Have you had any professional training in terms of screen-writing?
It's very hard to say, I have read all these books on and off but ultimately the story comes from your heart. You have to write a script as per your gut feel and as to how the story should develop. There is a formula when you do a thriller or an action film. But all movies can't have a pattern you have to write it the way the story flows. If you watch some of the movies which the west has come up with like a Sideway or Lost In Translation they break all dimensions of standard scriptwriting. Its finally about how you tell the story, it doesn't matter if it doesn't follow a coached perspective. There are times when people tell me arre yaha graph upar hona chahiye, yaha graph drop ho raha hai and then when I watch some of these really interesting Hollywood films I am like where is the graph, I don't see any graph. Its all about how you tell a story nothing else matters.
Do you thinking writing in team helps or writing alone is much better?
I think both have their advantages. Writing alone is also very exciting in terms of the fact that you have to do it alone. Sometimes it helps to write a film with a partner as you can utilize somebody else's strength. There are areas where you might not be able to do justice to a scene and your writing partner might be able to do it a better job to the scene. I enjoy both. The upside of writing as a team is that when critics watch your movie and decide that the script is the culprit, you can at least heave a sigh of relief that you are not alone and the blame can be shared with someone! It's great fun to write in a team as long as you work with people with the same wavelength.
In your own words tell us the difference between a story, screenplay and dialogues when it comes to screen-writing?
The story is actually the foundation of the whole film. When you break that story down into scenes in a way that it can be executed as a film, it becomes the screenplay and dialogues are actually what they say in the film. And all this makes a script.
Do you agree with the fact that script-writers in India don't get their due credits as much as in Hollywood and other foreign cinemas?
Yes I think so. Monetarily I think there is a big discrepancy as the writers here don't get paid well. The situation might have improved in some cases but they still don't get paid to the extent they should be. The standard Hollywood format of the writer's regulation is that the writer gets a certain percentage of the budget of the film, that kind of format is not followed here. The first place where the budget cut takes place is the script and the writer is the one who gets the pinch of it. Very few directors I think actually acknowledge a writer when they talk about a film. I find it odd when director's talk about the story, I think they should give due credit to the writer
Also don't you agree that there is hardly any original writing going in India? Writers just adapt from foreign DVDs
I don't think it's the writers fault because I don't think any self respecting writer goes to a director and says look I have a great idea and here's the DVD of the idea. The problem is that you get to come up with only a few original ideas because most directors want to do a remake. I don't think writers would go around trying to make a copy of a film, unless they want a quick buck. Most writers who genuinely enjoy the process of writing would definitely do an original script. So why blame the writers the writes are just doing their job. Most of the writers are hired they write what is given to them.
Do you think the scene off lately is changing for writers in India and is getting a little better?
Yes definitely. I think the current lot of directors are far more conscious about the writing process and are far more interested in the way they deal with writers. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Vipul for Namastey London and Sujoy for Jhankar Beats. Directors today are ready to experiment and also understand the writing process much better. Many of the directors play a huge part in helping out during the writing process. The writer is ultimately putting the director's vision on paper so it is very important that the director be involved in the process.
Which Indian writers do you admire?
My all time favorite are Salim Javed.
Which foreign writers do you admire?
Charlize Hoffman and Woody Allen.
Can you earn a living out of writing or are writers grossly underpaid in India?
I think once you get a steady flow of work I don't think income is a problem. I think today the pay scale of writers is much better than it was five or ten years back. I guess it's much easier to make a living out of being a scriptwriter than an author
Do you write a particular script keeping an actor in mind or an actor is roped in depending on the script?
It depends. Sometimes you know who the actor is going to be. Like for instance for Namastey London I knew that Akshay was going to play the lead as he is Vipul's friend. We were not sure about Katrina. But I wrote the script keeping her in mind because that was the perfect casting. The story was of a London born girl and she was the perfect casting. If I have an option then I better not keep the actor in mind while writing the script as I can get a better perspective of exploring a character. You are not limited to the fact while writing as to what the actor is good at.
Finally what advise do you give a writer who has a script in hand? How should he approach a producer?
I suppose the only way is to go and give your script to directors. Though you might say that a lot of directors are copying stuff, there are still directors who are ready to read scripts and going through them. If you see last year along with big blockbuster films there were also small interesting films which somebody is making. Even now I have people coming and telling me about the kind of films they want to make which is very exciting. People are much more open to ideas now.