Exclusive: Getting a good screenplay writer is an accomplishment these days

 Y.Sunita Chowdhary

There are no script consultants is the Telugu film industry, there is no such Hollywood terminology but we do have screenplay experts. There is an abysmal dearth of screenplay writers here giving rise to few small start ups where a few writers offer their services and solutions to the script. While this is for small films, medium range movie producers when dissatisfied with the script ask a few screenplay writers in the industry to help the director; this comes not in the initial stage of writing but just when it is about to go to the sets. If there is a problem in a script, something is missing and they can’t find out what it is. If the director is new or if it is a remake and they want to make changes for the Telugu audience, they seek advice from seniors like Paruchuri Brothers, Satyanand and for this generation it is Gopi Mohan and a few more like Kona Venkat, Abburi Ravi, BVS Ravi. The writers are mostly associated with a few production houses and are called for repair work. These writers oblige despite having their regular screenplay writing for films and for which they get the credit on screen.

Most screenplay writers are called after notes are circulated to the media citing as to who’s doing the story, screenplay, dialogues and the rest. So at that stage when they arrive to chip in help, they can’t ask for screenplay credits because it has been announced in the media. They either get credit for “additional screenplay” or just a “thanks” on screen. If the work is more, they will give additional screenplay but if you come in just a few days before going to shoot, all the writer gets is some money and thanks card. That is because, most of the work has already been done by the director or the main screenplay writer. Screenplay writers don’t ask for “additional screenplay” because they run the risk of being summoned only for such repair work and they get paid very less. After Santosham became a hit, Gopimohan followed it up with another five successful films because of which he is constantly asked to repair or offer suggestions for production houses. He must have done that for around 60 to 90 films in addition to his regular screenplay work. Some screenplay writers like Vakkantam Vamsi don’t interfere or offer their services for films belonging to different banners. The focus actually is on who can execute the work promptly.

Production houses pay around a lakh for taking ideas from screenplay writers, this is for small budget films. Sometimes these writers offer free services. They give two or three ideas to the director and the director likes one of them. He develops it and calls the writer again. If there is a problem, it is rectified by the screenplay writer but there is no involvement in the story. These days around 90 percent films have directors who are writers and are ready with bound scripts. Though screenplay is done by those who tell the story, the directors and screenplay writers sometimes encourage young talent and have no objection giving credit to them on screen. Though there is a main writer, the rest get “Rachana Sahakaram”.  Sreedhar Seepana, Upendra Madhav, Anil Ravipudi at one time benefitted from such encouragement. Are directors of big budget films open to having a third party opinion on the script? Won’t there be ego issues? Long standing producers like Dil Raju, Allu Aravind, Suresh Babu give value to the writers and consider their suggestions.

Most established directors don’t appreciate logical and sensible suggestions, they say it is their style. Even when you tell them it won’t work, they will say “Hit kotti chupistam.” If the film tanks, the producer expresses his helplessness and blames it on the director. Screenplay is about how you connect the audience to the story even while crossing loopholes. It is about ‘what to be said where’ and also designing characters to create interest. Finally we ask Gopi Mohan, an established screenplay writer who says in Hollywood, if ten people contribute, all of them get the credits. “People think they can write any story but you can’t make it as a cinema. To make it as cinema and for the hero to accept it, one needs screenplay. The style of approach may be different but all writers know what screenplay is. There is a right way of application and the one who does it will become successful. We have to write as per their requirement, otherwise they will call someone else. It is important for the director to be in synch with the writer.”

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