By Aakash Kaushik
Writers have been the soul of films for decades. Remember Salim Javed’s iconic hits? However, the legendary duo may have been an exception. Down the line, writers got lost in the backdrop. Today with the advent of OTT and increased attention on content, it is interesting how content makers, or rather writers are still in the shadows. When did this start? What is the reason for this disparity?
Debatable pay scale and recognition
A writer is one of the main people in the making of a film. The value of a good script is well understood by insiders as well as viewers. The gap lies in translating this importance to the people behind the script; the writer who imagined the concept and fleshed out the universe.
The pay disparity writers face is shocking. For example, there was a well-known hair stylist who developed a flair for writing and even managed to write a good film which was declared a hit. The person soon got back to hairstyling again. The reason? Hairstyling paid better than being a writer. Now we are not debating the importance of anyone’s role in a film. But through this incident, we are forced to think if the hairstyle of an actor was more important than the film’s script.
The gap is also evident between an actor’s hike fee after a hit film and that of a writer. Even compared to directors and producers, writers are no match. Due to the lack of support, we lose many excellent writers. It is a collective loss of the industry and not just the writer fraternity alone.
In big content-driven films which are known by the name of the directors like, ‘Sanjay Leela Bhansali film’ or a ‘Rajkumar Hirani film’, the name of the writer is lost even then. In fact, writers do not shy away from the spotlight but are vying for recognition. Publicity, recognition, credits and pay are still areas to be worked and contemplated on, for a writer to be able to step into the spotlight.
Why did this happen?
There is no singular reason. This precedence has been set for decades and is followed blindly. The power dynamics in the film industry dictate a lion’s share of fame and pay for the actors, directors and producers. There is no one person to blame. It has been years of neglect which has shaped the perception and mechanics of the industry. Throughout the year’s low octane discussions have taken place, but a change is yet to come.
How can this change?
There is a need for writers to unite and take the situation in their own hands, Writers need to collaborate and develop frameworks for the credits and pay scale. It cannot be done by one person. If writers are able to come together and say “nobody will work below a certain pay scale”, then definitely the producers and other fraternity members will understand. The future is in the hands of the writers.
The author is an Indian film screenplay writer and story writer. View mentioned are personal.