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Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Mayur Puri has been working as an 'all-rounder' writer in the industry for the past few years. He has worked as story, screenplay and dialogue writer on films. He has also penned lyrics but only for his close friend and music director Pritam. He has worked as the associate director of Dhoom. He has half a dozen scripts in the market and soon he will be directing his own script.
Have you had any professional training in terms of screen-writing?
Not really. But I'm a post graduate in English literature. In my second year, 'Tragedy' was one of the papers... Gave me a reason to go back to Aristotle and Shakespeare in detail. Plus we needed to study a lot of classics. Loads of Theories. Coleridge's 'ensemplastic imagination' and Longinus' sublimity... I also had Sanskrit as 1st sub and had to study Mammat's 'Kavyashastra' in detail. Plus your regular Bhasas and Bhavbhutis were thrown in for a good measure. Coming from a Hindi speaking family Premchand, Dinkar, Tagore were no strangers either. With my graduation, I also did Diploma in Dramatics and was exposed to great playwrights like Badal Sircar and Mohan Rakesh. I have always been a voracious reader. I was writing even when I was in school but strangely it never occurred to me that I can make it as my profession till I was in college!
Do you think any professional training for screen-writing is necessary?
More than the training it's the preparation. People write about things that they know nothing about. With all due regards to all three of them, none of the writers of KANK are married and that shows in the script. The attitude towards your subject cannot be condescending from the day one of approaching a script. But that's what happens when you aren't prepared. Actually to hell with regards, Shibani is a trained writer - but I don't think she's prepared enough.
How did you get your first break?
I came to Bombay (yes yes I know it's Mumbai) in late 1999 from Ahmedabad with 8 years of experience in writing and directing for local theatre and television there. And I had come here to become a filmmaker, not a writer. But while doing my first film (Tere Liye) as an assistant, my director Sanjay Gadhvi stumbled upon the fact that I was a writer. He forced me to write for him. I wrote a film for him and we took it to Aditya Chopra in Yashraj Films. Adi liked my writing style and said 'I can see that you are having fun when you are writing and that's most important'. Unfortunately that film could not be made at that time as it required a huge cast and maybe Adi wasn't confident that we could handle such big responsibility. Instead, he gave us an idea for a 'smaller' film and asked us to work immediately upon that. After 43 days I had the script of 'Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai' ready. And before you say that 'Oh! That copy of 'My Best Friend's Wedding'?... Puhleeze! See both films frame by frame.
Your next film is My Name is Anthony Gonsalves. Tell us about the film
My Name is Anthony Gonsalves is about an ordinary boy nurturing an extraordinary dream and his journey towards realizing it. It's a light-hearted slice of life. In many ways it's also a bildungsroman - a coming of age movie - something we rarely come across in Hindi cinema.
Was MNIAG your idea or you developed someone else's storyline?
Basic idea that we should write a film about an ordinary Bandra boy who wants to become a film star - was from my co-writer Lajan Joseph. Everything else was developed through a grueling process between the two of us that involves a lot of uncivil activities like abusing and tearing each other's hair! We go through hell every time we write together. We fight and fight till we give up on each other but when we have the final script ready no one in the world can say it's a bad script.
Why the title My Name is Anthony Gonsalves? Has it got anything to do with the superhit Amitabh Bachchan track?
Anthony Gonsalves is the name of the protagonist and it's a subjective film. Everything that happens in the film is either happening to him or is done by him. There couldn't have been a better title. As far as the famous song goes, it serves as a reminder of that genre of 70s films that were full of fun, action, drama and everything...
You have written MNIAG with Lajan Joseph. How is he as a co-writer?
See, more than a co-writer, Liju is my oldest buddy. We have grown up together and have our own little personal history. Together we've walked on the dusty roads of Kalol (the small town where we both came from), seen 'A' movies in seedy theaters, chased girls, played gully cricket, cried and laughed so much that tears have come out... We've clinched our fists around the sand that time is and have seen it slowly slipping away from our palms... we've taken long walks and fought over a million crimson sunsets... Sometimes we've not been on talking terms for years... but then when we meet again we pick up things right where they were.
Coming back to your question: Lajan has different strengths than mine. We compliment each other. It's never been important what I can do without him or what he can do without me... it's always what we can do together. We don't count who wrote how many words, who spent more time on the computer typing the shit and who spent more efforts in trying to market a script... It's a very healthy kind of competition where we both strive to give more to the project. If he comes today with a good idea, I can't sleep till I've got a greater idea and vice-versa. Also Lajan always has a kind of top angle on things whereas I get too close for comfort. Our styles are distinctly different but our history, our bank of emotions and our rooting is the same. I have been asked so many times that you and Lajan are so different from each other, then how do you manage to write together? I say, see we are like two angles from the same axis. Its two different shots in magnification, placement and angle but the axis is same... we never jump axis.
Do you thinking writing in team helps or writing alone is much better?
I've written in past with some other writers (I don't think Liju has ever gone through that ordeal) and I must tell you it's horrible! I can write alone or I can write with Liju but I don't think I will ever try writing with anyone else again for a long time.
Technically speaking, what is the difference between a story, screenplay and dialogues when it comes to screen-writing?
They are different disciplines but with a common goal - to inspire the filmmaker and the actors enough to carry the core thought to the audience. As Bharatmuni says in Natyashastra, the Rasanishpatti has to happen in the audience. Writers, directors and actors are but a medium and nothing more than that. I don't mean to derogate anyone but believe me, anyone can write a story. Anyone who has a little knowledge of screen grammar can attempt a screenplay but Dialogue writing for a Hindi film is not everyone's cup of tea. It requires very special skills. It is the dialogue writer IMHO, that will assist the most in Rasanishpatti in a Hindi film. Prime example: 'Mere Paas Maa hai!' But hey! When I say anyone can write a story or screenplay I don't mean that it will be good. There are always good writers and bad writers.
