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Bollywood Or Bust

Bollywood Or Bust

June 14, 2011

Why I want to be a Bollywood script writer.

Even as a child I was fascinated by the power of the written word. The ability of a writer to weave a magical story got me through many a bored afternoon in the verandah of my grandparents’ ancestral home in Ludhiana. As my father was in the Merchant Navy, I was sent to boarding school at a young age. Resultantly, vacations where I could not join my parents were spent at my maternal grandparents’ joint family home in Ludhiana. This was a huge house, headed up by my grandparents, with many wings and even more relatives and a dog named Johnny who was permanently tied up under the big cooler. It was, if I am honest, a unique and surprisingly bizarre childhood. I had really cool parents who were missing in action, I went to a premier coeducation public boarding school where I was friends with the offspring of the crème de la crème of Indian society, and I spend my vacations in Ludhiana.

While all my friends headed off to ‘cool’ cities like Calcutta, Bombay and Delhi, I came to Ludhiana!
So I would come to Ludhiana, wake up the next day, the first official day of vacation, and there was absolutely nothing to do. I would go out and sit in the main verandah and after making small talk with various family members (many, I admit, were just garden variety Punjabi weird), there was really nothing to do. I would eat my ‘paratha’, wander around the rooms, talk to ‘Pinky’ the cleaner and ‘Baldev’ the electrician and if I was really lucky I would see ‘Notay’ the nail cutter man in action cutting my Mamaji’s nails (as a child it amazed me that there was a man who made his living cutting nails). The few cousins who lived in the house were all boys and furthermore, went off for the day to school or college, leaving me waiting for lunch or death, whichever came first. I would like to remind the younger reader that I grew up in the 80’s and in the 80’s there were no malls to go to in Ludhiana. Back then, the only entertainment in town was ‘Sutlej Club’, an esteemed establishment favoured by Ludhiana’s gentry. If you were so lucky you may get taken there in the evenings, eat chicken, play tombola, reflect on the state of the universe (not really), talk to some really interesting people (not really) and then return to the ancestral home to eagerly await the dawning of the next action packed day - Not Really!!!

Given the above scenario, my best friends during my childhood vacations were books. After much pleading, my grandmother would take me to a bookshop in ‘Padhor House’ and buy me lots of books which she reminded me cost a fortune. They did, but I figured one could not put a price on sanity. Having stocked up, I would then proceed to read day in and day out.

Having said that, there was in fact one more mode of entertainment available in the Ludhiana of my youth. The cinema; the old fashioned single screen cinema that ran the same movie five times a day, for at least a week at a time. My maternal family owned and operated a cinema and as such you could go there, sit in the family ‘box’, eat popcorn, drink thumbs up and watch the same movie a hundred times (That’s only if Nanaji determined that the movie was OK for ‘girls’ to watch). Now as a child I can’t really say that I was fascinated with Hindi movies, but inadvertently Hindi movies were a big part of my childhood vacation. I say this honestly, as God is my witness, even as a 10 year old child I distinctly remember thinking why are these movies so dumb?

The point is that even as a young girl the run of the mill story of a Hindi movie insulted my intelligence. This wasn’t because I was so intelligent; it was because the storylines were extremely poor and devoid of any real entertainment value. Imagine, a young child, being subjected to watching ‘Mard’ over and over again. That could have lead to permanent brain damage but I think it’s the hope of a better tomorrow (and more Thumbs Up) that kept me going. The Hindi movies I saw all summer long were never able to capture my imagination as the books I read did. My books allowed for a magical suspension of disbelief, which catapulted me into different worlds every day. Hindi movies of the 80’s could not even create a remote feeling of being entertained in a 10 year old.

I now realize that the foundations of my desire to be a Hindi movie script writer were laid during my childhood. Alongside my books, I would sit in the verandah and make up stories for Hindi movies. My young mind would imagine various scenarios and settings, plots and casts, and many a day would pass by with me writing scripts in my head.

