Tuesday, January 19, 2010

'Writers, get out of your comfort zone'; It's vital to be open todifferent experiences to become a good scriptwriter, Abhijat Joshi, whoco-wrote Lage Raho Munnabhai and Three Idiots, tells Aniruddha Guha.


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In the early 90s, when I was teaching English Literature, I developed an interest in writing plays. One of them, A Shaft Of Sunlight, was performed in Birmingham where Vidhu Vinod Chopra saw it. He then called me to Mumbai (from hometown Ahmedabad) and asked me to collaborate with him on the script of Kareeb (1998), which he was directing at the time, and later, on Mission Kashmir (2000) too. After that, I went to the US for a three-year course in screenwriting and eventually settled down there. Once the course was over, I got back to writing for Vinod Chopra Films, and co-wrote Lage Raho Munnabhai (2006), Eklavya (2007) and now Three Idiots for them.

After having worked on mainstream scripts, why did you feel the need to do a full-time course on screen writing?

See, Kareeb was a disaster, and I blame myself a great deal for it. I was very raw as a screenwriter then and that showed in the script. I realised I needed to hone my skills a bit, learn the craft. After Mission Kashmir, I wanted to move to the next stage as a scriptwriter and so went to the US for a writing course.

And the course helped?

A writer needs to experience different facets of life - and that's what this course did for me. I had very little money, and a family to fend for, but went ahead with the plan because I had found my calling - scriptwriting. I wanted to do everything I could to get better at it. This phase of my life included watching a movie every day and a lot of reading.

In fact, I would tell all budding writers to do the same - not go to the US for a writing course necessarily, but to get out of their comfort zone. Take a backpack and travel across India, for example. These experiences will teach you more about life than anything else. And how can you be a writer if you yourself haven't experienced various emotions and met different people? Another thing a scriptwriter should never do is repeat his mistakes.

Like what?

For example, the reason Kareeb failed is because the hero was not proactive. He was in love with a girl, but never really did anything about it except stand outside her house and wait for her to appear at the window. Similarly, the earlier story of Lage Raho Munnabhai had Munna getting inspired by Gandhi and going on a hunger strike in the second half. I realised that we were repeating the same mistake we committed in Kareeb - the protagonist wasn't doing much to get what he wants. That's when the whole idea of the radio jockeying bit kicked in, and it became about Munna spreading the message of Gandhigiri through the radio, which I think worked better. In order to make your story connect with a larger audience, you have to make it either very dramatic, or very funny. Raju (Hirani) and I like to tread the middle path.

Three Idiots seems to have adopted that form of storytelling too...

Yes. Raju, Vidhu and I firmly believe that we have to make our films entertaining for audiences, even if we want them to talk about larger issues. The problem with the education system, which we've touched on in the film, is very relevant today. But we didn't want tosermonise only, and so humour formed an integral part of the script.

Is it a problem, living in the US and writing scripts with Raju, who lives here?

It would have been, but we're constantly on the phone. For us, work never stops actually. Even when Three Idiots was just a few days away from release, I was holed up, working on Broken Horses, the film Vidhu will direct next. Besides, I travel between the US and Mumbai frequently.

Copyright 2010 Diligent Media Corporation Ltd., DNA (Daily News & Analysis) All Rights Reserved

Source Citation
"'Writers, get out of your comfort zone'; It's vital to be open to different experiences to become a good scriptwriter, Abhijat Joshi, who co-wrote Lage Raho Munnabhai and Three Idiots, tells Aniruddha Guha." DNA [Daily News & Analysis] 16 Jan. 2010. Educator's Reference Complete. Web. 19 Jan. 2010. .

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