Do you agree with the fact that script-writers in India don't get their due credits as much as in Hollywood?
Yes yes yes! We don't. We need to! In an 'A' grade Hindi film, the budget of heroine's footwear is more than the budget for scripting. Isn't that pathetic? Even the big studios and production houses haggle with scriptwriters for their money! I mean come on guys! Aren't you ashamed doing that? Doesn't your heart have a hand to slap you every time you do that? And I refuse to put the blame back on writers as some of us poor writers do. Please guys! Even if a scriptwriter agrees to short sell his work (most of the writers are poor and they will, 'cause any money is better than no money!) it is the responsibility of the industry to make sure that the writers are paid well. Only then will the quality of writing improve. Only then the quality of cinema will improve. Producers have shunned away from this responsibility for too long.
I would like to blame the media as well. Today a two penny actor who is not even good at his work will get more media coverage than a writer who's consistently doing good work. Media has made monsters out of actors. If people need heroes why not intelligent heroes like writers? Why some dumb babe whose worldly knowledge is limited to 'Indian conditions need a sunscreen with SPF 30 and nothing less than that!' Why not Lajan, why not me?
But wouldn't you agree that there is hardly any original writing going in India? Writers just adapt from foreign DVDs
Yes. As much as I'd hate to admit it but mediocre and below average writing dominates the scene today. Again the issue is how much importance does the industry give to writing at all? Today in a film promotion a choreographer gets more footage than a writer. I mean cross your heart and say who works harder on a film? Who spends more days? Whose effort makes a film more close to what it is ultimately? A Choreographer or a writer? We've been diplomatic and chilled out for too long on these issues. Today all songs look same. All clothes from one production house will look same (It's the either the 'Yashraj' look or the 'Sanjay Gupta' look) but do you even have the question of originality in your questionnaire for Choreographers and Designers? No, right? Like them, writers are catering to a market. What pays, sells and to hell with it. I have ten original ideas that I'm struggling to sell since 3 years but I get an offer to 'adopt' a Hollywood movie almost everyday. How long will I hold out? Writing is the only thing I know to do well and I have to run a kitchen.
Coming back to your film, how original is MNsIAG? Any inspirations?
My Name Is Anthony Gonsalves is 100% original copy of.... Ha ha ha! Jus' kidding. I can sniff the sarcasm in 'any inspirations?' But sorry, it is an original film. Period!
Do you think the scene off lately is changing for writers in India and is getting a little better?
Not really. But it will be. The wind of change is blowing. Still not mind blowing, but blowing none the less.
Which Indian writers do you admire?
I assume you mean screenwriter. Because literature will take me on a different trip. As Adoor Gopalakrishnan says: 90% of classic/landmark films have been written by the film maker himself. I like the films of K.Asif, Guru Dutt, Satyajit Ray (especially Gopi Gayan Bagha Bayan), Raj Kapoor, Hrishikesh Mukherji, Manmohan Desai, Gulzar saab. The only people with outstanding fame as writers and not as filmmakers are Salim-Javed. Their contribution to Indian screenwriting is immense but I also feel that they are responsible for a certain corruption that has crept in the art of screenwriting. It's not their fault but their writing and their success definitely paved way for later inferior clones that succeeded too, to some extent and the result is a thousand clichÉ's that we have today!
Which foreign writers do you admire?
Woody Allen has always been a favorite. I like Tarantino a lot too. Countless others!. I may not even know who wrote half the films I like.
Can you earn a living out of writing?
I've been doing so and doing quite well for myself. But you have to be very talented and very hardworking. It's one of the most difficult jobs in the world.
What advise do you give a writer who has a script in hand? How should he approach a producer?
First thing is to get the script registered with The Film Writers' Association. Producers normally like to know what the film is about in brief. An interesting way to get that across is to write a half page synopsis or a 'DVD Back cover' as some producers call it.
You also write poetry. Tell us something about that.
I do write poetry but that's all unpublished as of now. Bollywood songs are not poetry. I will not claim that I'm a poet or a Shayar for my film songs. At best I'm a songster. It's a fun job. I do it only for friends like Pritam. But I'm writing the songs for My Name Is Anthony Gonsalves on the insistence of Nikhil, the film's hero and for the first time I'm working with Lalit (of Jatin-Lalit fame). I'm thoroughly enjoying it. Lalit is fun to work with.
Do you write a particular script keeping an actor in mind or an actor is roped in depending on the script?
My Name Is Anthony Gonsalves is written for Nikhil Dwivedi. In the past few months lots of changes have happened around the film but the four people who have always been on the project are E Niwas, Nikhil, Mayur and Lajan.
What are your forthcoming projects?
I am writing a film for Sri Ashtavinayak Cinevision and dialogues for 'Love Story 2050', which is Harman Baweja's launch film. With Lajan I have also written two films for Saregama Films (HMV), one of which I will be directing. Talks are also on with Mirchi movies (Times group) for some projects and also with some other very reputed production houses.
Wouldn't you want to direct your own script?
I've been an assistant Director for too long. I stopped assisting after Dhoom (I was the Associate Director on it) to become a director. I should have released my movie by now but then things take their own time in Bollywood. I don't have a godfather in the industry and I don't want to make any compromises with my first film. I don't care if I debut late as a director, as long as I debut right. But I think I've waited too long and now all the patience should bear fruit. Please pray for me. I deserve a break. I have earned it. I should get it. Soon!