Thursday, April 23, 2009

Nani teri Morni ko…

In one of my plays, RIKAMA RANGMANCH (An empty stage) yet to be staged, I created a character of grandmother who does not like to play with her grand children. She is one of those who do not look beyond themselves. She wants more milk with more sugar and more cream. She does not hate anyone or scheme against her daughter-in-law. She is just self-obsessed. She has never learnt to give in life…

I would never love such a grand mother, but I love her as a character…

A similar character in my life is NANI of UTTARAN. I have been struggling to give her some shape and make her as real as possible. More often it did not happen. But when I was recently writing a crucial scene, yet to be aired, I started thinking about her.

I went back to the scenes which we had created in the past 3 / 4 months. It was like a puzzle to put things together and I could see her more clearly.. Four of us were giving her attributes and attitudes...

Sharing with you Nani, ably portrayed by a veteran actor, Pratima Kazmi.

We have seen her son Pushkar scheming, lying and cheating. He is dishonest to the chore. Where does it come from?

And why is Pushkar like that?

To me, Pushkar is just an extension of Nani. Nani has never tried to find the reasons of failures of Pushkar but on the other hand she always tried to cover up things. She tries to do the same for Tapasya, but Jogi being a better parent does not allow her to do it. Truth, values, honesty has no place in Nani’s life.

One question that haunts me is: Does she love anybody?
And my answer is “No.” Remember I am talking about a character we have seen on TV. Had there been a little bit of love in her, she would have helped the person she loved. She did not take responsibility of her son. She never tried to change his behavior. She never gives Tapasya what a loving grandmother gives. It’s not toys but something much bigger and better. She is such a person that if she loves someone, the person will be destroyed completely. He/ she will also shut the windows towards the world and live in an imaginary world full of enemies. (Divya was influenced by her for a long time and was on the same path. Luckily she has a support of a husband like Jogi Thakur.)

Did she share the lottery thing with either son or daughter-in-law?

No. She did not tell Divya also. That means she is lalchi to the core.

The transaction analysis says that we are scripted in childhood and continue to behave in the same manner even when grow up. It’s very difficult to wipe out parental impressions.

Let’s look at Pushkar’s relationship with his wife. If honesty, integrity, trust and caring are the criteria Pushkar gets 0/10. Rohini on the other hand is far better a person. Though on surface she looks stupid. For her Pushkar is her world. For Pushkar neither his mother nor his wife… !! He lives for himself. Where does it come from? His mother!! A selfish, self-centered person. She might not be negative. But her actions lead to only negative results.

Let’s compare her with Jogi as a parent. Since Jogi is the provider, and he has ample to provide, he is never scared of loosing things. He can be cheated but that will not stop him from being good to others. Because he believes in goodness of human being and knows how to punish if someone tries to exploit him/ his feelings. He has never allowed Divya or Tapasya to emotionally exploit him. He reasons out the things.

Now the last question:

Why does nani hate Damini so much?
Why is so angry with Ichchha?

I assume that Nani belonged to a poor family. All her life she has not seen prosperity but has not accepted this fact. She has been dreaming of living in haveli and ruling people. She might have been humiliated, insulted by her in-laws. And she might have learnt a lesson to survive. Attack is better than defence. Revenge is better than forgivingness. So when she sees Damini and Ichchha getting a better life, all her pain comes back to her. And she wants to take revenge. She wants to destroy. She cannot believe that others are trustworthy because she herself is not.

When we see so many flaws in her personality, we also should understand, deep down there is pain and suffering. And Nani has never dealt with it. A day will come when she will cry like a 5 year old girl, who could do nothing when all her toys were broken by unruly brothers. On the contrary she was the one who was beaten by her parents for no fault of hers. She will be another Ichchha in some other haveli.

If this child comes out someday, Nani’s character will be complete.


Aaj itna hi!!

Kuda Hafiz.

Can You Tell A story?

This morning I got an sms from my brother. Visit

I'm sharing this information with you all. Indian Institute of Technology in association with Rajkamal International will be conducting six days workshop in Screenplay writing.

Deadline: May 5, 2009
For any further queries on submission/applications, email

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Characters with real flesh and bones

One of the limitations of the characters in TV shows is that they are not believable. They are not real. There are either blacks who are scheming all the time or they are whites sacrificing and caring 24*7.

But there is one series that has really done justice to its characters. If one has to think of Balika Vadhu, one cannot exclude the character of Dadi Sa. You love her for everything she does or says and she has a reason to be like that. She is not there to scheme and take revenge. One must give credit to the writer of the series, Purnendu Shekhar, who has tried to change the portrayal of bahus and saasu maans of TV. Balika vadhu brought in a change. Had Anandi been fighting against Savita of Kyunki sass… bhi , the series would have been a tearjerker… (and we would have been watching those jerky reactions of the characters several times in each scene.) When you have no story, you go over the top.

What an amazing actor Surekha Sikri is!! I remember she was in a good TV series, Sehar, on star plus in 2000. But that was before “K” series entered the TV. In “K” kind of series good actors were not in demand. I mean the negative characters were so over the top, that subtlety of any kind had no scope. No disrespect to those who played the roles or wrote them, but those were the days for Komolika, Savita and Ramola Sikand.

Coming back to the character of Dadi Sa!!

I love watching Surekha Sikri. Her body language, posture, diction, expressions, her understanding of her character and her ability to portray it is unmatched on today’s TV. She stays with us. And unlike the negative characters on TV, you don’t hate her.

I was watching carefully the response of Dadi Sa to Saguna’s widowhood. And it was unbelievably true. She is compassionate, caring, strong and authoritative. When Saguna inflicts punishment on herself, there is no character hiding behind those K curtains, with vampish or villianious smile on his/ her face. A real story needs real characters. (I want to mention few characters of Jane kya baat hui who simply don’t fit into the story and do more harm to the story just by being there. But about such characters, will write later.)

