From producing and writing shows on Radio Mirchi to scripting reality shows, writers Siddharth Singh and Garima Wahal have been in showbiz for a while now. With Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Ram Leela (2013), they made their foray into films. Since then, they’ve written Raabta (2017) and Akshay Kumar’s upcoming film, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha. In a chat, they broke down the two ways in which scripts see the light of day – Ram Leela, which was Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s idea or a three-line pitch that convinced Neeraj Pandey to let them pen the story of Toilet: Ek Prem Katha.
Here, Siddharth and Garima give practical tips to aspiring writers looking for a break in the movies.
NETWORKING CAN BE MORE IMPORTANT THAN TALENT
Siddharth: Networking is the most important thing. After a point, your talent becomes secondary. How long you sustain in the industry is based on your talent but how you get a meeting with the producers is based on the people you know.
Garima: Iss sheher mein har koi ek script leke ghoom raha hai! Being on set is always better, because who knows who you may be able to narrate your script to. It’s a place to network as well! It gives you access, because ek normal aadmi ke paas contacts kahan se aayenge?
Siddharth: But there are others, who have been that stubborn and sat outside production houses for weeks and finally gotten a job there. So there can be different ways in which you land your first big break.
BE PREPARED TO FIGHT FOR CREDIT
Garima: There’s no job security at all. Behind closed doors, everyone praises your work saying it’s great but outside nobody will put in a word for you. There’s not even enough spoken credit that writers get. We have learnt it the tougher way – we have to protect our work by putting it in the contract. Our names are not in the graphics of the trailer, it’s somewhere in the end slate. In our own way we have been trying to mention in the contracts that our names should be there in the publicity stills.
Siddharth: The contract is not the only way to protect yourself. After we put in all our clauses, there’s a final clause which says – everything we have stated is at the discretion of the producer for perpetuity. What we have written gets negated.
KEEP AN ELEVATOR PITCH HANDY
Siddharth: You need to be able to pitch an idea in one-line and convince the producer. Even if it is an ad film idea, that also should be so simple that you should be able to explain it in two lines.
Garima: If you aren’t able to explain the idea in two lines, it’s not worth anybody’s time. Try narrating that one or two-line idea to people around you and see the kind of reactions you get. If anyone is interested in knowing more about your idea, that’s when you have cracked it.
PUSH THE BOUNDARIES
Garima: Keep revising the script. Once you’ve finished writing it in a flow, take a break and look at it like you’ve never read it before. Approach it with a fresh perspective. Push the characters to their boundaries. Don’t stick to preconceived notions of how the characters should be. Don’t be scared how it will look on screen, because the producer and editors will dilute the writing. About 50% of what you’ve written will reach the screen.
BE OPEN TO FEEDBACK
Siddharth: It’s most important to detach from the work. We have to learn to let go. We are very selfish. Any actor who comes and gives us input, we take it. We believe in not being stubborn about making changes. The most valuable feedback can come from anywhere, so be open to it.