Writing a winning script is much harder than it looks, and changing audience tastes and evolving technology just threw the rule book out the window
The hinge of a moving door never rusts. This is one of the core truths I have observed in a screenwriting career that spans two decades. Audience’s tastes are fluid and they keep flowing.
They twist and turn through daily life, technology, politics, activism, workplace dynamics, real-life events and incidents; and sometimes their tastes swirl around just plain old boredom – an itch to sample something new. The viewer’s wish becomes our command. If there is demand, we will supply.
Storytelling onscreen is not a free, creative process like painting or poetry is.
Most often, the audience has no clue that the dialogue-baazi, naach-gaana, seeti-taali (and sometimes gaali) that they enjoy for just 2 hours is actually a strong, 60-ml shot that took months and years of brewing/writing. To be able to weave ALL of it into a kickass, successful 2-hour package is every writer’s dream! The road to that dream however has evolved with every passing year.
Cinema was always classified as commercial and an art. With time, the fine line dividing the two has blurred. High art meets low art without turning into kitsch. A contemporary actor wants to work in a story which is not only a commercial hit but is also a platform for deeper performance, social reform and a hatke viewpoint.
Character portrayal has also seen a vast change. Larger-than-life heroes, holier-than-thou heroines, heart-of-gold villains are now seen as unreal. Cut to characters with shades of grey – they could be you or I, or someone we know. Cinema strives to display normal plausible people with flaws and all, so that the audience finds an easy connect with them.
If characters turn over a new leaf, how can music stay afar? Indian cinema without songs is unimaginable. But a film song which earlier served the purpose of glamour, pathos or just random breaks; now forms a part of the film’s narrative. It can cut a long story short as well as exploit viewer’s emotions.
One of the influences of audience tastes is technology. The Internet has changed our behaviour in the last decade. The average attention span has reduced to a level where we give just 3 seconds to a page to load or we move on. So the story format has lost the luxury of time; it is now quicker, crisper, sharper and yet eventful.
Speaking of staying power, a film gets screen space only for a few days now. But within months of release, channels line up to buy TV rights and the film is out on satellite. A film which wins the love of people is telecast repeatedly, thus graduating to a cult status.
Multiplex culture has also influenced the shelf life of a story. With larger number of screens, the quality of films has been diluted. One weekend i.e. just three days alone can decide the verdict of a movie which took years to create. Not only that, with influx of Netflix, Amazon Prime and You Tube, there is so much original content online that the audience is spoilt for choice.
No wonder then, to make an average punter spend good money on a movie ticket, a media spectacle has to be created. A movie does not just sell itself anymore. Promotional hullaballoo begins months ahead of the release and it includes special ad campaigns, offline PR appearances, positive word of mouth and a mini typhoon on social media.
Another evolution lies in the volume of content generated. With a considerable increase in the number of studios and production companies, the number of films being made has also risen. Smart phone and Internet penetration has thrown such mindboggling numbers that in today’s time even big stars are not shying away from working in web series or short films.
The business dynamics and trends will always keep changing. But what will never change is love for a good story. Both for the ones who tell it and for the ones who love to watch it. The magic of cinema lives on!
And at the end of it all, it’s all about Entertainment, Entertainment, Entertainment!
– This is all about the volume of content generated
(Written by Rajat Aroraa, Writer)