Let’s compare her with Amma of Na Aana is Des Lado. Characterisation of Amma reminds one of the Shabana Azmi’s portrayal of God Mother. I feel God Mother had more depth and more colors. Remember the picturization of the song, “ Raja ki Kahani Purani ho gayi..” She drinks and enjoys and sings and dance. It’s more human. Though Amma has also been done responsibly by Meghna Malik, yet it will take some more time and some good writing to make her really real. The problem there is the men have no say in any affair of the family. Balikavadhu’s men are also ruled by Dadi Sa, but in their own world when they are with their families, they have a point of view. Even Gehna’s husband voices his opinion about Dadi Sa’s atrocity on the newly widowed Sugna.

Though I was expecting Dadi sa to change gradually and was not happy about Maasi (Farida Jalal ) coming in the story, but after watching few episodes, I felt her character is equally justified. She brings a fresh air of change in the old mansion. The scene where they make mirchi ka achar touches one’s heart. It’s simple, real and warm.

(There is one more scene, where Sugna's dahej is kept in a room and Anandi and Jagisha enter the room to discover that there is a motor cycle also. Dadi sa finds out that they have opened the room. The scene was so simple and so touching. I loved it.)

There is another old character, Nani played by Pratima Kazmi in Uttaran. Actor has been doing her job well. But …

Since I am writing the dialogues… I feel responsible for her characterization.
I find no justification for her negativity..
Why does she hate Ichchha so much?
Does she really love Divya and her daughter, Tapasya?
Is she from a very poor family and has gone through lot of humiliation in her early days?
She exists in the story just to create difficult circumstances for Ichchha and Damini.

I think we have not given her a soul at all.
No matter how well Pratima Kazmi does her job, the character has no depth and dimension.

To me Nani neither loves her son, nor Divya. She is one of those characters who have no experience of real love in life. They consider relationship as a social responsibility and they are not honest in any relationship. If given a chance she will spoil Tapsya, the way she spoilt Pushkar. Because Nani kind of characters cannot see anything beyond them.

We see in our lives also so many such relations, where is there is no emotional bonding.

This criticism is with a purpose.

We as writers need to give space to all the characters in the story. We cannot be partial to few characters. Each one has to have some contribution in the development of plot and subplots. Otherwise no matter what the writers write and actors do, they will not be able to win the hearts of the audience. The best examples of such writing can bee seen in many of the plays of Vijay Tendulkar. His characters are not contrived and they are not ruled by the writer. He never takes side or is judgmental about the characters.

Why am I writing it? Just want to initiate a debate about writing on and for TV.

After all millions watch what we write, direct and act.

I hope you would love to debate about it.



Thursday, April 9, 2009

We create the characters … Really?

There is one interesting novel in Marathi, “Gautam Chi Goshta” (Story of Gautam).
In the novel, 5/6 characters create a fictitious character, Gautam. For the first few chapters we start beleiveing the fact that Gautam is their creation. But in the last chapter Gautam says, "I created these characters." And the success of the author is in his capacity to write in such a way that, by the end of it we don’t know what the truth is.

TV, unfortunately, does not give so much of freedom to any writer.

But what amuses me is that many of us who write 3/ 4 series a week don’t even watch any of them. We just treat ourselves as stenographers.

If we don’t want to watch out work, how can we expect others to do the same.

After all… writing is passion and not just profession.

Isn’t it?

Enough for the day.

More about the relation between characters and writers later in the same space.

Love you all.


Friday, April 3, 2009

Who decides what the characters would do?

While writing for my most favorite writing assignment for TV: Utaran..
(No double “t” at least when one has a choice!! )

I face this question quite often. How is Ichchha going to behave? What will be Damini’s reaction to a given situation? As a dialogue writer, the situation is provided by the screenplay writer. And then one faces the task of giving words to the characters. I am learning it through this professional assignment.

When I was involved in writing the promos with the colors OAP team (Monica Nair, Shyamkant Dhaorkar and Ashish Mathur), I had a wish that I should get a chance to write dialogues too. Subconscious had a strong desire and the color programming team gave me this fabulous opportunity.

Back to my question:

Who decides what the characters would do and say?

My answer is the characters decide it. How successfully one does is for others to judge, especially the audience. But as Chekhov once wrote to his friend and contemporary writer, M. Gorky…

Write, write write! It is necessary. Even should the play fail, don't let that discourage you.

One keeps on writing dialogues.

4 episodes a week!!

And I am lucky I am not working with a team where each writer writers a separate track. It might be feasible for those who have command on their technique. I don’t have it. I am learning it.
Each time there is an emotional scene between Jogi, Tapasya, Damini, Ichchha and Divya, I loose confidence. Few scene I keep on postponing for they drain me out. I will always remember a scene when Ichchha is caught and punished by Damini. I had no choice but to let Damini decide as a mother what is the best punishment. Screenplay demanded her to slap. She was unwilling to do it. She didn’t lift her hand and threw Ichchha out of the house for few hours. This is worse than slapping.

It was a long afternoon.
Scene 39/12 (For audience the episode numbers are different. )
It took me 6/7 hours just to write one scene.
But satisfaction was for ever. On top of it when someone from the creative team calls to pat you, one feels top of the world. It’s more than the pay cheque you get.

(This is one thing that writer seeks, “appreciation”, but in today’s jet set go speed of rolling software for Television, no one has time to do it.. and some times even look back at one’s work. But that is the reality of today’s world. )

Apologies for wandering away from the question….

Who decides…

In TV I don’t know. But in theatre I have read the process of writing shared by the playwrights.

More about it later... Today or tomorrow