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Notes from the first Chennai International Screenwriting Workshop

Editor’s Note:
Chandrachoodan Gopalakrishnan aka ‘ravages’ needs no introduction to the Indian blog audience. He was fortunate to be part of the Chennai International Screenwriting Workshop and we are fortunate to have him share his experiences, as a guest blogger.

Hello folks,

So, I was one of the 250 people selected to attend the first Chennai International Screenwriting Workshop conducted by Kamal Haasan and IIT.

A 4-day workshop, followed by 2 days of seminars, to put it in Kamal’s words, are “the first baby steps” to find the next generation of screenwriters for the film industry.

Kamal Haasan assembled together a team of speakers — Anjum Rajabali, K Hariharan and Atul Tiwari — while contributing in some sessions himself.

Taking the brunt of the teaching/instructing work was Anjum Rajabali. Anjum is the head of the screenwriting department at FTII Pune and Whistling Woods, Mumbai. Anjum, for those who don’t know him, is the writer of Ghulam, Drohkaal (the film that later became Kurudhippunal) and Legend of Bhagat Singh. From setting up the premise, to developing the plot, laying out the structure and developing characters and characteristics, the workshop covered quite a bit of ground. But most of it was at a basic level, intended to give those who’ve never had to write before a good foundation. For me, it was ground I’d already covered but still there were some useful pointers.

Kamal, not that it surprised me, was articulate and intelligent. In one session, he talked to us about Hey Ram and his thought process in writing the film. While not always sticking to the point (Kamal has a tendency to meander, talk about various other things that strikes his fancy), he managed to give us all a clear idea of what kind of research a writer needs to undertake in writing for a film.

Anjum talked to us about premise, plot and structure, while Hariharan covered characterisation (with hilarious examples), timing and detailing. Atul Tiwari covered dialogues and chipped in with anecdotes during other sessions.

While the idea to conduct the workshop in Chennai is Kamal’s (similar workshops have been conducted in Bombay and Delhi), his maximum input was in the seminar where he brought some of the best Indian directors — K Balachander, Balu Mahendra, Shekhar Kapur, Rituparno Ghosh — and screenwriters from different parts of the world, to share their experiences with us.

But perhaps the biggest contribution Kamal made was as a learner himself. Unlike a few stars who’d make token appearances at events, Kamal spent the entire duration of the workshop, never missing a session, as attentive as the 250 of us.

On the final day, we all had our photographs taken with the workshop leaders - Kamal, Anjum, Hariharan and Atul. After which was the little surprise. The screening of a short trailer of Marudhanaayagam. A good end to the workshop.

I will try and write more about it in coming days. Till then, au revoir.

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