Showbiz and superstars are synonymous with each other. Actors give the movies their cachet. Movie goers flock to the theatres to see their favourite actors perform. Be it Tom Cruise, Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, Jim Carrey, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie in Hollywood or Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor in Bollywood. Again, there are the filmmakers who have their own star status. Names like James Cameron, Martin Scorcese, Robert Redford, George Lucas, Quentin Tarantino can pull in audiences all over the world. In Bollywood, some of the top names among contemporary directors include Mani Ratnam, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Karan Johar, Raju Hirani and among the older stalwarts, Raj Kapoor, Guru Dutt, Bimal Roy, Subhash Ghai, Manmohan Desai and more. However, rare is the screenwriter who has that kind of ‘pull factor’. Until now.
Consider ‘The Social Network’, the movie that has grossed billions of dollars worldwide and is one of the top contenders to win the Oscars in 2011. Do a google search and you’ll find thousands of articles showering praise, or heckling scribe Aaron Sorkin for his fictional take on Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook. Traditionally, the director has had to bear the burden of a film’s success – or failure – but in the case of The Social Network, it seems that Sorkin has been the target of critics’ bouquets and brickbats. Yet another instance of a superstar screenwriter is Shane Black. The man behind scripts such as Lethal Weapon 1 and 2 and The Last Boy Scout made his directing debut with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and has now been roped in to direct the third outing of one of the most successful franchises in Hollywood, Iron Man.Bollywood, in contrast, seems a gazillion miles away from this trend of the Superstar Screenwriter. The only screenwriters who have won the same kind of accolades and repute are Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar, who operated as a screenwriting duo and gave several humungous hits like Deewaar, Zanjeer, Sholay. They were responsible for crafting the career of Bollywood’s most-enduring superstar Amitabh Bachchan. In fact, during the 1970s, when the duo were delivering one hit after another, producers believed they didn’t need a big star in their films if they had a script by Salim-Javed. And perhaps it was the only time in Bollywood history, that movie posters prominently featured the credit line: “story-screenplay by Salim-Javed”. Today, the hugely talented Jaideep Sahni has top billing among screenwriters. Starting out with the low-budget, indie-style, black comedy Khosla ka Ghosla, Jaideep’s rise has indeed been meteoric. Not surprising, as he’s able to deliver both low-budget scripts like Bhoot and Rocket Singh – Salesman of the Year, as well as big Bollywood entertainers like Bunty aur Babli. While Anurag Kashyap is now only penning scripts for the indie-style films that he directs, Kashyap ranks among the top writers as do Prasoon Pandey and Abhijat Joshi. But even as these screenwriters get more recognition (and moolah!), their star status cannot be compared with that of their actor-colleagues like Shah Rukh Khan or Aamir Khan. It still takes these superstars to bring in the audiences.