I was browsing through the list of highest grossing films of 2010, when I decided to write this article. The highest grossing films of the year are Housefull, Dabangg, Golmal 3 and Once Upon a Time in Mumbai. I felt disgusted. I need not elaborate how pathetic these films are. Our film industry tends to completely disregard the fact that the script is the very foundation that a film is built upon. No matter how ironic it may sound, our industry has no respect for the screenwriters. When was the last time you saw the writer’s name on a film’s poster? One film I can instantly connect with is Black Friday. The film had no exceptional performances, yet many critics claim it to be the best film of the decade. The film was inspired by a book. Yes, it was the script that drove the film. Let's have a look at the process of scriptwriting in India-
- Writers in India are paid even less than the playback singers and choreographers.
- Director, Actors, assistant directors, even junior performers tend to modify the script whilst the film is shot.
- Writers in Hollywood are duly paid during the time they spend developing the script. Even when a script is not accepted, the writer does not lose out. A writer here is paid after, and only if, his script is approved.
- Writers are often forced to rip off or lift off a Japanese horror, a Hollywood thriller, a Korean love story, or a South Indian action flick.
- Our legal system has done very little to help writers. Producers often steal a writer's work and the writer remains unpaid.
- Once bought and paid for by a producer, the writer has no rights whatsoever over the script he has written.
Will it all be the same in the decade to come? Is there something being done to improve standards within Indian cinema? The answer is 'Yes'! Very recently, the copyright amendment bill, 2010 was presented in the Indian parliament by our respected Union HRD minister Kapil Sibal. People like Javed Akhtar, Aamir Khan, Prasoon Joshi and Vishal Bharadwaj came together to draft this wonderful bill. The bill encouraged creativity in the music and film industry and proposed greater rights to the writers and lyricists. It also suggested joint ownership of a film’s copyright between the producer and the director, thereby empowering the directors. The country was celebrating. At least I was happy about the bill, until something happened... The Film Federation of India (FFI) protested against this bill. Mukesh Bhatt, Ramesh Sippy and other prominent film producers were unhappy to see the intellectual property rights being given to the actual 'intellectuals'. They even went on to ban Javed saab and called for a bandh on Jan 6th in protest. Actor and producer, Kamaal R Khan, wrote on Twitter-
“Now Javed sahab we will show you our power on 6th jan. 2011 in Delhi. And i request 2 all the producer to not work with trouble makr writers.”
Javed ji's reply to all these protests was-
“They can ban an individual but not an idea whose time has come. I don’t care. Honestly I don’t care, it’s almost not important. At most they will not give me any work. But that’s not the issue. Alright, so I won’t be there. So what? Whoever else is there you have to pay royalty to that person. That is important.”
Well, the good news is that the ban has now been called off, possibly due to internal pressures and criticism within the national and social media. It is disheartening to see such drama carrying on while most of my countrymen, in and outside India, are still unaware and enjoying 'horror films” like Tees Maar Khan! How long will we tolerate the moneymaking capitalists and criminals of our country who consider art as the media of filling their own coffers? Isn't it high time we stand up for the 'real intellectuals' of our country?