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Smells Like Team Spirit

Writers Siddharth-Garima talk to Bhavi Gathani about their process of writing dialogues for the recent blockbuster, Kabir Singh, the overwhelming response to the film and their upcoming directorial on surrogacy

Kabir Singh is getting great response from the audience. How has the feedback at your end been?

Garima: We are totally reveling in the success of Kabir Singh. When we first saw Arjun Reddy, we both were in love with the film. The moment we were offered the dialogues of the remake we thought this is the thing to do also because the landscape was changing.

Siddharth: Also, we generally don’t pick up an only-dialogue project. We believe in doing our own screenplays and telling our own stories. But we did one such film three years ago, which is Brothers. We thought that it’s a good MMA-based idea and it’s a new film but having said that, we thought that Arjun Reddy is a different film. It is a story of a flawed character which producers don’t tend to commission most of the time. So we thought if we are getting a chance, then why not.

Arjun Reddy is a Telugu film, so you first had to consider the sensibilities of the pan India audience while writing for Kabir Singh. What were the challenges in doing that?

Garima: Typically what happens is, when something is such a cult down South or in any region, the main challenge is to bring it to a mass appeal sort of zone. Sometimes the lines don’t work in Hindi as well as they work in a different language. We had to sit down and say ‘okay this is Delhi so let’s make him say this’ and if it’s Bombay then ‘the tone should be like this’. We sat and we cracked that, so that it does justice to what has been done earlier.

Siddharth: Actually, Arjun Reddy has three worlds. One is Mangalore, which is very different from the Telugu market. He studies in Mangalore.

Garima: Which is shown mostly in the song.

Siddharth: Correct. If you see the original version, the girl and her father are Shettys and they speak Tulu. In the original version, the director went ahead and put subtitles for that. For Kabir Singh, we have given the Punjabi accent and it was also set in Delhi, so we had to adapt three worlds in it and not just one.

Garima: And make it more universal as you should not feel the jerk in the film if it is in Bombay or it is in Delhi. One thing that helped us is that Siddharth knows Telugu well. That helped us understand the exact sense of the dialogue and the scene.

Siddharth: Because we feel that the subtitles are only the literal translation of what has been said. It doesn’t give you the humour or the essence of the line. If you know the language then it becomes easier.

There are some dialogues that also became quite famous on social media.

Siddharth: Yes, when the trailer came out, a Delhi traffic police officer used one dialogue saying, ‘Nahi aaunga matlab nahi aaunga’. They did a campaign around drunk driving.

Garima: There is one more line: ‘Woh meri bandi hai’. That is one line that we are quite happy about cracking. Because the sense of ownership that one lover feels for the other comes from there. She is mine! You declare it to yourself before you declare it to the world.

You both have worked together on films before this. As two different people, what is your process of collaborating in one film?

Garima: We basically take a knife and put it through each other. We pull each other’s hair apart.

(Both Laugh)

It is probably the toughest thing for two writers to sit and work on something together. But when you start enjoying the process of creation and use each other’s strengths to your advantage, it works. I think that’s the only thing you need to crack - the equation with each other. Then we know that this is what we are going with. Then it becomes like the two of us against the rest of the world.

Recently you spoke about directing a couple of films. Can you shed some light on that?

Siddharth: We are going to direct very soon. There is one subject we want to work on as it is very close to our heart. We feel that a writer is the first surrogate, so the film is on surrogacy. We feel that we write our scripts and give it to directors to make it. Then you have to adjust the script according to his vision.

Garima: There is a certain cinematic language that we want to say our stories in. Because sometimes when you visualize and write something, they get lost in translation. You want to make it a certain way but you don’t really always get it from every director. This is why we want to say our story our way and be responsible for it.

Has the project begun?

Siddharth: I think the project should begin this year. We are just finalising on our actors. We have a couple of options but we need to weigh our options and then figure it out. We approached everybody but the thing is that it has got that angle of getting pregnant, which most of our heroines say that ‘there is no glamour in it, you have to look pregnant and you don’t look good.’ They have their apprehensions, so it’s been difficult to cast for the film.

Garima: We have this tendency of making our own journey difficult and we have done it again. We want to start with a woman-centric film which is the toughest thing to do in this setup and in the way in which Bollywood works. More than the story, we feel it is about a firebrand character.

What else are you both working on?

Siddharth: There is another film, a subject on which a lot has been already made, it is about honour killing but it’s with a different take. It’s a violent love story, more in the space of Ram Leela. It’s a step ahead of Ram Leela, we can say.

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