Sitting in the verandah, I used to ponder why the parents of the Hero and Heroine always objected to their union? Why did the heroine stop wearing jeans the day after marriage? One that really perplexed me as a child was why did the Hero have to sleep with the heroine when she falls into a cold lake and he needed to warm her up? What exactly was that about? (Well now I know of course, but I still don’t understand why they had to subsequently get married – why not just enjoy the free shag and be on your way – its not like deaf mummy and alcoholic daddy would have ever figured it out!).

Childhood meandered into adulthood but two thoughts that embedded themselves into my psyche at a young age have remained unchanged. The first one is that I would like to write scripts for Hindi movies. I have already written a few and have great ideas for at least another 50 which are half written in my brain. I have a perfectly respectable degree and have had many perfectly respectable jobs, but in my head I am always writing a Hindi movie script. Then, a subsequent return to India after having left at 14, has convinced me that I must fulfil my dream of becoming an earning Bollywood script writer. My first script is ready, but what do I do with it is the million dollar question?

The second childhood trauma that has never left me is the fear of boredom. I am absolutely petrified of being bored. The many a hot afternoon spent sitting in the verandah in Ludhiana contemplating whose life was more boring, mine or Johnny’s, has scarred me for life. I cannot physically board a plane without ample reading material in my bag! No amount of assurances by my husband that I can watch movies or that that he will stay up and talk to me (like that’s ever going to happen) will get me to step foot on an aircraft without reading material.

I have recently learned that with the passing of my grandmother, the aforementioned ancestral family home in Ludhiana has been sold. Even I am shocked at how saddened I am by this news. My children will never experience ‘sitting on the verandah with nothing to do’, which was an instrumental part of my childhood. That verandah, boring as it seemed in those days, gave me the gift of books and most importantly, the gift of imagination. The verandah taught me to read, imagine, conjure and in turn write imaginative and interesting scripts which I hope will make it to the silver screen some day.

So here I am now; in Mumbai, with a finished script in my hand and a fire in my belly (well the fire may actually be from something I have eaten, but you get the point). I am a woman on a mission and I will keep you posted about my upcoming trials and tribulations of trying to sell this script. Wish me luck – I am going to need it! 


  • Girish Patil
    Girish Patil
    11.04.13 12:54 PM
    Wish you all the best.I am also like you.I also build film scripts from my child hood.
  • Navya
    30.08.12 12:55 AM
    Hi Isha,
    Congrats on the completed script!

    In some aspects, I identified with you in this post. I agree with you that reading develops and broadens imagination.
    Indian cinema is in dire need of sensible screenwriters. Good to know that there are grounded and sensible screenwriters like you. All the best with the filmmaker hunt. Cheers!
  • Santosh Kamble
    Santosh Kamble
    19.04.12 08:47 PM
    Hi Isha ! Wish u all the best for being a well scriptwriter........
  • Pritamde
    23.09.11 10:59 PM
    All the best. do tell us how you do it.
  • Iqbal
    17.08.11 07:21 PM
    Hi Isha,
    Wishing you all the very best for a fruitful career as a scriptwriter. I too am interested in becoming one but do not know the way t go about it. I too like JAS have been penning down thoughts and ideas for a movie ... based on true events, based on cause and effect. Do you guide aspiring writers too or can you guide this one. I will to keep an eye on your posts!!

    Cheers mate !!!
  • kunal
    04.07.11 01:14 PM
    wishing you all the best
  • Isha
    30.06.11 02:07 AM
    Thanks for your best wishes Bhavesh and Jas.

    Jas do get in touch when you get to Mumbai - we can share our experiences thus far.
  • Jas
    19.06.11 10:47 PM
    Wishing you all the best Isha. As a Londoner who also spent many a childhood holiday sitting in the verandah of her grandparents house in Ludhiana and dreaming of moving to Mumbai and working in the Indian film industry I can relate to your aspirations. Thirty odd years down the line I've had a taste of filmmaking British and Indian style, am penning my own scripts and will be in the same position as you - heading to Mumbai to pitch my stories to filmmakers who will help me bring them to life. So I wish you all the best and will keep an eye on your postings. Go get em!
  • bhavesh
    15.06.11 12:55 PM
    all the very best for your scripts,may you (we also) see the imagination taking shape as seen in your dreams.

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