Siddharth-Garima were roped in by Sanjay Leela Bhansali for writing movies Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela and Bajirao Mastani. They were involved in writing scripts, songs including popular track- Lal Ishq and dialogues for both the movies. The collaboration not only brought laurels for the writers but also received rave reviews from the audience. The duo has also written for television reality shows. After writing for radio, movies, and television, Siddharth-Garima have for the first time penned down a brand new web series- Shaadi Boys- for a rather younger and modern audience.
In an interview with The Indian Express, the duo spoke about their experience and challenges of writing for an audience that at the same time has access to high-quality content from West including House of Cards and Game of Thrones. Below are few excerpts from the conversation:
You have previously written for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Ram-Leela and Bajirao Mastani. You also wrote for television shows. How writing for big canvas including films is different from writing for a web series?
The writing process remains essentially same irrespective of the medium. However, the audience changes with the medium . So there is a shift in terms of slangs, language, and words. The people watching a web series are very different from that of a movie or TV show. This is the younger lot who prefer watching videos and shows in their own private space. So you have the liberty to use cuss words. One can experiment a lot in terms of writing style. It’s not possible with the cinematic medium where we are writing keeping in view the censor board. TV shows and movies in India are playing safe by producing largely family-oriented stuff. That boundary line is blurred here for a digital platform.
In Ram-Leela and Bajirao Mastani, we observed people of Gujarat and Maharashtra and translated the same in our writings. Even though Ram-Leela was set in rustic Gujarat, it had elements of modernity. We used a mix of English and Hindi at many places. Here, we visited colleges including Mithibai and St. Xavier’s to absorb the mannerisms of today’s youth. We hanged around a couple of times to have an idea of their world. The only difference lies in terms of time period. When you are writing for a movie, you are involved for one to two years. For web-series, you spend comparatively lesser time.
Can you tell us about Shaadi Boys?
Shaadi Boys is a satirical take on extravagance and ostentatious display of money in Indian weddings. We think that one should make more investment in relationships. We wrote the script and took it to VOOT. Later Shashant Shah was roped in to direct it and he has treated the subject with complete honesty. There are around eight episodes , with each lasting about 10-12 minutes. The challenge was to break the whole story so that at the end of each episode, the audience should be eager enough to watch the next episode.
Production houses are creating a lot of good content for the web. This, however, is not true for TV. The TV is still plagued with regressive Saas-Bahu soap operas. Why are writers not creating the same quality content for TV as well? What’s stopping them?
First of all, the internet boom is still evolving in India. And then one has Ekta Kapoor who has profusely created regressive shows. Still, it all comes down to the audience. Audiences still prefer family oriented stuff over something experimental. Whereas people watching the web series are the same people who are watching Breaking Bad, House of Cards, and Game of Thrones. We think it will take around 10 years before we can have a more mature audience.
Why we don’t have enough good stories of our own. A country as huge as India must be dying to see some original, mind-blowing stuff. Why is it not happening? Is it something to do with writers not getting their due in the film industry?
It’s certainly more than that. Writers in Hollywood have got more recognition. They have far more copyrights on shows created by them. Here writers are not given their due recognition. Being badly paid comes much later. First of all, Bollywood is a star-driven industry. The story revolves around the star and not vice versa. Whereas Hollywood is an idea-driven industry. Of course, we have come up with some path-breaking content in last five years. New writers like Juhi Chaturvedi have contributed immensely. But, it will still take around 10 years, before we can have some good content consistently.
Where does the inspiration for writing come from? Have you taken any writing or screenplay course to refine your writing style?
We both were writing poetry since childhood. We used to read a lot of poetry, books, and literature and we still do. No, we never took any scriptwriting course. We think that life is the biggest motivator that any writer can look up to. We observe people and travel a lot. We would go to hill stations Karjat, Lonavala or Khandala to write. When you travel, you are able to think. You have got the whole time to sit and keep absorbing your surroundings. We recently traveled to Karla, Himachal Pradesh for writing for Raabta.
Are you flooded with writing offers after the success of Ram-Leela and Bajirao Mastaani ?
It’s a myth that one is inundated with offers after your film does well at the office. In fact, people start expecting a lot more from you. Then they want something different from you. They would say–Ok, Ram-Leela was good–but what can you deliver differently this time. So the real struggle starts after the first taste of success.
What are you working on next ?
We are currently writing for Raabta which stars Kriti Sanon and Sushant Singh Rajput. It’s one of the best-written scripts so far in our career. Another movie is Toilet- Ek Prem Katha -a satire on cleaning drive in India.
So writing is not a 9-5 job for you guys .
No, it’s not. But we strictly follow a routine. We have got an office in Mumbai. Like any other office goer, we hop down to our writing table by 11 am. On a good writing day, we write till 8 pm.
In the last three years of your career, have you ever had to sit idle due to lack of assignments?
Luckily, we haven’t come across such phase in life. But having said that, we won’t deny that there aren’t any problems. The film industry is no bed of roses. We wrote the script of Raabta in 2012. But the shooting of the film started only now. There are a lot of creative inputs from different sections on the movie and it takes time to bring everybody on the same platform. It has been four years now. Those are some of the hurdles that writers face often.
Web series is an interactive medium. You will get to see comments from viewers instantly. As writers, does that turn you off? Or you find it fun?
We are excited. The movie-making is a long process. Only now Ram-Leela ( which was released in 2013) has been uploaded on Youtube and we are able to see the viewers’ comments. Here, we can instantly watch the reaction from the audience. After all, we write for those compliments.