When filmmakers Rajiv Menon, Pushkar-Gayatri, TJ Gnanavel, Rathna Kumar and R Parthiban came together for the Tamil Directors Adda, they spoke about everything ranging from the highs and lows that 2022 brought with it to navigating red tape in the OTT space. But the converging point in the conversation was about the emergence of writers in Kollywood.
Jai Bhim director TJ Gnanavel thinks there is a sea change in the way writers are acknowledged in Tamil cinema today. “Earlier, there used to be only five to six writers and only one or two would be doing projects. But today, all writers are engaged in different projects; props to OTT for opening up avenues for them. The nature of the industry was that the director was determined to do everything. However, the writers are breaking out in the industry now and are working on different projects and I am very happy about this.”
Agreeing with Gnanavel, R Parthiban adds that it is the right time for the writers in Kollywood, citing how Ponniyin Selvan, the brainchild of writer Kalki, drove audiences to the theatres, 70 years after he penned the story. But not many Tamil novels translate on screen. Gaytri opines that this is because most novels have a very descriptive style of narration, but when it comes to the story, the content will be only that of a short film length.
These are two different worlds but there is a dearth of writers who can bring together both these worlds of writing and pen an adapted screenplay, Rathna Kumar points out. “There are writers who are skilled at writing novels, soaked in literature. On the other side, there are writers who know the technique of writing and making films. However, there is a lack of writers who can effectively adapt the novels on screen. There are only a few people who can bridge the gap,” says the writer-director.
He further adds that Ponniyin Selvan is an example of how difficult it is to adapt a novel on screen. “Only few people like Vetrimaaran sir possess the knack of writing screenplays. It is a challenge to decide which portion to adapt from novel to screen and I believe writing an adapted screenplay is a skill that comes with experience. Even in the case of Ponniyin Selvan, it took multiple attempts to crack the code and make the film.”
Explaining what it takes for a writer to make it in the world of cinema, Rajiv Menon says, “There is a particular skill associated with writing a story, and another associated with writing a drama. However, only when a person is skilled at writing both stories and drama can he enter cinema, and he would be the one who can write a screenplay.”