Writing's more difficult now

Published On: 2013-02-23

Author: Mayank Shekhar

Media Link:

''Writing's more difficult now''

By: Mayank Shekhar

It’s been almost a decade since Javed Akhtar wrote a screenplay. Farhan Akhtar’s Lakshya to open later this year is Akhtar’s (of the famed Salim Khan-Javed Akhtar duo) comeback as a cinema writer.

In his expansive and arguably the most successful writing career in Indian cinema, the auteur — from Ramesh Sippy’s Seeta Aur Geeta, Rahul Rawail’s Arjun to Shekhar Kapur’s Mr India — signified a blend between pedestrian entertainment and pop art.

He admits times have changed since he crafted Amitabh Bachchan’s ‘Angry Young Man’ image, which among other glories, brought writing credits on to Hindi film posters. We begin this rapid fire with the poet/lyricist with the obvious:

Why had you quit writing screenplays to begin with?

A time had come when I felt I wasn’t enjoying writing scripts and hence was not getting appreciated either. On the other hand, I began to enjoy writing lyrics and began getting appreciated for it. So I stopped writing scripts until I felt I’d feel hungry for it again.


So now you feel hungry for it again?

Actually this happened after I went to Kargil in ’99 as part of a film delegation. I read books on the Kargil escapades and next year was called in as the only civilian to address the troops at the first anniversary of the war in the Drass sector.

While I had collected enough information, spoken to a vast variety of people, I realised there was something I wanted to say and it couldn't be said through a song or poem. It had to be a script. I had developed the scenes and characters in my mind and once Farhaan (Akhtar) asked me what I was up to, he heard my idea, sent me off to Khandala to put it on paper and the push that I needed finally came from him and Ritesh (Sidhwani, the producer).


Is Javed Akhtar a full-on screenplay writer again?

I’d like to concentrate on my lyrics. But I want to write at least a script a year.


Does the job entail a different ethos since you left it?

Well, everything has changed. And I if I don’t change, I’d become obsolete. Those were times of rhetoric and usage of dialogues that were bookish.

The sense of beauty and aesthetics changes with time. Now, people with altered attention spans expect you to be to the point.


Amitabh Bachchan once commented that the ‘Angry Young Man’ was a product of the rebellious times, whereas the youth now is relatively confused. Do you subscribe to that view?

Yes, there is confusion and life has become complicated. In the ’70s life was black or white, Left or Right. Righteous people saw virtue in poverty and vice in riches.

An ideology gives you a code of conduct on which one can base contemporary morality. And a hero is a personification of the same contemporary morality or aspirations. An aspiration, one could argue, gets reflected through the success of Kaun Banega Crorepati.

Since ideologies are getting obsolete, life has become separate packages of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ to choose from. So life has become complicated and writing screenplays is more difficult now. In Lakshya, the lead protagonist is an ambitionless youth who is flowing with the times.

Being ambitionless, according to you, is the personification of the youth then?

I think today’s youth is not rooted, though he wants to be. I meet aspiring poets in colleges who have the interest but no knowledge. But it’s not their fault — their education system, families and peers have failed them.