Superman Stats

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

The HIndie Awards 2015: Screenplay Awards

The HIndie Awards 2015


This year's quota of writing nominees got expanded because it was difficult to eventually decide which seven screenplays were truly the best of the best.

To tell you the truth, it's been a difficult time to judge not just a script but the movie as a whole. As I begin to learn more and more about film, which I have not just in these two weeks of University but this year, I tend to lose the right way to critically analyze a film and especially the screenplay.

It's why I might have more nominees than I bargained for, cause I thought all of them were excellent when years later in retrospect some of them will be just good. I hate putting down my nominees like this but it's true.

Anyways the screenplay as anybody who's a somebody will tell you, is the backbone of the film. It is its most important element and without it no film can start and without it no film can reach a certain pinnacle of filmmaking achievement.

In Bollywood, screenplay writers aren't so revered. So much so that most either become directors or start out as such, or most directors write their own films so as they have complete control. This year saw a varied genre of scripts work, from black comedies to social satires and from adapted works of acclaimed literature to deep character studies.

Some screenplays were even loose, but had so much impact with so few instances that they wrenched the audience away into the magical film journey.

So here's to the best screenplays of 2014...

HIndie Award for Best Screenplay (Comedy/Musical)

This year hasn't seen many musicals really take center stage in Bollywood, though music does play an integral part in Dedh Ishqiya, Finding Fanny and Filmistaan. This years screenplays are quite an entertaining bunch, the comedy films this year are filled with intriguing detail and thought. 

The themes are universally resonate in each from the power of cinema to a deep probe into loneliness and romance and more. 

So here are the nominees...

Vishal Bhardwaj, Abhishek Chaubey and Gulzar for Dedh Ishqiya 

The snark wit with which Bhardwaj writes is a well known fact, the poetic deftness of Gulzar's dialogue are legend and combined with the heart and insight Chaubey has for his characters, makes Dedh Ishqiya a sure shot winning screenplay. 

There's so many instances of grit where the humor just strikes, like never before. Taking on the sequel motto of bigger and better head on, the script wrenches our thieving protagonists from their comfort zone into the world of poetry, music and aristocracy of an older times. 

The world build is fascinating, resonating due to how the sub-text reveals layers of its wonderfully constructed female characters. There's a touching relationship created there that adds a lot of intensity to the crime plot at hand. The examination of a crumbling feudal society beautifully realized through this.

Loneliness and romanticism are beautiful notions that Chaubey uses to highlight the broken character of Khalujan.  

Quite a few scenes of varying nature leave an impression; from the opening joke to a young besotted Khalujan and an older regretful one. From the comedic long stand-off to the chaotically epic finale. 

The tone of the script is so wonderfully structured, it's mind blowing.

But the best thing the writers do is use subtlety to reveal character, including reminding us that this fun duo have tons of back story including from the prequel. Thank god, since it's sad how most Hindi film sequels eschew continuity in favor of small scripting changes.  

Dedh Ishqiya is another win for this team and another example of the kind of rewards, great writing can reap. 

Kersi Khambatta and Homi Adajania for Finding Fanny

Adajania and novelist Khambatta despite the narration, throw you right into the world that they've built. It's the smartest play, because we are kept distance from the details of these people's lives and the complexities of their relationships.

It intrigues the attentive and engaged viewer.

There's no dearth to the detailing the writers give this film. A simplistic story takes shape early on, allowing for a deeper examination of these quirky but moving characters.

It's a story done to death but the way the duo balance the genres make for an enriching experience. There's hilarious moments of screwball comedy and true genuine heart in the drama.

Themes of life, time, age and love really work wonders because the writers capitalize on attaching the reality yet whimsy fantasy of these characters to us in emotionally touching realities. The characters hide such beautiful pain, that the feature soothes you.

It's the story that matters and in Finding Fanny you find something simplistic but profound. There's humor, there's drama but there's no moment that feels detached from reality or from the this wondrous world the pen creates.

