Writers should also get a share of profit or gratification after film's success: Chintan Gandhi

Having written scripts and dialogues for many films in his 10 year career, writer Chintan Gandhi shares his journey and views on what should change in the industry and for him, in his career.

  • Writers should also get a share of profit or gratification after film's success: Chintan Gandhi

Passion is all it takes for one to be successful, despite being educated in a different subject or stream. We have seen many in the industry who have made themselves successful, be it acting, direction, lyricist, cinematographer or a writer. One among them who has made his way through, purely with hard work and dedication is a former financial research analyst, Chintan Gandhi, who has seen both the extremes of the industry with films like Shor in the city, Singh is Bling, Haseena Parker and others.

After a brief telephonic conversation, we decide to meet on a Sunday evening at a quaint coffee shop in Andheri. I reach 20 minutes ahead of the schedule with a friend and call for my cup of filter coffee. Clock ticks and he arrives dot-at-5, as promised. I don’t do this usually, because I find it weird, but this was an exception for unknown reasons. I greet him as usual and shoot my first question the second minute he comes.

Jigar Ganatra (JG): What made you choose writing? I ask, and there we begin.

Chintan Gandhi (CG): Writing was always a part of me. The organization I was working for, was very supportive always as they knew I had the skill. Eventually, after a few years, I got bored with my 9-5 job, and when I chose to step out, they were happy that I was heading to pursue something of my choice. One of my friend’s father knew I was interested and the skill, and so he offered to experience film writing, because of which I was mentored by Ravi Kemmu, an associate director with the renowned Shyam Benegal. For two years, I did that and learned a lot. I was actively a part of the theatre until then, especially in college. He liked the dialogues I had written, but there were some changes. But working since then has helped me polish my skill. It helped me start something. Work since then got me more work, and my boat is sailing today.

JG: You have written films in various genres. Which one do you think is the most comforting?

CG: Every writer has a comfortable genre and something that is challenging. For me it is comedy, but having said that, I’m also close to drama and thriller. Whenever I think about these two, the approach changes completely, which is different to when I write comedy. One is more driven by situations and characters, and the other is plot focused. The common factor in both is engaging, and that’s what interests me in both. Working in the initial days and conversing with Shyam Benegal in the 80s helped me clear the air, he said, there is no film which does not have audience in the world. One needs to know the audience and target right.

JG: Your career started as a dialogue writer for Kunal Kemmu starrer 99. It has been 10 years, and the scenario in writing and producing quality content has changed. What are your thoughts on it?

CG: I agree with some aspects in the change. Today, writers are able to write what they observe and feel is true. There is a relatability. However, I believe the audience was always evolved. They were smart as consumers because they always knew what they are paying for – be it content driven film or not. What has changed is the choice, as films are not star-driven anymore. Awareness is high today and word of mouth works. There have been films which made money because of this new approach, and this is a change for good.

JG: On the same point, do you think producers and collaborators are open to trying a new formula or taking a risk? Are there challenges writers face during the pitch?

CG: Back in time, there were films made with a star in mind. Films or characters were written keeping some face in reference. Most producers today ask largely about the stories, which is good. As a writer, I believe it is fun to collaborate with filmmakers who have different thinking every time during a meeting or a discussion. It helps us with every role and script, and it makes our take on storytelling stronger. Maybe that’s the reason why it takes longer to write such scripts today. Talking about my experience. I take good 4-6 months to finalise the script post revisions, and in many cases, the plot keeps changing and I keep working on different drafts. I also involve myself in dubbing and shoots.

JG: Have there been instances where you had written something, and it was changed by the director keeping the star or a certain situation in mind? How does it feel in such cases?

CG: Seldom it happens. See, when it comes to comedy, it is difficult to convince as it might sound funny to one, but not the other. This is not the case in other genres. Filmmakers have a vision and that should be considered and respected, as they know how it works in the commercial aspect. As writers, we put down our thoughts, but it’s the director who takes the call when it comes to treatment. This is good in a way because they understand the nuances. However, this said, they are open to suggestions.

JG: Technology has given the freedom to express. The world is open today for writers and content creators. Considering this, do you wish to write for some other medium(s)?

CG: I’d love to explore the digital mediums, as the audience are exposed to international films and subjects which cannot be written with restrictions. It is a medium that gives us writers the liberty to express without hindrance. I am open to television with finite series as long series gets exhausting. I’d love to write for theatres. But the issue is time. Writing for films is occupying my time, but I need to catch up.

JG: Just to ensure a safe play, have you ever written keeping a star, director or any other personality-based aspect in mind? Where do you draw your inspiration from?

CG: I never write a film with a star cast or actor in mind. However, when I’m writing I come up with options. This is because if the star isn’t available then I have to tweak it or compromise it with someone else. I draw inspiration from watching other films and stories from different genres. Our industry has given many fantastic gangster films. I love how films are written and directed internationally, as they focus on different aspects as they are fresh for us Indian audience.

JG: Do you think writers are given an unfair treatment in the industry? How does the writer community want this to change?

CG: It was different a few years back, but the writing scenario has changed since then. Unlike Hollywood, there is no point system for writers in Bollywood. Writers there are given royalty and profit percentage. Here in India, no royalty involved after the film releases and we get paid for the script and story. But if you understand the skill, the story and script are what works for the film, along with the direction and other aspects. I have heard that some prducers pay bonus post the release if the film works, which is good, and this should continue for the scenario to change. I strongly believe, writers should also get a share of the profit.

JG: On what aspects do you as a writer judge success? Does Box Office matter?

CG: I believe if the film is good, people will watch. Box office does matter if the thought is purely commercial or the writer has been honest with the script with some money-making ideas in mind. However, today is not important to have a star or a commercial cinema to succeed at the Box Office. Newton is a classic example, as the film was thought-provoking and relatable. Movies are purely a medium of entertainment. In many cases these days, the film works post the first weekend, where the word of mouth helps. What should matter for the makers is the promise, which needs to be delivered, as the audience is open to appreciating experimentation.

JG: What are your future interests and how are you planning your growth as a writer?

CG: My aspirations are to be a director and that’s the skill I’m developing. To take this to a next level, I've started a company named Deemension 6 where I want to grow focus on content creation and filmmaking. I have plans of stepping into direction next year with a story I have written. It is a story about underdogs where I hope I can get Rajkummar Rao and Paresh Rawal in mind, as both have impeccable timing and understanding of comedy, which I believe will add a lot to the film. I would also love to experiment in writing for Gujarati films and I’m happy to produce if I come across a strong script. Regional cinema is growing and a good space to venture into. Having said this, my dream is to write for ace director Rajkumar Hirani and work with Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions ■

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