whispers: Scenes from A Screenplay Writing Seminar

A couple of anecdotes from the fringes of the Screenplay Writing Seminar that took place at the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, last weekend. This is the first seminar of its kind in the country, and high time too!

Disclaimer: I was not at this seminar. Everything you see here is reported by someone else, who presented a paper at the seminar.

So, to the Vishal Bharadwaj story that I’ve been promising to tell in the comments section.

After Vishal Bharadwaj’s paper (it would be inaccurate to call any of what was presented at the seminar, a ‘paper’; almost no one had prepared a paper. Instead, they recounted experiences in a more informal, though informative way.), one person asked him about Omkara. She asked why, in translating an issue of race into one of caste, he touched on it only lightly and almost in passing.

To which, Bharadwaj, who seemed not to understand the question, said, “People told me Ajay Devgan was dark. That is why I cast him as Omkara.” Rephrasing the question or elaborating didn’t appear to help. He insisted that because AD was dark, he would make a good Omkara.

Which goes to show two things: that one need not be equally articulate across media. Just because Bharadwaj has mastery over the visual and the aural, it doesn’t mean he can talk with equal felicity.

Second, nothing could more clearly show how popular culture is created. People often assume that directors are more conscious than they really are of the coding that takes place in cinema. I think this anecdote puts to rest any lingering doubts we might have had about how much thought is given to what goes into our cinemas. What is intended and what we read into popular films are two entirely different things.

In another illuminating anecdote, Jahnu Barua said that once, after Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara, some producer type turned up on his doorstep with the intention of making an ‘award-winning’ film, and he very kindly wanted Jahnu Barua to direct it for him. Barua being the polite man he is, asked what the film was about, etc etc, at which point the producer type whipped out a DVD. ‘You don’t have to do anything,’ he said. And waved the DVD at him.

Barua, fuming but conscious of his duty as a host, offered him chai and escaped to the kitchen to make it. Watching the kettle boil, he said, I thought to myself, I am a short man, and it won’t take me long to flip my lid (this is a free adaptation of what he really said, you understand; but he did emphasise his height). So he raged and paced the floor and wondered what he could say to the man sitting outside waiting for his tea. Barua found that he was waving the offending DVD around in his agitation. Before he knew it, he had flung it into the now boiling water and watched as it rose and fell.

With much satisfaction, Barua watched the producer type drink his DVD-flavoured cuppa.

I wonder if it tasted any different. God, but the seminar must have been fun.


the mad momma said...

love that anecdote!! you must find more of them...

rama said...

Great story! Wonder why that producer didn't choke on the DVD- chai! Best, rama