GW: That was our mistake.
SS: Sometimes, the sensibility of a film does not gel with our sensibilities, especially in Bollywood. There were a few things we wanted to change, but koi badalna nahin chahta tha. So we were caught in that.
GW: Of course, we finished the screenplay and handed it over.
SS: Also, the professional thing you were referring to… we are not sure about that yet because we have had only two releases.
AR: Himanshu, do you want talk about your creative choices?
HS: Hell yeah, if someone asks me to write it all over again, I will but after a point, I get bored of my own pattern, the same style of approaching the subject, the same style of writing scenes, the same way of adding to the characters and their lines. Mujhe toh darr lagne lagaa hai ki I get bored of my own work, I can’t even watch my own work.
AR: Please tell us how you plan to change your approach to bring in freshness.
HS: I am trying but it’s not like I am doing much.
AR: I think just acknowledging that is by itself a breakthrough. We all go through the pattern.
HS: Absolutely, I mean, I started acknowledging it once I was done with Raanjhanaa. I was, like, dammit yaar, isse zyaada mere paas ideas nahin hai and I was, like, let me write a drastically different story, ki ek out and out doosri duniya mein jaa ke ek comedy type script karun. But once I am done, what next? So there is this strange void that I feel. Even I know exactly which scene follows which.
AR: Okay, now that is dangerous. Tell me, what would you have done differently if you had to rewrite Tanu Weds Manu Returns?
HS: Nothing, because it is a very shallow story, but in Ranjhanaa, I pushed my director into a world (politics) where he was weak. Aanand (L Rai) is not a Delhi University product, or a JNU product or a Presidency College product. Engineering padha hua hai usne. So he is very apolitical. The 30-minute chunk towards the second half, where Dhanush is in Delhi and there is that whole political build-up, I think I went wrong while writing that and Aanand too missed out on directing it. But I think by the time the climax came, jahaan pe woh ladka ladki vaapas aaye, jahan pe woh relationship based hua Aanand ne film phir pakad li. It’s where Aanand got back to his original dynamics. You know, mere saath badi problem hai ke mujhe hardbound itni jaldi nahin banana chahiye tha. I try to change my habit. I am a little lazy and I made a huge mistake while writing. I didn’t give Aanand any written material earlier. Had I done that, he too would have been better prepared and I too would have lived a little more in that world. Tanu Weds Manu is not a serious story. It wasn’t, like, yaar badi bhaari story hai.
AR: Tushar, I am sure it’s not just you while writing or the director while listening to the story, who is laughing. Even the audience is consumed with laughter. And yet are there things you would have done differently if you were to redo the same films? Are there films you have flatly refused to do?
TH: There are mistakes we all make. I feel my first film, Masti, was a genre no one was trying at that point. It was a sex comedy. My parents wanted me to get married at that time and Masti had just released, and the girl’s family asked what I did for a living. Someone said I had written Masti, after which they refused to meet me. In the meantime, I also had some successful films but the films I was doing otherwise…
AR: (Cuts in) Like?
TH: Like Double Dhamaal. I am ashamed of it. I gave up on Housefull 2 as I was just not happy with it. I wanted to give up writing but because I had just gotten married, I had to write for a living. As I mentioned earlier, I had watched Vicky Donor and that was when I realised I was done. I went to meet Mohit Suri and told him, ‘Look, I have done comedy films but I don’t want to do this genre any more, so please give me some work.’ I said the same thing to Remo D’Souza and both of them trusted me and gave me Ek Villain and ABCD 2, respectively. So I have made several mistakes.
AR: This is interesting and I think it should give rise to another discussion. But given the kind of success that you guys have achieved, there is also a danger of being typecast. Do you think you can snap out of that?
PS: I keep choosing different genres, whether Ghanchakkar, Queen, Phantom or Bajrangi Bhaijaan, every film is different from the others. I don’t want people to think that I do only certain genres.
AR: Did you do these films because you were commissioned to?
PS: Ghanchakkar wasn’t but Queen, Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Phantom were.
AR: Was Ghanchakkar your own story?
AR: So, did you deliberately choose a plot and a genre which was different from what you had done earlier or did that happen in an organic way?
PS: I would call it organic because you take it as it comes. Like Garima was saying, you live with an idea for a long time and see whether the idea can walk, and if you want to expand those two lines into 120 pages. So if I live with an idea for three to four weeks, and I am convinced of it, I start writing. But it has to appeal to me at some point.
AR: Some of you are very young in this industry but I would like to ask those who have worked in it longer and have done a fair number of films: Has it happened that you are known for a certain kind of cinema, which becomes your comfort zone, and you suddenly want to break out of that into an unfamiliar territory? The only way out is to creatively challenge yourself, so you think, ‘Let me fail but I need to take up the challenge.’ Has that happened to any of you?
PS: Nikhil Advani once asked me to write a film called Bazaar, which was based on the stock market. I am totally unfamiliar with the world of finance and the stock market, so I told him I couldn’t do it. But he pushed me and I finally did it. I was able to write that film only because he had faith in me and pushed me to do it.
SS: Taking off from that point, that is an advantage of a commissioned project. Remember, we were discussing how a writer gets the thought by travel or something else? Another way to get ideas is by working with different directors, like Tushar was saying that he writes with a director. It’s like working with different personalities, where you work with a director and then you channelise his thoughts into yours and write for the director. That’s what excites him.
GW: As far as different genres go, I am sure every writer risks being typecast. It was difficult for us too to break out of this, especially after GKRRL, an intense love story. Luckily, we were offered an action film (Brothers). Even we did not know what happens in the end but we liked the plot, so we started writing and went with the flow. It was a challenge but we liked the process because it was different from what we had done earlier. Whether it was good or bad is for the box office to decide but, eventually, as writers, we are never bankrupt for experiences.
SS: Luckily, we were also offered different genres. We grabbed whatever was good because that is one way to explore further.
TH: Luckily, now one gets to work on different kinds of scripts whereas when I started, if comedy was working, everyone made comedy. People call me a comedy writer to date, even though I am working on different topics and also more structured writing.
AR: Yes, when I was looking at the spread of your work, I suddenly saw Ek Villain, whereas I had the impression you were only a comedy writer. Then when I took a close look at the list, I spotted ABCD 2, which was also different. Sanjay, after myself, you are the senior-most in this room. I would like to ask what experiments you keep doing.
SC: My commissioned work was very different. On one hand, I was writing Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara and on the other, I was writing Big Brother for Sunny Deol. Then I was writing Tere Sang, a teenage love story. Then I wrote I Am Kalam, a children’s film. Then Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster for Tigmanshu Dhulia, which was again very different and then Paan Singh Tomar. Luckily, I was offered different kinds of films. But I do write stories that I share with friends and seek their feedback. I keep working on story ideas.