Ritesh Shah, screenplay-script-dialogue writer of Raid, tells Suranjana Biswas how filmmakers can reach out to the audience by balancing content with entertainment
Nobody has made a film on Income Tax raids before. How did you conceive this idea?
I guess we were just lucky that nobody had made a film on this subject before. Our producer Kumar Mangat knew an Income Tax (IT) officer, and one of his cases is the mainstay of the film. We have added inputs from the cases of other officers but the main story revolves around that particular officer’s case. I met the officer along with director Raj Kumar Gupta and he briefed us about the episode. This, along with some web research on other cases that took place during that period, helped us conceive the idea. We also met with some other IT officials. Eventually, we wrote the treatment of the film, which was 25 pages long.
What kind of research went into writing this script?
There were two kinds of research. One is the procedural research, where we had to acquaint ourselves with what leads to a raid and how exactly a raid is conducted, and that meant many surveys had to be done. For example, the officer may get his information from an informer, he may find out details himself or rely on other sources.
So, we met some IT officers who had conducted raids and we also did ample research on the web about the procedure. There are booklets and manuals on how to carry out a raid like this. The film was a mixture of research and writing because you don’t want to get it wrong.
Do you feel that films based on
true incidents are more believable
I am not sure. You could still ruin it if you make a bad film. Mahesh Bhatt told me a very interesting thing. He said, “Sach bade zor ki aawaaz karti hai.” When one includes a truthful element in the film, it is bound to make an impact, even if the audience is not aware of it. Similarly, fictional films that draw heavily from reality work better because of the power of truth. A biopic might not be as successful as a fictional story; it is the truth in the story that is important. Sairat and Fandry are fictional films but they reached the audiences.
The premise of Raid is very compact. How difficult was it to set the screenplay around such a small premise?
It was very tough, especially when it was being written and edited. Around 60-70 per cent of the film was shot in one location and all those scenes had the same theme – of the IT raid. It was pretty challenging. We wrote and shot a few scenes and then went on to research the subject. We edited and re-edited. In the end, when people liked the film, I felt really good about it. I am still not sure how we managed to pull it off.
Dialogue plays an important role in Raid as it is about a serious subject and had to make an impact on the audience. What did you keep in mind while writing the dialogue?
I wrote according to the characters and I also wrote according to the period. People were a little more articulate then, especially about the Hindi language. I couldn’t have got away with Hinglish or loosely framed sentences. The character (of Amay) is educated and knowledgeable, and he can quote Premchand. There are things he knows and says that befit someone who has passed the IAS exam. The character of Tauji spoke in a way that a bahubaali from that era speaks, whether mythology or that khaas andaaz from UP.
Some of the lines are impactful because the characters are impactful. Nobody wanted that much dialogue baazi. It worked because people liked what they (the characters) did. My whole effort was to keep it entertaining. I didn’t want to make it dry. It was a complex subject based on an income-tax raid, so it was a challenge to maintain a balance. I still feel I didn’t write anything out of character.
Filmmakers are increasingly balancing serious subjects with a healthy dose of entertainment. What is your take on this as a writer?
Absolutely! If you have to communicate something new, it doesn’t make sense if only a hundred people like it. You have to open it up in a way that will entertain people; it is impossible to communicate with people without entertainment. I think it is crucial to maintain that balance at all times. Not all my films have worked but films like Airlift, Pink and Raid did, and they were not essentially audience-friendly subjects on the face of it. But I have tried to communicate, and that has reached the audience.
What is the response that you are getting to the film?
Usually, you can gauge the response on Friday when you start getting more friend requests! (Laughs) It is interesting that people reach out to you when your film works or your craft is appreciated. People are saying they like the film.
What are the projects you are looking forward to?
I have written the dialogue of the Hindi version of Love Sonia; I have written the story for Junglee. Then there is Arjun Patiala and Namastey England.
Byline – Suranjana Biswas