The Indian Film Industry is projected to grow by 11.5% over the next five years reaching to Rs184.3 billion in 2013 from the present Rs 107 billion in 2008 (source: PwC Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2008-2013). The industry will also get aided with more of digital cinemas and also the 3D technology which is quoted to be the medium of the future for filmed entertainment. When you peep into the tomorrow, one would recognize a huge demand for good stories or else all the available finances and other resources will get smoked down. The film addicted viewers will look for alternatives. Taking a cue from Bollywood in 2009, the industry has undergone a loss of more than 500 crores in Film production plus an additional 350 crores due to the multiplex strike.
To add further grief, Bollywood faced tough competition from Hollywood in 2009. Films like The Hangover, 2012 (grossed more than 90 crores in India), Twilight-New Moon, Avatar recorded colossal box office collections in spite of being pitched against the might of big Bollywood releases. With a shot in the arm now Hollywood is gearing up for the next decade with their highly influential content & strategic marketing, a threat if ignored can sink the ‘Bollywood Titanic’. In contrast, quite a few highly priced commercial Hindi films studded with a lavish star cast failed to garner box office revenues. Interestingly most of these films were backed by Corporate Houses who bring to the table their professionalism, cash flow and marketing expertise. But the lack of Story results in the lack of audience, plain and simple. In many cases, filmmakers’ bank on worn-out cliché’s, jaded gags, garish mis en scène, loud performances and over expensive actors. While this formula has worked at times albeit erratically, how much longer will ever evolving audiences put up with this?
I was writing a movie for a highly respected veteran producer-director who, despite a series of commercial hits in the past, had recently had three back to back flops. This was his final chance for a comeback. I told him that it would take a least of three months to get a full draft of the script to which he agreed. When we initially interacted, he seemed like a comfortable guy to work with. However, after I emailed him the first draft of the script, he didn’t get back to me for a month. Finally his Executive Producer informed me that two other very elderly writers (also his personal confidantes) had been hired on board since they promised to write faster and quicker. Despite boasting of A-list Superstar (also featuring his real life girlfriend as the lead actress), the film released a year later only to ditch the box office and became the laughing stock of Bollywood.
One day I bumped into the same Producer again. He sounded apologetic. He called me over for lunch and confessed “what to do, I had the Superstars dates and I had to put a film on floor with or without a script, else I would have never gotten their dates again.” But as fate would have it, the lead superstar lost his credibility, no other actor wants to work with the once popular producer-director, and above all the distributors couldn’t even save their shirt; they lost more than thirty crores. All because there was no hero to ‘save the cat’ clearly read as ‘content’.
A movie buff walked into a room with a gun loaded albeit with two bullets. The room was occupied with three individuals- the Producer, the Director, the Writer, who were mutually responsible for a horribly made 100 crore movie that obviously went kaputâ€¦Who all did the gun wielding man shoot??? Well he shot the Screenwriter twice!! Screenwriting is one of the most difficult and demanding tasks. It perhaps takes a million thoughts and half a million choices to write one good story. Great screenwriting is the labor of passion, dedication and flair. Competent screenwriters understand that it is not just about writing, but more about rewriting. As they say in Hollywood, “If it ain’t on page then it ain’t on stage”. A Hollywood script written by an adept screenwriter usually takes a minimum of six months to a couple of years, with a lot of research and retrospection put into it. The same applies back home but only in a sporadic scenario. Notwithstanding, in India there are a few exceptional screenwriters and conscientious filmmakers who value the significance of a good script. It won’t require much thinking to list them since they are just a handful.
Unfortunately, numerous Filmmakers in Bollywood either make personal home videos or mindless spectacles. Producers spend tons of money to film inside infernos, high up in the skies, underwater sequences, blow up countless cars, hire locales in fancy countries, shoot ten song and dance numbers with a platoon of firangi dancers, erect fancy sets, dress up the screen idols in designer fineries, flood the movie with actors, partner with big stars and pay them a fortune, take 100 and more retakes to make the screen-divas look good on screen… Fine…
But who has time, inclination or money for good scripts?
Aristotle once stated that a story should be multifaceted yet not over contrived or extremely convoluted. That it should have interesting characters and thoughts so that the audience never gets bored. Ironically centuries later the truth still remains the same. Thus I rest my case: Screenwriters or storytellers who do not bore the audience will Save the Cat.