Nitin Kakkar and Sharib Hashmi for Filmistaan


The power of cinema, is what Filmistaan is all about deep in it's soft and sweet heart. Sunny is an aspiring actor, caught by Pakistan militants during a shoot and kept imprisoned in a village across the border. He lives in the house of Aftaab, a man who pirates Hindi film dvd's. 

Truly the viewer can see for most part where this is going except for the ambiguous downbeat yet spirited end. 

Yet there's nothing but interest in relishing those moments. 

Kakkar deftly peels back layers of his characters and his basic ideology. A profound scene sees Sunny relent against the militant Mehmood and hold onto his camera no matter how much he's beaten. Another sees Sunny and an old healer discuss about the country they once shared. 

It's a stark reflection on how Pakistan and India are similar, for after all their one. 

Yet these moments are perfectly matched against upbeat comedy, spirit and an unabashed reference love for cinema. From Sunny being trapped in like Anarkali to directing his torture video for the militants to celebrating India's cricket win amidst a village of Pakistani's. 

The humor Kakkar punctuates into a serious situation is something to be respected and learned from.

In a way Filmistaan is the ultimate masala film, with a hearty message and a tonally perfect script it entertains like no other while being one of a kind.

Vikas Bahl, Chaitally Parmar and Parveez Shaikh with Anvita Dutt Guptan and Kangana Ranaut (Dialogues) for Queen

The finer details in the script is what makes Queen one of 2014's best. It's a delightfully empowering film that doesn't succumb to the elevated fantasies and easier shortcuts that would allow its message to resonate louder to the audiences.

Instead it treats us and its characters with such respect, that Rani's transformation (not into the so called modern independent woman stereotype) into a much more confident person is wonderfully earned.

Vijay could have been stereotyped as the asshole altogether. Vijaylakshmi could have been nothing but a party animal, and still feel stereotypically modern and liberated. Taka, Tim and Marcello could have been one note and just friendly and the message would still come across. 

Yet the writers put their heart into not just Rani, but these characters thus elevating the drama, humor and eventual (yippee-kai-yay type of a) payoff. 

Vijay has a genuine affection for Rani and he feels like a reality, a double minded hypocritical individual. Vijaylakshmi is a doting mother and knows when to be a friend. Taka, Tim and Marcello have their own personal issues to resolve through this trip and find themselves just like Rani does. 

Rani herself is complex, due to her upbringing. She judges Vijaylakshmi early on for her choices, she is a bit close minded to no fault of her own. She drinks and dances as the modern woman stereotype, but back story reveals she loved dancing before too, she loved living but Vijay was a cancer. She grows confident, she grows up, she learns new things but doesn't vitally change. It's why her liberation has the sweet taste of a 'thank you' to it. 

The script is eventually an example of how writing humans rather than caricatures can be grasped by an audience, condescending and taking them for granted wont work. The Indian audience is smart and that's why this screenplay made the film, a Queen at the box office.   

Rajat Kapoor for Ankhon Dekhi

The brilliance of Ankhon Dekhi is its simplicity, like Bauji's family.

How it takes a normal humane thing, a simple concept from a simpleton character and makes a profound expression of that idea without reverting to giving an answer and rather focusing on the family drama it causes.

Bauji is the soft spoken patriarch of a tight knit middle class Delhi family. A profound impact occurs when he realizes that what people gossip about his daughters boyfriend is far from the truth, thus opening his eyes. He decides from now that he will only believe in what he sees, he will mine his own experiences to make his truth. 

This causes chaos, it causes the audience to ponder and it adds lighthearted drama to a film not in a hurry to resolve the issue. 

That's where Kapoor grabs you. Bauji is man in search for something, is he having a mid-life crisis or is her truly mad. In his quest to master his philosophy, Bauji gains followers who blindly follow him. There's a hilarity to each juxtapose Kapoor brings to this feature while examining the close family type culture of middle class Old Delhi families. 

It's a wondrous examination that allows him to provide internal drama in the life of Bauji's family and add a dose of reality to it through undeniably fresh humor. 

An external crisis in the family collides with an internal examination of a character and the world around him, pushing the narrative to a conclusion that is tear inducing and satisfying while leaving questions unanswered for the better.

