Sunday, January 3, 2010

Yes, I have an opinion too

The 3 Idiots controversy fascinates me. It even delights me. It's wonderful to see the infringement of a writer's rights become front page/ Breaking News. I never thought I'd live to see the day.

We're a whiny lot, us folk who write for a living. We bury ourselves in our caves, are obnoxiously anti-social; we use not just ours but our loved ones' private experiences to gain personal glory, are disdainful of the more 'business-minded' folk to whom we happily relinquish our fortunes and then bitch & moan when we get exploited. Yes, we're truly an ungrateful bunch of sissies. Why should anyone care?

And they don't. They really, really don't. Films get magically made (especially if Aamir Khan is the lead actor), stories get plucked out of the stratosphere like babies get dropped by storks. Throw in a wad of cash (never enough, I can assure you. Chetan Bhagat's reported 10 lac fee is in my book, peanuts) and one's responsibility towards the (un)friendly, neighbourhood writer is over. What do we want anyway? An award???

Yes, well, we kinda do. We want to be acknowledged as the progenitor of the idea that you twisted and morphed into your film. We want you to admit that without this seed of an idea, you wouldn't have the bushels of profits sprouting up in your bank accounts.

As someone with an idea of the dynamics of screenwriting, my first instinct was to side with Raju Hirani and Abhijat Joshi. When a work of literature is adapted to big screen, the screenwriters, in effect, create a whole new work of art. No matter how much of the book is infused in the script, writing a successful screenplay is a subtle craft that requires the skill of true artists. No one should ever, ever forget that when viewing 3 Idiots.

Also, I have never really enjoyed Chetan Bhagat's writing; even within the light-hearted, popcorn genre he occupies (Nick Hornby, who also navigates the same space is a far superior writer who manages to keep things simple and then craftily sneaks the emotion in). I remember watching an interview of Bhagat's, when another film based on his book was being released. He came across as a slightly crass and, well, classless dude. Also, for such a highly educated man, he made a colossal blunder by signing that ridiculous contract. He made the classic mistake that I've made a million times - signing something without reading the fine print. He's an Idiot (haha) and he deserves what's happening to him.

But, here's the thing. It was his baby. No matter how deformed, banal and stereotypical in form, it was his. He's the guy who dreamt up of these characters from the static in his brain. He's the fellow who took the time and the effort to stare down a blank MS Word page and fill it up with plot, dialogue and life. This is not a man whose name should appear as byline after the still photographer's. That's just wrong.

Which is why no matter how much he whines and no matter how valid the argument that he shouldn't have signed that godawful contract, by making a ruckus, he performs a very important function. He sheds light on a form of injustice that's rarely brought to light. I wonder how his case would hold up in a court of law or how much respect & credibility he'll be left with after taking on India's Conscience, Aamir Khan, but I for one will be grateful because he didn't choose silence, that he didn't keep his big mouth shut. By shouting "Injustice!" from rooftops, he gives the Big Idea a right to live. And for that, he gains my vote.

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