One of my acquaintances long time back said – “I’ve an awesome idea for a film, it’ll be a huge blockbuster for sure but people just don’t value real talent. They’re just making crap movies, huh.” He actually narrated me the idea and it was really good. He also described to me a couple of scenes based on that idea and they were also superb. I was impressed. After that, I kept on meeting several people in my life who shared the same view point that they were potentially great writers because they had great ideas. At one point I actually believed that almost the entire world thinks that they’ve great story ideas, at least each one of them around me. And without a speck of doubt, most of them actually had great ideas which they thought, and so did I back then, that those great ideas could me made into great movie scripts, novels or full length play scripts. However, I was so wrong.
In 2009, I read a book on writing Screenplay by a master teacher. I learnt there how having one great idea is not sufficient to write a movie script. I actually sat with 2 of my creative friends Matte and Nikhil for several weeks, more than 8hrs daily to come up with about 15 good ideas. We finally chose one good idea and then developed it so that it could be made into a screenplay. After setting some ground rules of creative insights,discussions and conflicts, we actually made it like it like a celebration by cutting a red ribbon, having meetha and all that before starting off. After that, the weeks were really tiresome and sometimes frustrating but the entire exercise worked really well. Below is a picture of three of us cutting the ribbon before entering the room in which we were to sit for several weeks till we finalized upon a really great idea and then developed it into a proper story which could be then developed into a screenplay. This pic makes me nostalgic, really!
I finally went on write the screenplay and dialogues of that film (Time Nahin Hai). Last year I completed the final (from my side) draft of the script. It went through full fledged changes some 15 times, though the primary plot , the main idea, remained the same. No, I do not intend to say that I worked for 3 long years to complete it because there was a long period when I did not touch it and was working on another movie (www.withlovedelhi.com) which happened just after I had written probably the 6th draft of the screenplay. It is fashionable and sounds intriguing to know that a film has been written in 3 years or 10 years but trust me, if you count the hours and divide it by 8 (for one working day), you would be shocked to know the actual time spent. However, yes, I did spend some 12-13 months in total when I was actually engrossed in researching, writing, correcting, getting feedback, then again correcting and finally deciding that this is it. You have to decide otherwise there’s no end to improvement. I finally completed the script last October and in December managed to give it (the entire screenplay) to a huge filmstar (plus a great actor – sad that I need to add this in Bollywood) to have a read. To my delight, the feedback on the script was very good. Coming from a seasoned and an exceptional actor, I was floating like a balloon in the air. However, somehow the things didn’t work out on other aspects and he could not work as an actor on the project. So the film now is in a hanging state till it gets another filmstar ready to give a green signal not just to the script but also to acting in it. That’s how it works here, scripts rarely decide whether a film will be made, but a filmstar does. That’s another story altogether though.
Anyways, coming back to the topic. Now that I’ve written a full length feature film and over 15 feature films’ stories, I realize one thing about that ‘I’ve a great idea’ kind of thought. In most of the cases when people claim to have a great idea, they actually do have a great idea. However, in almost all the cases, that great idea would be interesting for the audience or the reader only for about 10-20% of the total time. For example, people who have a great idea for a film, can use that idea to make about 10-20min of the 2hrs film, rest of the film can’t even be written with that one great idea. If a person hasn’t ever written a full length and detailed novel, film screenplay or play script, it will be very difficult for him to understand that it’s an illusion that his great idea can help him write a great script or novel.
People may argue that every great film or novel can be summarized in 2-3 simple lines, sometimes only one. Yes, that’s true but they cannot be written with only those 2-3 lines. You need to make a structure of the script, imagine all important plot points and key scenes and then start writing the script. That involves, not one great idea, but at least 15-20 good ideas as well to keep the novel or script interesting. Not that a good idea is useless but it’s not enough if you’re not making a short film or an advertisement. So if are really serious about being a good writer which you think you are, go ahead and actually write a full length and detailed novel or script, not just one idea. Till the time you’ve done that, it’s just arrogance and plain stupidity to think that you’re even a potential writer (forget the adjective ‘good’ or ‘great’) or to ridicule writers who actually write instead of just intellectualizing. As someone said “One idea on paper is worth a million in the head.” It’s high time you wear Nike shoes and “Just Do it”. I always say this and will repeat again “Be a good writer on the paper, not in your head.”
Writing is blissful and if proper effort is put, I firmly believe that anybody, yes anybody, can be a good writer with time. As parents used to say till late 90s – “Chitthi likhte rehna beta“, so keep writing till the end!