The underrated Rajat Kapoor is a man of many talents, with many inspiring people behind his work. Ankhon Dekhi is another example of the kind of smarts this man conveys through his pen.   

And the Winner is...

Rajat Kapoor for Ankhon Dekhi! 

HIndie Award for Best Screenplay (Drama)

The dramatic side of screenplays this year in re-examination makes me think that I will go back to one writing award next year. 

I'm not saying that these screenplays are bad, but I think overall the comedy choices are the better lot. Yet the eventual screenplay winner here tops that of the comedy one. 

So who is it?

Well, check out the nominees and find out...

Basharat Peer and Vishal Bhardwaj for Haider

Vishal Bhardwaj's Haider was always going to court controversy. His script was written with Peer, a well known author writing on the plight of Kashmir people while denouncing India. He was focused on one point (What did you expect, if Bhardwaj took everything to account you'd still be in the cinema) cause he had a story to tell. He was adapting Shakespeare once again and this time with probably the greatest central character written. 

Haider is his least faithful, yet his most profound. The narrative structure is unwieldy with a first half forming a commentary on the plight of Kashmiri's during harsh times and the second kicking the 
plays revenge tale into gear.  

Yet it works. 

The first half is wonderfully constructed in itself, profoundly dissecting one part of a larger issue about Kashmir and its harsh realities. It uses Haider's identity crisis and search for his father to magnify a powerful problem at its core. 

Yet even despite the message bearing heavy, Bhardwaj never loses grip of his characters. He doesn't paint them in simple colors. Themes of ambiguity and identity play a tough game in the minds of Haider and the audience. 

It's such that the writing is gripping and flowing. The second half picks up great pace as Hamlet comes to the fore. 

From a ghost with questionable motives (Roohdar) to a questionable oedipal relationship (Haider and Ghazaala) to profound symbolism (Ghazala as Kashmir). He uses every device to unravel these characters especially the madness of Haider himself. 

As a script Haider is definitely flawed, but it is most likely Vishal's finest. It doesn't trap itself in the rigid mode of an adaptation, but rather picks up the best pieces (e.g. 'Denmark is Rotten speech' and 'Mousetrap') and fully forms a film with something important to say. 

Imtiaz Ali for Highway

As a deeply moving character study, the greatest thing about Highway is how free flowing it really is. 

Imtiaz lets the visuals do much of the talking, but the written word here does have power. There's a story that most might miss, but there's a story. It's all emulated by how Ali structures or doesn't structure his narrative and how little details and moments reveal themselves. 

It allows time to fly by but for the characters to have transformed and transcended. 

Some of it might not be intent, or it might be too subtle. For example Mahabir's regret and hesitation towards falling for Veera can be skewed into his realization that what the duo are playing out are a basic fantasy which will bring about their end. 

It's punctuated by the final shot of the film. Veera sees both characters as children and it tells as much as it realizes the film. Yes Veera and Mahabir are in love and their purest forms come to her but also there's an idea that in some way Veera is stuck to this childish idea about Mahabir. 

This basically pontificating at Ali's deeper pondering about his characters, Veera has Stockholm syndrome. She shows clear signs, a calm after mere days into her kidnapping, a strength against her captors as well as a meagerness, a motherly bond with Mahabir yet a lovers one as well. 

It's a complex character that he richly brings to life while using her to also provide depth to Mahabir with whom the theme of class is crafted meticulously.

The two taking a life changing journey. 

Imtiaz Ali writes with many flaws, but that's what makes his films special. They're not perfect, they have a human touch just like his moving, constantly evolving and complex characters that pull in the viewer.


Anurag Kashyap for Ugly
Kashyap writes his film with real heart, whether the dark dreary subject matters shows it or not. Ugly manifests from his fear of failing as a parent and becomes a living breathing script of its own. 

There's something truly admirable about how he can handle the tone of the film and yet keep the narrative ticking. His method by which he punctuates comedy into the most tense atmospheres is unbelievable. Just look at the mobile phone scene with Girish Kulkarni's police officer diverting the main issue at hand. 

