Life beyond advertising: Piyush Gupta, on being a Bollywood scriptwriter
Piyush Gupta's love for storytelling began many years ago. The creative director at Lowe Lintas & Partners weaves stories for brands at most times, and at others, is creating stories for Bollywood's films.
He spoke to Firstbiz about his first film, Bhootnath Returns, the day he disagreed with Amitabh Bachchan and what he loves best about writing scripts. Read on...
How did your interest for scriptwriting come about?
I was always fascinated by the world of stories. Back in college, I would travel in local trains and wonder what would be the back-story of those who are traveling in train. I would analyze faces and wonder what's happening in their life at that point in time. It just seemed like every face had a unique story and it was very intriguing to read it.
Although, writing stories was largely a hobby until Nitesh Tiwari got into Bollywood and he gave me a break.
How did Bhootnath Returns happen?
It was almost two years back, Nitesh got an offer to write sequel of Bhoothnath, this was the same time when we were writing a film together for him to direct. He just asked me if I would like to team up with him for Bhoothnath. My answer was an obvious one - 'why not?'
Watch the 'Bhootnath Returns' trailer here:
You're a copywriter by day and a scriptwriter. Despite both being writing jobs, what about each appeals to you separately?
In an ideal world, scriptwriting and copywriting are not very different. One requires you to write stories for brands. The other requires you to write stories about people. One requires you to keep the audience engaged for 30 seconds. The other requires you to keep the audience glued to their seats for two hours. One needs passion and belief. The other needs the same but for a longer period of time.
If only we lived in an ideal world!
What are the biggest challenges with writing a feature film script?
The most challenging aspect of writing a feature film, especially for a copywriter, is the length. When you are writing for cinema time can be both your friend as well as your enemy. On one had you have the luxury of telling things in your own way without worrying about time (like in the ads), on the other hand you have the task of writing responsibly so that the story doesn't drag. Character and conflict are the two most important things in a feature film. If you don't feel for the protagonist as an audience, you don't feel for the film.
Tell us a memorable incident from while you were working with Bhootnath Returns...
Before we got into production, we had a meeting with Mr. Bachchan. He had called us to his bungalow to brainstorm over his character and the overall story.
So we were all jamming together, throwing ideas at each other, during the session Mr Bachchan said something and I instinctively said, I disagree with you sir... (and then I gave my reason). He just heard me and nodded and said. "toh aap hi abtao phir kya karein."
I don't know if we cracked any scene or not, but my day was made. I came home and told my mother, with a broad smile on my face, "I disagreed with Amitabh Bachchan today"!
Would you ever take up scriptwriting for Bollywood, full time?
That's the plan. But I suppose before I can do that I must write a few more. If a few years down the line I really could afford to take that jump, I suppose I would.
Which scriptwriter's work do you idolise and why?
RajKumar Hirani & Abhijat Joshi and Hrishikesh Mukherji, for one simple reason: you don't watch their films, you live them. That's the power they have, they can make you laugh and then cry and then laugh again all within a span of a few minutes.
Lastly, a Bollywood-esque question to round off - any new projects in the pipeline?
If I said none, I would be judged. If I said quite a few, that won't be true. As of now I am working on only one film, its pretty close to my heart. I am writing it with Neeraj Singhand Trishna Parkash, my ex-colleagues.
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