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After I wrote my post yesterday, it occurred to me that I was being a tad unfair to producers. When you’re making a film, there are multiple risks at different stages involved.

The first is at the story level. Writing a story/screenplay is quite an art. Just because someone has a good idea doesn’t necessarily mean they will be able to translate it into a good story. A good story is driven by characters and conflict. There are ebbs and flows of emotion in the narrative and a good story paces them out well. An intensely emotional or suspenseful sequence needs a comic relief or downer immediately afterwards. You cannot pile an emotionally charged sequence on top of another.

Then there’s the direction. Just because you have a good script doesn’t mean it will translate into a good film. The director’s vision can either lift the script to a subliminal level (Lucky # Slevin) or reduce it to trash (Richard Kelly’s Domino). It has to be said here, though, that the chances of a good script turning out to be a bad film are rare, no matter how bad the director. As a caveat, I have to add that judging something like this is highly subjective. What I may consider a good script badly executed may well be someone else’s bad script made better.

Assuming the director’s vision translates the screenplay into a gem of a film, the marketing and promotion of the film may fail. The communication may leave the audience cold or target the wrong consumer group altogether.

Assuming everything turns out well – the script is good, the direction exceptional and the publicity succeeds in tweaking the viewers’ interest – the film may still turn out to be a box office dud.

You see, a film is a commercial venture involving millions of rupees. So, perhaps, the producers are not wrong to back winning horses against untested ones.

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What is a screenplay?

Lots of people ask me what a screenplay is. So let’s get back to basics. For those who are familiar with the term, please bear with me.

Screenplay is just what it says: screen+play. Basically it is a description of how the story will play out on screen. It is essentially a story with time of day and location thrown in. Plus it is always written in the present tense.

One thing to remember here is that the term screenplay implies different things in Bollywood and in the rest of the world (ROW). In ROW, screenplay means a shooting script. It is a scene description and dialogues. In Bollywood, a screenplay is only a scene description. It becomes a script only after dialogues are thrown in.

Here’s a snap comparison:

Bollywood                          ROW

Screenplay                          Outline/Structure

Script/Dialogue Drft                   Screenplay/Script                                               

Here’s how a scene in a Bollywood screenplay would look like:

Int. Sakshi’s bedroom — Night

Sakshi is sleeping when her door opens softly and Rakesh enters. He gets into bed with her. Sakshi stirs and encounters another body. She wakes up. When she sees Rakesh her eyes open wide. She is about to scream when Rakesh clams a hand on her mouth.

Sakshi bites his hand and he curses in pain. Sakshi jumps up and runs to the door but he is up in a trice and follows. He lunges for her feet. Sakshi stumbles and falls. He is upon her in a flash. Sakshi struggles and wants to scream but he muffles her. He starts kissing her face, neck etc. Sakshi pleads with Rakesh to let her go. To no avail.

With one supreme effort she throws him off and drags herself to an IDOL OF LORD KRISHNA and throws herself at his feet. But he is upon her there as well. He pulls off her sari.  Sakshi desperately pleads with the divine charioteer for deliverance.

The soundtrack of shlokas from the Gita starts.

While they are struggling, in her blind panic her hand reaches the POOJA KI THALI where the DIYA and KUMKUM KA DIBBA is kept. She grabs it and flings it in Rakesh’s face. He is blinded by the hot OIL and the KUMKUM in his eyes. He screams and blindly gropes his way out. Sakshi is stunned for a moment.

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Here’s how it looks like in a finished script/dialogue draft:

Int. Sakshi’s bedroom — Night

Sakshi is sleeping when her door opens softly and Rakesh enters. He gets into bed with her. Sakshi stirs and encounters another body. She wakes up. When she sees Rakesh her eyes open wide. She is about to scream when Rakesh clams a hand on her mouth.

rakesh

(hisses)

Shhh! Shor machaya toh badnaami tumhaari hi hogi.

Sakshi bites his hand and he curses in pain. Sakshi jumps up and runs to the door but he is up in a trice and follows. He lunges for her feet. Sakshi stumbles and falls. He is upon her in a flash. Sakshi struggles and wants to scream but he muffles her. He starts kissing her face, neck etc.

Sakshi

Bhagwan ke liye mujhe jaane dijiye! Main aapki choti behen ki tarah hoon!

Rakesh

Behen toh nahin ho!

With one supreme effort she throws him off and drags herself to an IDOL OF LORD KRISHNA and throws herself at his feet. But he is upon her there as well. He pulls off her sari. 

Sakshi

Hey bhagwan meri raksha maro! Kripa karo bhagwan! Mujhe bacha lo!

rakesh

Aaj maa toh kya tumhaari pukaar koi nahin sunega.

Sakshi

Hey Krishna meri raksha karo!

The soundtrack of shlokas from the Gita starts.

While they are struggling, in her blind panic her hand reaches the POOJA KI THALI where the DIYA and KUMKUM KA DIBBA is kept. She grabs it and flings it in Rakesh’s face. He is blinded by the hot OIL and the KUMKUM in his eyes. He screams and blindly gropes his way out. Sakshi is stunned for a moment.

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(Please bear with me. I’m still trying to get the hang of formatting)

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