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From lawyers scrutinizing scripts, from producers' unfair clauses to directors stealing credits: Bollywood screenwriters face the heat | Bollywood News

From lawyers scrutinizing scripts, from producers' unfair clauses to directors stealing credits: Bollywood screenwriters face the heat |  Bollywood News
From lawyers scrutinizing scripts, from producers' unfair clauses to directors stealing credits: Bollywood screenwriters face the heat |  Bollywood News

 


It all starts with a writer; It doesn’t always end well for a writer. Veteran screenwriter Anjum Rajabali, known for writing Bollywood films like Aamir Khan starring Ghulam, Ranbir Kapoor-Katrina Kaif, starring Raajneeti and Ajay Devgn, titling The Legend of Bhagat Singh, says writers in the Hindi film industry are fighting a battle on all fronts – from lack of dignified salary, to insecure directors stealing credits until 'to the legal team of producers ensuring that when things happen. go south, a writer is the one who suffers the most.

As rumors in the industry gradually turn into virulent protests over its unfair work and unbalanced treatment of the film crew, Rajabali, a senior executive committee member of the Screen Writers Association, spoke to Indianexpress.com about the issues plaguing the community. The veteran writer said there is an urgent need for creators to stand up and protect the rights of writers, some of whom, especially younger and newer ones, are struggling to cope with the burnout they are subjected to Many times.

“The system needs to be oiled because everything is stacked against the scriptwriters today,” Rajabali said as he sat down to talk about the issues affecting scriptwriters in the film industry, an hour before launching a session to talk about their mental health last month. The problems, he says, stem from the writers' room, arbitrary decisions by producers, insecure directors scrambling to get to the credits, and a deeply disturbing “compensation clause” that has led to nightmares in the community.

Veteran writer Anjum Rajabali talks about the battles screenwriters face today. Veteran writer Anjum Rajabali talks about the battles screenwriters face today.

“Your work, my credit”

Rajabali said the two most important rights of a writer are salary and credit. While the former suffers from the fact that producers prefer to shell out more money for the stars' entourage, the latter is also a tricky area, where producers and directors rig the game.

“There should be a way to assess, if there are multiple authors, who contributed and how much, so that due credit is given. This is an arduous process and if there is a conflict, you need experts to determine who gets the credit. Producers prefer to get around this by keeping final credit discretion to themselves. There is a legal clause that they inserted, which says that the final credit will be at the discretion of the producers. This cannot be at anyone’s discretion! It has to be work-based.

Festive offer

“What also happens is that a lot of directors try to muscle in on the writing credit, because it’s a prestigious credit. When you get a film written and directed on credit, it increases your creative stock. When you say, “I’m a writer-director,” that means you’re a complete storyteller in cinema. People want that. I understand that, but in this case you actually have to co-write, write full drafts.

Slamming directors who want credits after doing nothing, Rajabali said that “just by giving feedback, bringing some ideas and suggestions”, one cannot walk away with credit. This is a widespread practice, even among some established industry executives.

“As a teacher, I give this to hundreds of students, I can't start taking writing credits! I do it as a teacher, in the same way the director does it as a director. In this way, the director gives his opinion to the decorator or to the lyrics as well, does he become co-lyricist? A co-production designer? But they want writing credit, and that pressure happens a lot. I've known producers to sit in writing discussions – of course, it's your film – and during that there will be exchanges, feedback and you won't be able to say, “Even I contributed to that, then even I want a film.” credit.'

” This happens often. Often you have something as absurd as… There will be an individual writing credit, which will say “story by x and y”, “screenplay by y and z”, dialogue by “m” and then there will be “written” and directed by someone else.” I mean, hello?! So what did the others do? When you say “written and directed by,” that means you wrote everything from idea to final version! But it's a prestigious credit, and that's what they want.

In this struggle, Rajabali said new writers suffer the most. SWA has a credit arbitration committee to ensure that if a complaint comes in, the team reviews the final version and determines credit. Rajabali said this was being done as per standard practice following international guidelines. “But here we still have this feudal mindset and so whoever gives the money, the producers, will determine who gets the credit. That's not how it works. In this, new writers suffer. Often credits are given to an experienced writer, who might have done less work, and the new writer gets credit from an associate or researcher, despite having done 50 percent of the work.

“If something happens, pay”

Rajabali said writers must constantly be targeted with “hard contracts”, adding to the already anxious environment over censorship, “fear of speaking out” and pressure of “you can't not write this, you can.” I don't touch this area.

The fear that if a writer writes something that results in said project being shut down or violence occurring, they will be thrown under the bus is “huge,” Rajabali said. Pressure is mounting, as the community now finds itself struggling with “strict” relationships with major studios, where fundamental rights are “denied.”

Rajabali gave an example of a “hard contract” and said: “Your contract can be terminated at any time, without any reason. What does that mean? Your credit could be in jeopardy because it's a discretionary decision by the producer, he'll say, “I didn't like the way you spoke to me.” There might be creative differences, which is totally fair, but if I wrote a draft for you, which you don't agree with now, but I wrote it in your brief and now you have to pay me. You hired me for this. There needs to be some standardization here when it comes to termination.

Then there is the most important thing, the indemnification clause. Rajabali said there was a steady increase in interference from legal officials in the final go-ahead of a scenario. The environment of fear, perhaps after the Tandav controversy of 2020, has put everyone on the back foot, with the creators protecting themselves, but cleverly choosing the writer to fight alone.

“The transaction of the writing law is this: if I am a writer who submits the scripts to you, the producer, I get paid. From now on, the producer becomes the owner of the script, I remain the author, who has transferred my rights to you. But now, as we approach the final version of the script, the producers are submitting it to a battery of lawyers, marketers and financiers. They all review the scenario. Why do lawyers do it? By “for security reasons”, to examine whether the script contains anything for which the creators could be taken to court, whether there could be controversy.

“Despite this, my contract as a writer states: 'I indemnify the studio for all costs, including legal, any damages or losses or interest charges incurred because the film cannot be released.' Which means the writer has to pay this amount in case of controversy Why aren't you the owner of the script? I didn't put a gun to your head? I didn't make a film on my own with your banner. I just gave you the script, you looked at it, you accepted it, so the responsibility falls on you. You have to compensate me. the author and say to sue them too As a producer you have to defend me but you expect a writer to pay you all damages This is a tough time and the industry needs to come together? to bring about change,” Rajabali concluded.

Sources

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