Saturday, December 24, 2011

"What a Character" on NDTV

I’ve done the scripts for a few episodes of a new NDTV 24X7 show titled What a Character, about famous protagonists from Hindi movies. Two episodes (I think) have already been telecast but you can catch the others on Sunday nights at 10.30 and Saturday mornings at 9.30.

The writing is fairly basic, of course, intended as small bytes for TV voiceovers – nothing like the reviews I do here. But it’s been an interesting experience, and challenging in its own way. (Write a sentence like “Amitabh Bachchan first played an angry young man named Vijay more than 15 years before Agneepath” and you’re asked not to be so academic. Being an academic has been one of my life's many thwarted ambitions, so this made me feel all warm and Christmassy.)

So keep an eye out for the show. The line-up of characters includes Munnabhai, Gabbar Singh, Umrao Jaan and the deceased Commissioner DeMello from THAT film.


  1. I wanted to say something clever in response to that basic fact-based sentence being called too academic, but all I can think of is "...".

    How about this: in my imaginary university, you can be head of cinema studies?

  2. in my imaginary university, you can be head of cinema studies?

    Beth: thanks - I spend much of my time in that imaginary universe!

  3. Jabberwock:

    There are iconic characters from unheralded non-mainstream Indian films, sometimes the best performance of the actor in his career.

    Are you limiting yourself to the Munnabhai's? What is so novel about Munnabhai unless you are analyzing why a movie becomes a "hit film"?

    Try to use this opportunity to give your viewers an idea about the non-mainstream cinema in this country.

    I understand you including Jaane Bhi Do Yaron. But IMHO that is also mainstream and enough has been written about.


  4. Anon: this was a pre-conceptualised show with a pre-decided list of characters and I was approached to write the scripts. No question of my making any of the decisions you're talking about. And this IS very much a mainstream programme, driven by visuals from popular movies along with soundbytes from people associated with them - my only contribution was a short script for the voiceovers. Hope that clears your doubts.

  5. Okay, just in case the post didn't make it clear: this is not a project that I'd give pride of place on my CV, and it isn't the sort of personal, analytical writing I really like doing. The reason I've mentioned it here is that it represents a small foray into a different medium for me, and I get a little kick out of seeing my name on the credits list. (Incidentally they forgot to put my name at the end of the Agneepath episode, which might tell you how important the script-writer is to this show!)

  6. Jai: If this wasn't a pre-conceptualised show, and you had the liberty to choose the characters, which ones would you choose? Just curious.

  7. Rantings: would have to think about it for a bit, but a few off the top of my head (and sticking to the last 40 or so years): Satyakam, Amitabh's character Sudhir in Bemisaal, the protagonist of Benegal's Bhumika, Inspector Welankar in Ardh Satya, Anirudh in Sai Paranjpye's Sparsh, Waheeda Rehman's nurse in Khamoshi. Of course, most of this is fairly offbeat (by the standards of commercial television) - I'm sure there are some good possibilities from commercial cinema too. (Reena Roy's shape-shifting nagin in Nagin?)

  8. 'Reena Roy's shape-shifting nagin in Nagin' - Lol!

  9. Thank you for your clarification.

    But even the characters you mentioned if you had "editorial control" are from the 80's and early nineties. What about Indian cinema in the late nineties and the oughts?

    And why limit to Hindi cinema? For a National News Channel (and for you) it should be Indian cinema.

  10. But even the characters you mentioned if you had "editorial control" are from the 80's and early nineties. What about Indian cinema in the late nineties and the oughts?

    Anon: my reply to Rantings was made after exactly 5 seconds of thought - I didn't sit down and prepare a carefully worked out list of characters from every decade. (Btw, I saw hardly any Hindi films in the second half of the 90s and the early 00s - was completely out of Hindi cinema during that time.)

    For a National News Channel (and for you) it should be Indian cinema.

    Curious. Why should it be any one thing? (Especially for me. In any case, the cinema I know best is still the American cinema of the 30s and 40s, and passages of the silent era in Europe. If I were given completely free rein to do a TV show of this sort, I would probably dedicate a bulk of it to those films.)

  11. Why should it be any one thing?

    Good question. Your forte might be American cinema of 30s and 40s and you might bring in a fresh perspective, but there are others others who are equally good covering that era.

    The era I mentioned and the cinema it produced is curiously lacking air and space. We are neglecting our own immediate history. You are better placed to cover especially if your TV sojourn leads to more TV time+space.

  12. Is there an episode on Anita Raaj's Pooja from 'Clerk'?

  13. Jai: That Reena Roy bit was funny!

    I am not surprised that many of the characters are not from main stream cinema. Why so? I don't know myself. Thinking of "commercial films" per se, some good characters come to mind--the monkey in Aankhen, the dog in Teri Meherbaniyan.

    And how about the cook (Rajesh Khanna) in Bawarchi?

    Okay, okay...I was being cheeky. Don't whip me with that "you know some commercial cinema is just as good as 'art-house' cinema". I was just curious to know what characters you would have in mind. Maybe you can write a blog post about them.I have read the Satyakam and Ardha Satya posts. But Bemisal should be interesting (if you haven't written about it already).

    How about the cook in Bawarchi?

  14. Shamya: is that book underway? If so I wouldn't mind co-authoring or "special-guest-appearance-authoring" it - anything for an excuse to see all those Anita Raaj rape movies again.

    Don't whip me with that "you know some commercial cinema is just as good as 'art-house' cinema".

    Rantings: I don't think I've ever said anything of that sort. What I do say is that good cinema is good cinema, whether it's "commercial" or "art-house" (whatever one might mean by those labels). There's nothing intrinsically superior about so-called art-house movies - unless of course you're using the term in an abstract way to describe any film that can be considered a good artistic achievement (in which case many mainstream/commercial films would fit the definition too).

  15. @ Jai - that Amitabh's character in Bemisaal was awesome...and AB did really well in that role. Like a friend of mine once said, "AB is the most under-utilized actor in B-town" anyway the list is awesome too glad to see Bhumika's character. I remember you once said that you have mixed feelings for a lot of Benegal's films. I never really thought that you will have such an opinion about Bhumika's character

  16. you also mentioned Anirudh in Sparsh. My god, this one character and the acting by Naseer shook me. I keep on telling people that if you like Naseer and you havent seen Sparsh then you have seen nothing. Remember that scene he is having tea with his assistant, how quickly from jovial the conversation becomes serious...awesome

  17. Hey, would it be possible to update this post with YouTube links of the episodes?

  18. Sorry missed signing off on that.


  19. Crime master gogo
    most funny and understated