TRUST Kangana Ranaut to always make headlines. A couple of months ago, she was hailed as the harbinger of change, the sole woman to speak up against the patriarchal, nepotistic film industry (she had a valid point there). Today, she is a villain, the star who has laid claim to the credits for the upcoming film Simran that rightfully belong to the film’s writer. However, in our rush to pass judgment and hang the ‘criminal’, are we allowing the real ‘culprit’ – the film’s director – to get away scot-free?
Let’s recap the recent events. A few weeks ago, a tabloid carried the news that the leading lady of the film, Ranaut will share Simran’s writing credits with Apurva Asrani. This was confirmed by the film’s director Hansal Mehta, who stated that the actor had contributed hugely by reinterpreting the dialogues and changing the genre of the film – from a thriller to a comedy.
A week later, Asrani gave an interview to the same tabloid, refuting the claims. Around the same time, he was booted out as Simran’s editor, but not after a large part of the work was over. And now, in the film’s poster, released on May 14, while Asrani has received his due credit for the story, screenplay and dialogues, Ranaut’s name comes first, as the additional story and dialogue writer.
In the debate around the writing credits for Simran, everyone seems to be of the opinion – and rightfully so – that the film’s writer Asrani has been shortchanged. It’s no secret that the film industry often exploits its writers. Plagiarism, dispute over writing credits, overdue payments and very little remuneration are the most common issues. However, in this particular debate, we forget that the allegedly culpable star also has a strong ally in the film’s director, Hansal Mehta. And while we are all busy blaming Ranaut, why is no one asking Mehta any questions?
A film’s director is the captain of the ship. While the film’s producer may have a say in certain departments, such as casting and selection of the writer, very rarely does one see a producer bring on board a writer who may not get along with the director. The director usually handpicks the crew. In case of Simran, the film’s director and its writer have been long-time collaborators. Asrani, who started his film career as the editor of Satya, has worked with Mehta on several projects. He edited Mehta’s comeback film Shahid and made his writing debut with Aligarh. Asrani may not be part of the director’s other project, Omerta, but clearly, Simran was meant to be a collaboration stemming from mutual respect for each other’s work, and not a forced and bitter partnership. And if that is indeed the case, the onus for this dispute over the credits lies on Mehta way more than on Ranaut. It is for him to protect his writer, the first technician he brought on board.
As the one helming the film, it is for a director to stand up for his team, take on the bullies who threaten harm. At times, the bullies are in the form of stars, at other times, they are producers and more recently, we see them take on the avatar of censor board officials. But a crew looks up to its director to keep things together, lead them and defend them against such situations, and in return, they give their day and night to bring to life his vision. It’s here that Mehta has failed. By not standing up for his writer earlier, by hiding behind Ranaut’s public persona, and allowing her name to appear before Asrani’s on the poster now, he has let down the role of a director.