New Delhi, March 26 (IANS) Gone are the days when the script was the weakest link of a movie and multi-starrers were a sureshot way to success. As the mindsets of audiences change, Bollywood scriptwriters foresee a dignified growth for their kind though problems persist.
'Now there is a need for good scripts because people have realised that films don't work only on stars. There is awareness, but that is not enough,' Kamlesh Pandey, who scripted 'Rang De Basanti' and 'Delhi-6', told IANS on the phone.
In recent times, Vishal Bharadwaj, Ashutosh Gowariker, Karan Johar, Madhur Bhandarkar and Jaideep Sahni have shown the power of the pen by writing some of the best movies. The point to note is that most of them have directed their own scripts.
Filmmaker Raj Kumar Gupta said: 'Scripts and scriptwriters are getting recognition more than ever. It is being considered the most important element in filmmaking now. Earlier, actors were given importance but now the script is the hero.'
Gupta scripted both his directorial ventures - 'Aamir' and 'No One Killed Jessica'.
'The demand for a well-written, extensively explained, good script is the need of the hour,' said Gupta.
Tigmanshu Dhulia, 43, feels this is the right time for scriptwriters.
'Times have changed for sure because earlier a lot of films were only made by adaptation of Hollywood movies. But now viewers have become intelligent and are not willing to take any crap,' said Dhulia, who has co-scripted his directial venture 'Paan Singh Tomar' with Sanjay Chauhan.
'In due course of time those who survived on Hollywood films (remake) are now looked down upon in the industry. With the range of scripts and writers, we are now on the right track to earn the respect and dignity that we had lost,' said Dhulia, who wrote dialogues for 'Dil Se'.
Amitabh Bachchan's phenomenal success is an example of how a good script can do wonders for actors. In the 1970s, scriptwriter duo Salim-Javed's stories made Amitabh a star and also established him as silver screen's angry young man.
In the early stage of filmmaking, Wajahat Mirza carved a niche by penning films like 'Mother India', 'Mughal-e-Azam' and 'Ganga Jamuna'.
Another known name was journalist-turned-writer K.A. Abbas, who was the screenwriter for Raj Kapoor's 'Awara', 'Shri 420', 'Mera Naam Joker' and 'Bobby'.
Then there was Pandit Mukhram Sharma of 'Dhool Ka Phool' fame, Gulshan Nanda, writer of 'Kaajal' and 'Neelkamal', and others like Sachin Bhowmick, Akhtar Mirza, Gulzar, Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihlani and Shekhar Kapoor.
There came a time when scripts lost their importance. In the late 1980s and 90s, filmmakers relied more on big stars, action, foreign locales and Hollywood plots as the success formula.
But the industry has lately witnessed a positive shift in audiences' movie viewing patterns when films like 'Taare Zameen Par' (Amol Gupte), 'Chak De! India' (Jaideep Sahni), 'A Wednesday' (Neeraj Pandey), '3 Idiots' (Vidhu Vinod Chopra) and multiple award-winning 'Udaan' were released. All based on strong scripts, these films attracted viewers despite being issue-based.
For newcomers though, getting a break is still an uphill task and as a result most new age scriptwriters turned into directors.
Said Vikramaditya Motwane, who scripted 'Udaan': 'Once the script was done, I had a tough time finding someone to produce the film. Many producers came and went, but nobody was ready to commit to the film.'
'Udaan' was finally produced by another critically acclaimed filmmaker Anurag Kashyap.
There are other factors that stop a good script from reaching the screen.
Gupta said: 'Biggest hindrance for any scriptwriter is to convince a director and an actor. It depends on his credibility. If he has proved his worth, then it becomes easy for him. But the phase where a scriptwriter had to convince people to give you a chance is very difficult. It may take years to prove yourself in the industry.'
Pandey said: 'It took me five years to get a film like 'Rang De Basanti' made. It was not an easy task. People only recognised it when Aamir Khan and A.R. Rahman got on board and not because of the script.'
In terms of earning, how much do scriptwriters earn?
'It completely depends on the script and the strata under which the film comes - big or small budget as they say. For a newcomer, it would start from Rs.5 lakh and can go up to Rs.40-50 lakh,' Gupta said.
American filmmaker Orson Wells once said, the writer should have the first and the last word in filmmaking.
(Manpreet Kaur can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)