TAMIL NADU

Where have all the scripts gone?

CHENNAI. SEPT. 6. Remakes always make news in the media.

If they click, there are stories on how and why remakes work. And if they do not, there are stories about why they don't.

This report traces the lives and times of filmmakers and stars who spend their time boarding planes, looking not for locations, but for films, scripts and fresh ideas, negotiating and buying remake rights of successful movies.

And when they cannot, they spend time making trips to the nearest DVD library looking for, what is today officially known as, inspiration.

It is called the `Quest for the perfect script.'

"It happens all the time. Sometimes, we take good scripts from Hindi and sometimes they from us," says Saran, director of `Vasool Raja MBBS'. "It has been so right from the days of `Don' and `Billa'. `Munnabhai MBBS' was a very good script. I took it because I liked the theme. Besides, even if it is a remake, the challenge lies in how it is interpreted in our language and adapted to our culture," he adds.

The dialogue-writer for `Vasool Raja', Crazy Mohan, who is among the rare breed called scriptwriters, defends remakes: "Valmiki wrote Ramayanam. Kambar also did so. Same story. But when Kambar wrote it, he added a lot of interesting details ... I won't say it is a remake. It is a further embellishment."

`Ghilli' director Dharani calls it "re-creating another film." "I didn't use the same shots or just re-make it. I took it up because I could relate to the script."

"There are no unique stories left. There are very few stories. How you tell the story — the screenplay is what makes a film click. What might seem new to you would have already been done somewhere someplace. It's just that a new generation watches it and thinks that it is new."

Actor Suriya, who has been waiting for the last four months for that perfect script, agrees.

"I have heard so many scripts and I have also seen how it finally comes out as a film. How do you know that the film will come out exactly how it is narrated? Which is why you need a good director. But the problem is scriptwriters insist on directing good stories themselves and good directors do not want somebody else's script... they say they cannot relate to it," he explains.

One-liners

What does the industry define as a script? "It is not like in Hollywood. Here, you first write the one-liner...if there are 80 scenes, I write the 80 lines and then I start writing the dialogue portions for each scene," says Saran. "But it is all open to change. Without spontaneity, the film will not be good."

Dharani concurs. "I work with scripts. But, it keeps changing on the sets. It is not a Bible. I have a very different style. At times I use the script. At times, I do not. No rules. At the end of the day, it is not about the script or a story. It is about creating an experience for the viewer. A good film is a one that runs. Films that do not are not good."

Why is it not possible to stick to scripts? "When you shoot, the situation is very unpredictable. What will you do when it rains? You have to change what is in the script," he says.

Cheran, who won critical acclaim with `Autograph', had written a 400-page script for the film. Shankar, Gautham Menon, Kamal Hasan and Mani Ratnam are among the select few who actually use a bound-script and go by the book.

Encouraged by the practice, technicians like Ravi K. Chandran too insist on scripts before accepting projects.

Crazy Mohan believes that the basic problem is that successful scriptwriters turn directors and then fade out. "We have had a lot of scriptwriters. Here, they become directors. Visu and K. Balachander were very good scriptwriters and they also became extremely successful as directors. But they are exceptions. I do not want to direct because I want to continue as a writer. Once you become a director, there are more responsibilities. It could affect the intensity you had in writing earlier," adds Mohan.

Still in `Vasool Raja' mode, he draws parallels between having specialist doctors for various parts of the body and specialists for various departments of filmmaking.

"In my opinion, a scriptwriter should be a scriptwriter. But then, new scriptwriters are not treated well. If they are given as much as recognition like I have been given, even they would deliver good scripts."

Suriya provides another perspective when he says, "It is the directors who make a film. Good directors can salvage even bad scripts. And a good script can go haywire with a bad director."

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