The Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) saw sparks fly when filmmaker Sajid Khan said "there are no stories left", triggering a tirade against him from scriptwriters and audience members.
Scriptwriting and scriptwriters are indeed the eyesore of Bollywood. The 'successful' filmmaker and TV funnyman Sajid's first mistake was when he said: "There are no stories left. We have to rehash old wine and put it in new bottles."
He made this comment at a discussion on scriptwriting and scriptwriters Sunday.
This prompted the moderator, veteran writer Anjum Rajabali, to give the mike to another senior writer Shama Zaidi who not only talked about the scripting traditions of the country, but also pointed out its problems when during the first days of Indian cinema, writers were mostly munims (accountants).
Rajabali was kinder in his retort to Sajid, when he politely said that "India has thousands of years of storytelling tradition so this comes as a little surprising." The problem, he stated, was the limited vision of commercial filmmakers. "They do not explore," he said.
Rajabali, proved to be the best moderator among all the forums so far when he not only gave the speakers and the audience a chance to speak, but also engaged in debate, especially with Sajid, without being condescending.
Sajid had the opinion that stars made a film hit, and not its story. To this there were loud protests from the audience and angry words. However, Rajabali took it upon himself to try and explain to him that ultimately it was the story that wins, the reason why not every film of a star succeeds. Sajid, despite the tirade against him, held his position till the end.
At one time when Rajabali tried to explain, that no one can know what will work, Sajid vehemently, and almost childishly retorted: "I know what will work."
It was now the firebrand Shama's chance to tacitly pull him down.
"Hollywood has a whole system where they buy the right of scores of books, select a few, make two films of which one gets released. We merely copy this final film instead of doing the hard work. Obviously there's 75 percent chance that it will work for Sajid even if he is a half-competent filmmaker. If it has worked in one language, chances are it will work in another," said Shama.
Sudhir Mishra was kinder to Sajid. "Sajid is limiting himself. I know he has the potential to redefine the comic genre. And he is not as bad as he says he is."
Sadly Mishra forgot that Sajid did not say he was bad, but that he was the best and he knew exactly what worked and what did not.
Thus though the forum was meant to talk about the importance of writing for cinema, it ended up being a show of the prejudices that Bollywood nurtures against writers and the entire art of scriptwriting.