It all started with Slumdog Millionaire. Well, not quite. But let’s just say, what came before was the backstory.
So the Danny Boyle blockbuster had not yet hit the movie theatres in India. But the Internet was deluged with stories about a Hollywood movie that was set in India and had an all-Indian cast. So what kind of movie was that? Hollywood, Bollywood, or crossover? Never mind the definitions, as soon as the movie released in India, there was intense debate over the word “Slumdog”. Even as the movie found favour with a huge section of Indian movie buffs, another equally large and vocal group was engaged in SM-bashing. ‘Hollywood is selling India’s poverty”, shouted the bashers while the movie’s fans shot back: ‘It showcases the never-say-die spirit of India’.
All the heated arguments translated into even more ticket sales and even more furious debates, both online and offline. Somewhere in the flurry of blogs and opinion forums, I came across a screenwriting site that asked readers to send in questions to Simon Beaufoy, the screenwriter who wrote the compelling script based on the novel Q&A by Indian author Vikas Swarup. On a whim, I shot off a question to Mr. Beaufoy. A couple of weeks later, Mr. Beaufoy had answered mine along with a bunch of others sent in by other wannabe screenwriters like me. So here was I sitting in India asking a craft question to Mr. Beaufoy in Los Angeles and both the question and the answer were being read by, among others, one person in Dar-es-Salam in Tanzania.
Enter Runjiv Kapur, Indian filmmaker based in Tanzania, on the lookout for a screenwriter to turn the “idea in my head” into a powerful, compelling script. Would I be interested in taking up the assignment? A few emails are exchanged, a few Skype meetings are held and before I know it, here am I, signing a contract to pen the screenplay for a Bollywood film that would be based on a true-life story.
Serendipity? Or a sign of the global times that we live in? Where ideas reign supreme. Where Hollywood sculpts the tale of a down-and-out Indian slumboy and meets Bollywood more than half-way with an energetic song-and-dance routine. Often times, the twists and turns in a screenwriter’s journey cannot be scripted… And that’s what makes the journey so exciting.