Farrukh Dhondy on why he can switch genres while writing but can never direct
Farrukh Dhondy has been busy writing to meet multiple deadlines. The London-based writer is in India, working on two diverse scripts — one, the story of Ram for Akbar Khan’s next project and the next, a thriller. “Writing a contemporary take on mythology for Akbar Khan, I found myself thinking why Indian film-makers copy from international cinema when they can draw so much from the wealth of stories in India. I’ve been writing in Bangalore for the last few days and in between, meeting deadlines for a magazine column before I left for Hyderabad,” he says, over a hot cuppa at Ravindra Bharati. The world premiere of Bollox, adapted for the stage by Dramatic Circle Hyderabad, based on his earlier short story, brings Dhondy to the city.
The premise of Bollox, he shares, stems from his observations about scams that occurred in the country. “India is a nation of scams and I gave a witty spin to the idea, particularly the organ donation scams. Dramatic Circle Hyderabad approached me saying they wanted to adapt my story for the stage. They introduced themselves as an amateur theatre group and said they cannot pay me a large sum for the story. I told them ‘just do a good job of it’. And I am here to show my support to them.”
Dhondy is forthcoming about the truth that not many directors do a good job of the written word, though. “I haven’t faced that problem in plays since directors stay true to what you have written. When I write for a film, I am aware that it isn’t my baby alone. The child will be shared by many foster parents.” He’s worked with film-makers like Mani Ratnam and Shekar Kapur and lauds Mani Ratnam for his contemporary take on the story of Karna in his film Thalapathy. He is sore when he recalls how his story and the script were changed beyond recognition in Subhash Ghai’s Kisna. “I recognised my name in the title credits and that was all. The scenes, the dialogues… nothing was the same.”
Living in London and working on British and Indian projects, he explains, “is like having an international job and prefer that approach. I am also working on an adaptation of V.S. Naipaul’s work.” Penning novels (the latest one being The Snake), film scripts, plays, columns and Mahabharata for Star Plus, Dhondy declares he has no time for writer’s block. “I write for money, for my bread and butter. I never tire of writing.” He is clear that he doesn’t want to direct films or plays. “Unless I have personality flaws, why would I direct? I don’t want to deal with actors and actresses.”SANGEETHA DEVI DUNDOO