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Sunday, October 25, 2020

Varun Grover on Indian OTT shows: Men with big guns, big egos and big cuss words

At the onset of his comedy special, comedian-writer Varun Grover had a unique request for actors and directors who might watch his act. "Please take your chair and sit in the farthest corner of your house. You will realise what happens with us," he said.

Written by Priyanka Sharma | Mumbai | Updated: September 29, 2020 5:23:08 pm
varun groverVarun Grover presented a 'sit-down' comedy set at the recently held SWA awards. (Photo: Varun Grover/YouTube)

Varun Grover, who wears multiple hats of a screenwriter, lyricist and a stand-up comedian, performed a special act at the Screenwriters Association (SWA) Awards to honour writers in the Hindi entertainment industry. Lauding the initiative that exclusively recognises writing talent, Grover shared why he doesn’t attend other award functions anymore.

“They call writers and lyricists and make us sit far behind, in the last chairs possible. In fact, I feel we are called only so that in the drone shot, the chairs at the back don’t look empty,” Grover said in the 11-minute special titled “Writer Fighter Hua”.

Varun Grover’s special focused on the struggles of being a writer in the Hindi entertainment industry, while also taking digs at the story templates that writers often get trapped into.

For instance, he hailed the contribution of streaming platforms in empowering writers with more work and democratisation of the system but at the same time commented on the increasing dominance of violence-infused narratives. Citing examples, Varun doesn’t forget to mention his own show, Netflix’s Sacred Games.

“The speciality of streaming platforms is the diversity they offer. Like Sacred Games, Mirzapur, Paatal Lok… What else do you need when you have so much variety! Men with big guns, big egos and big cuss words. I seriously don’t know who the writers of these shows are and why they write such shows. Ideally, they should apologise but I know they are so shameless they will not apologise.”

Varun Grover also addressed the myths surrounding writers, especially the popular belief that the coronavirus-induced lockdown worked wonders for the community, after all, they got ample time to write.

“Industry is shut, work has stopped but I don’t know why people are thinking that writers have written some 1000 pages. Whoever we spoke to says, ‘The whole industry is shut, there’s so much mental stress. There are no earnings but you must have worked a lot because you have so much time.’ People have some misconceptions about writers. I would like to clear them.”

Grover went on to say that writers don’t exist in isolation and like anyone else, the pandemic has left them stressed too – both financially and mentally. “We aren’t terminators, not made of iron from within. We are normal human beings and we also have mental stress. Our ancestors didn’t open factories of hand sanitisers. We have also not been able to earn. We write what you shoot.

“So, if the industry is shut so is our earning. From the last 7 months, none of us has earned anything. We don’t eat salads made of oxygen, nitrogen or other elements. We eat real food, live real lives. Don’t assume that we don’t need anything. This imagination that writers just need free time and space! We need food too!” the writer said.

Towards the end, Varun Grover recalled an incident about a “famous ’90s director,” who while writing a film with two writers at his office never bothered to offer them food until they shamed him for his behaviour.

“He would get food only for himself, never for his writers. He wouldn’t even ask them if they would like to eat. The two writers tolerated this for a while and one day they bought a few vegetables to the office and put them to heat. After three hours, they poured the mix into their tea glasses and also offered it to the director and told him this was their lunch and he should try it too. That day the director felt a little shame. and then he started getting food for the writers as well. You have to become a scoundrel. That’s the moral of the story.”

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