Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, Shabd, Kal Ho Na Ho, Munnabhai M.B.B.S., Parineeta, Phir Hera Pheri, Salaam Namaste and many more... What do these films have in common? Well, scripts of all these films have gone to the Oscar library.
This phenomenon of scripts going to the Oscar library was first publicly publicized when the script of Rajkumar Hirani's Munnabhai M.B.B.S. got selected. After that it was almost every two months that a script got selected for the library. Little do people know that scripts going to the Oscar library have been going on for years prior to this. It is only now that the world is getting smaller is that all of us think it is a big deal. Anjum Rajabali, noted writer of movies like Drohkaal, Ghulam and The Legend of Bhagat Singh said, "Lots of scripts have gone in the past. It is only now that producers are capitalizing on this."
Firstly here's a brief background of the library.
The Oscar library more uncommonly known as the Margaret Herrick Library collects a wide range of materials documenting film. Founded in 1928 and named after a former Academy librarian and long-time executive director, it maintains a world-renowned, non-circulating reference and research collection devoted to the history and development of the motion picture.
The library holds more than 32,000 books; 1,800 periodical titles; 60,000 screenplays; 200,000 clipping files; 30,000 posters; lobby cards, pressbooks and other advertising ephemera; over 8 million photographs; over 300 manuscript and other special collections relating to prominent industry individuals, studios and organizations; sheet music, music scores and sound recordings; production and costume sketches; artifacts; and oral histories.
So now back to Indian scripts being selected over there. Prominent individuals from the Indian film industry shone some light on the subject and mind you the light though bright seemed to bring us into some kind of darkness.
Don't you find it strange that unoriginal screenplays including those of Ek Ajnabee (Man on Fire) and Taxi No. 9211 (Changing Lanes) are included in the library? So with all of Johar, Chopra and magnum opuses going to the library, IndiaFM went on a quest to find out more about the selection process.
Noted writer and director of Ek Haseena Thi, Sriram Raghavan really found the list of selected scripts amusing, "I think it is well thought of plan. All scripts from India will be taken in bulk and then they will start suing the producers who have unoriginal scripts. In India there are hardly any bound scripts. Some movies work on one liner's and move forward as the film progresses. So I really wonder what script goes out there."
However Director Sudhir Mishra wasn't very amused, "It is just another library. The library has everything - good and bad films. So there are no criteria for selection. Any film can go there"
Agreeing with Sudhir and adding his own Anurag Kashyap was cynical. "There are no criteria. Any random script is selected for the library and it is sad. Somebody who has never gotten any attention gets excited when somebody looks at them. Even the biggies get so excited. Look at Karan Johar who was thrilled when KANK got selected in Hamburg. 10,000 films go to Hamburg every year. I think it is this excitement that is our own failing. They are all like frogs in a well and don't know what is happening outside."
So no criteria?? That seems a bit odd considering, that every media makes it their duty to see to it that each movie's achievement is known to the common man. Once a Hindi movie's script is selected, immediately a press release is sent to every publication, news channel and other forms of media for publicity.
To take for example, here is a quote from one media which went gaga over the selection of a recent Hindi film's script to the library - "The latest feather to its cap is a distinction and respect for which the world's filmmakers die for.....! Its script has been included in the Oscar Library. It is undoubtedly the most prestigious honour for the film that the Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has bagged its script to include in its library."
In a way the media is to be blamed for its lack of knowledge in over-hyping something which is as common as Aishwarya Rai's international claims.
Off course there has to be basic minimum criteria for a selection otherwise any Tom Dick and Harry would go to the Oscars.
Anurag comes back to enlighten us more on the subject. "The people at the library keep track of films that have a good opening and select them. Sometimes producers too put their script forward and take pride in their work no matter how bad it is", says he.
Kalpana Lajmi who was on the jury who decided Rang De Basanti's entry to the Oscar had her own comments as well, "If your film is sent to the Oscars in the foreign film category then it automatically gets selected irrespective whether it is nominated or not. I saw the script of my film Rudaali (yes, much before Munnabhai M.B.B.S. ) which was sent to the Oscars in 1994 over there. I can proudly say that it was next to Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho mainly because they are kept in alphabetical order. Today I don't know if production houses send them or the criteria. I think they have an archiving system there."
However director Sandeep Sawant whose Marathi film Shwaas was India's entry in 2004 couldn't agree with Lajmi, "I haven't gotten any information of my film's script being at the library yet."
Anurag Kashyap again adds, "Getting your script into the Oscar library is not a big deal the world over. It is only when a film gets selected for the Oscar library in India that it makes news. "
Just another library huh? Call it what may, it is a one stop for lots of people to do research, study and understand lots of information related to motion picture.
Writer of Munnabhai M.B.B.S. Lajan Joseph didn't speak really negatively of the library, "They collect films from all over the world so there aren't any criteria as such and is plainly like a database. Unfortunately there is nothing like that in India. I wish some publication or someone takes that up. I would love to read scripts of movies like Salaam Bombay, Parinda, Pyaasa and Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, etc. but it's very difficult. So we are only exposed to Hollywood scripts and Syd Field whose books are available here. But then that is Hollywood and India is very different in terms of setting."
Truly said, there aren't any libraries or a database where Indian scripts and screenplays can be made available. Instead of sending our scripts abroad why don't groups like the Screenwriters association take an initiative in setting up a place right here in India where our very own work can be available for reference.