What exactly is world-building in screenwriting? It means creating rules in any world (contemporary or fantasy) that the characters follow consciously or unconsciously. Time travel is a sub-genre, where the writer involves a time machine. One can determine the uniqueness of a film based on the rules it sets for a character to undergo successful or unsuccessful time-travel. Vada Chennai’s world-building rule sets Anbu as Rajan’s successor. Similar characters, plots, conflicts, dialogues… everything appears twice in the film. There is also weak, unintentional world-building in films where city people get shown as bad people and rural people turn out to be the heroes.
The primary rule of the world in the Kannada film Dia is that the main character Dia does not end up marrying the love of her life!
Here are the plot points that conform to this rule:
- When Dia tries to interact with Rohith for the first time, she comes to know that Rohith has already left for Korea.
- After Rohith returns from Korea, and both fall in love, they start discussing marriage. They meet with an accident, and Dia believes Rohith is dead.
- After Dia finds love for the second time and goes to Mumbai to discuss her wedding with Adi, Rohith magically reappears.
- After Dia finally decides that Adi is the one and lets Rohith know her final decision, she leaves Mumbai, only to see the train run over Adi.
It is to writer-director KS Ashoka’s credit that he did not care about people judging him for choosing to conform to the rule that he created for the film. I get why some people judged the film based on its ending. Films get made so that the audience sees the hero put up a good fight, overcome obstacles and end up creating his destiny. However, take The Dark Knight, for example. Bruce Wayne does win in the climax, but gets seen as the villain of Gotham. This ending sets up the audience for the final installment of the trilogy.
Most scenes set the audience up for something, but the writer of Dia manages to give a twist to what we expect as the final outcome. Here are some of the plot twists. We probably have five scenes that set us up for something, but there’s a twist; most conform to the primary rule of the film:
- Rohith leaves for Korea
- Rohith returns from Korea
- Rohith also loved Dia from Day 1 in college
- Rohith and Dia both meet with an accident
- Adi gets surprised by his mom at the motorbike store
- Dia surprises Adi by visiting his hometown
- Rohith magically reappears from nowhere
- Adi’s mother dies
- Adi dies
The storyline feels similar to an 80s love triangle, but gets treated in a contemporary way due to these twists. For the climax to work and also conform to the rule of the film’s world, the writer has to determine why Adi, such a cheerful person, decides to end his life. To justify Adi’s decision, the writer creates a sub-plot about the relationship shared between the mother and the son. We have two scenes where Adi decides to read the letter to his mother but is cut short by some random person. He did not understand his mother as well as she understood him. The guilt from this realisation and the thought that he could have saved his mother, and the realisation that Dia is not going to be with him, makes him take the decision. The writer ends up writing a nice chunk with the mother-son scenes to ensure that the conclusion does not come across as distracting.
One of the best things about the film’s writing is that I never imagined I would be rooting for a couple that’s different from the one I was rooting for in the first half-hour. It takes immense skill to write two great love stories involving the same person with two different men and change whom we choose to support by the time the film ends. Even the proceedings slow down towards the end, so that we have enough time to make up our mind about who Dia should be with so that we become speechless once we see the final shot.
Dia is one film where the four primary characters are so well fleshed out to meet the primary world-building rule and also make the twists feel believable. There is happiness, sadness, love, regret, pain, and so many more emotions.