The last line is where he clinches it. It reveals all about his characters and the world they embody. 

Their selfish egos causing them to work against each other as tense situations mount up and layered back story is unraveled. It's all about themselves and in that he builds a cesspool of ugliness (pun intended) that distracts the viewer from the main plot. 

It's a smart tactic that helps his screenplay to be engaging by keeping the mystery intact while also studying the characters with deep thought. 

It's all about the characters. 

They're definetly not one note, the last scene with Shoumik shows that he's a spiteful man but one who also feels guilt and care towards the child. They however are dynamic, depressing, hilarious, intriguing, captivating and above all else; Ugly.    

Aseem Arora, Pratham Jolly and Manu Rishi for Kya Dilli, Kya Lahore

Like with Filmistaan, Kya Dilli is about two men from opposite sides of the fence (India and Pakistan) forming a bond that makes them understand how similar they truly are. 

Yet it's one that focuses itself on the war, partition, refugee status and most importantly a dramatic premise regarding identity. It's at moments very simple but very powerful in what tries to say about a wide range of things that comes back to the idea of partition, kinship and identity. 

Two soldiers face off around an isolated part of the border during the Indo-Pak. Both of them fighting despite originating from the opposite side to each other. In this dilemma they find a certain level of bonding that forms the crux of the plot that relies on deftly revealing dialogue. 

Comedy is aptly used to pull the viewer in, it's a safety net for those who know the works of director Raaz and writer Manu Rishi. It allows us to be endeared with characters thrust into a politically played war, they never wanted. 

Their conversation amidst humorous moments of trying to shoot at each other, highlight the obvious unity of the two countries and the lives these people lead. Tension and intense tear inducing drama is well used to riveting effects for the third act. 

Yet the meat in the second act is where the films heart lies. Despite the barriers between them, the duo bond through talk and bickering and come to realize a lot about themselves as well as the film. This is a partition story realistically depicted and heart-fully mastered by the writers into a piece that can make profound conclusions. 

Kya Dilli, Kya Lahore at the end of the day has a script that is impactful because it doesn't mechanically dole out information or preach a message of unity but because it says something from true historical experience and a real heart. 



Ashim Ahluwalia and Uttam Sirur for Miss Lovely 

What most people didn't understand that Miss Lovely despite it's heavily burdened topic and complex if not fully realized characters, needn't have been structurally as orthodox as a picture trying to say so much. 

In fact Ahluwalia's experimental film is very laid back when it comes to narrative, such that it feels like the film meanders and doesn't give the viewer much. 

Does that mean like with every other visually striking film, it's not written that well or things aren't though out enough?


Far from it. 

Miss Lovely's brilliance as written piece relies on the immense textures it gives with so little. We are thrown into this world, but he sprinkles it with rich and informative detail. 

The sub-text and in turn analogy at hand are as powerful as the script's neccesity to break genre and character. The final act and more doe get fall onto each other, but not because the basis of the story are faulty. 

It's the actors and as a director he himself who are pushed to fill in the gaps to the film and that's not necessarily wrong in this case. This is because it allows much of the intriguing look into's (that Ahluwalia is doing) about the B-Grade industry and Cinema in 80's as a whole in India, to be highlighted perfectly and imprint themselves onto the viewer. 

Miss Lovely is a hard film to explain and maybe that's why the script is very freely paced and constructed that it doesn't get through and allows the visual dynamics to overpower it. Yet it's a fine script and a fine film. For more check my analysis here.

And the Winner is...

 Anurag Kashyap for Ugly!

It's been a middling year of scripts, but in most parts these nominees and especially the winner shine through. Ugly is one of Kashyap's best, Highway to Imtiaz and Haider to Vishal are the same. 

After this we dive head in, into the acting awards with the supporting players taking the field

Up Next: Comedic, dramatic or a mix of both. From a lecherous funny man to a broken prideful woman and from a mother torn between a son and her love and to a despicable but loving brother...the HIndie Awards for Best Supporting Actors!

'Nuff Said

Aneesh Raikundalia    

No comments:

Post a Comment