First Draft… Scene One
Galatta Cinema|November 2016

The door creaks open… A man slowly creeps into the dark room… He is looking for something… A street light streams mildly through the window.

All movies begin with a story. The best movies are made with a terrific screenplay. Screenwriters are one of the most underrated participants of making a film. If the film does not fare well at the box office, the story line is blamed. If the same film is successful at the box office, all the credit goes to the director and male lead.

In the year 2007, we saw Hollywood coming to a grinding halt when the WGA (Writers Guild of America) went on a twelve-week strike, demanding profit shares from the Studios/Independent Producers who bought their scripts. They stated that a film’s success was mostly based on the story/screenplay. All movie and television productions came to a full stop.

This is the power of writers in the Western movie industry. In the Indian field, the writers are left far behind. Most of the black and white era dealt with first rate stories and screenplays. Later in the late 80’s and the whole of the 90’s and early 2000’s, we saw a fall in this area. The filmmakers chose to dwell on glamour and commercial quotient.

This was the standard screenwriting format – six songs, five fights and a few compulsory scenes with family, alongside romance. Rare actors like Kamal Haasan breezed along with a film like Thevar Magan. Filmmaker Mani Ratnam also ensured that he had solid subjects and wrote terrific screenplays and always explored different subjects each time in his films, from the underworld in Nayakan, to terrorism in Roja and the Hindu - Muslim riots in Bombay through this era; continuing it with a young romance in Alaipayuthe as the century turned.

Most of the filmmaking was shaken with mediocre screenplays. Keeping the fire burning alongside was Shankar. Not only did he write good screenplays and choose different subjects each time, from corruption in Gentleman to a freedom fighter fighting corruption in Indian; and once again political corruption in Mudhalvan… However, he ensured that he collaborated with the much celebrated late Sujatha for writing his films.

Sujatha had initially penned Robot, which was to be directed by Shankar starring Kamal Haasan and Preity Zinta; and was to be produced by A.M. Ratnam. But the project was shelved due to various reasons. This baby later developed into Enthiran and was released in 2010, starring Rajinikanth. The film was a big success at the box office.

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