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06-17-2013, 12:44 AM #1
Good dialogue is often about the unsaid than the obvious: Dialogue Writer Charudutt Acharya
Charudutt Acharya, known for his cutting dialogue in the hit series Crime Patrol has navigated the television world for fifteen years and now is making his foray into the world of cinema.
Tell us something about yourself?
I started as an apprentice in films and later graduated from FTII (1995) specializing in directing. I continued to assist and make shorts after film school, but some personal reasons got me wholly into writing for television. For last 15 years I have written for TV drama shows like Crime Patrol, Haqeeqat, Kagaar, Jassi Jaise Koi Nahin, Siddhant Rajuben, and others. I have also co-written movies like Vaastushastra, Dum Maro Dum and Nautanki Saala. At present I am working on my debut feature film as writer-director called Sonali Cable.
How have your journey been so far?
The journey has been a huge learning curve. With each project you take away something substantial in terms of your craft and in terms of people management. Television especially installs discipline in you, which goes a long way.
What is the difference between story writing and dialogue writing?
There are three major components of screenwriting.
Story: This is the core of any screenplay. It’s an event from life or imagination or a mix of both, which has a dramatic premise that plays out through characters in the world of the story. The story is an entity with a beginning, middle and end that helps us humans to make sense of our lives.
STEP OUTLINE (often called Screenplay in our industry): This is a technical document that breaks the story and STRUCTURES it in to cinematic modules called SCENES. The step outline / screenplay is a no-frills, no-flab blue print of what is going to be seen and heard on screen. It is a device that aims to manipulate information, emotion and drama to keep the audience in a constant state of suspended disbelief and anticipation.
DIALOGUE: In the movies, dialogue is the cherry on the cake. Ideally its function is not information only but to underline character and enrich the subtext of the screen proceedings. Good dialogue is often about the unsaid than the obvious. Good dialogue is milieu specific and yet makes the story accessible universally.
How different is writing for cinema and television?
The golden rule of the big screen is: SHOW DON’T TELL. Writing for the cinema is writing for a visual medium. It’s about ‘moving pictures’ and not ‘talking heads’. Thus the primary difference between writing for the big screen and the small screen is – Verbosity. Usually, TV tends to be far more verbose than film and is a medium primarily dominated by close ups of people talking to each other. The interplay of dialogue and the performance of the actors is the key to good television. In the movies the audio visual design plays a huge part in making it an engaging and fulfilling experience.
The second distinguishing factor is screen time and space. In a feature film, you have two hours only in which you can tell a story that is set in one day or that traverses centuries. The travel between time and space is far more complex and sophisticated in cinema. In television, you have an entire season to tell a story which again is just a part of a larger story. TV writing calls for book marking & underlining every few minutes with dramatic hook points. In the cinema one has to hit the key plot-points rather seamlessly.
The third and most important difference is in the selection of a story. One has to really give a hard look at a premise or a concept and decide – Is this better off as a yearlong TV series or does it have the potential for a single two hour audio visual experience?
Do dialogues play an important role in making up a character?
There is nothing that is less important in the movies or television. Every single department has an equal responsibility in bring alive the characters on the screen – large of small.
Thus like good casting, cinematography, production design and directing, the dialogue in the script definitely plays an important role in revealing character in a story.
Good lines give actors the tools to take their performance notches higher. Good lines in a good movie make characters memorable. They add tremendous recall value to a film.
But let us not forget that cinema started off as a silent medium. One of the all-time greats of the cinema never spoke a single word – Charlie Chaplin!
What is your pick fiction or non-fiction shows?
So far I have just done fiction shows and feature films and want to continue with the same.
What advice would you like to give to new aspiring writers?
Watch films/shows repeatedly. If available read their screenplays repeatedly. If not, sit down with a remote and make notes on every scene. Figure out what why and how does a particular scene work. How did it start and how did it end? How are characters and plots introduced? How are ideas and objects planted? How are they paid off? There are excellent online resources on screenwriting. There are some good books on screenwriting. There are screenwriting courses too. No harm in taking them. It’s all for you. Imbibe them and most importantly…write. Write daily. Write despite anything and everything. Yes, do your research but ideally, write about things you know and care about. But also, write in sync with the trade. Write for a current audience. Write stuff that is cast able and filmable. Getting produced on any scale and any medium, opens doors. And most importantly, live a life. You write what you live. It gives you a voice that is uniquely yours.
What are your future plans?
Well at present I am busy with the post production of my film Sonali Cable. Professionally my future plan is to write and direct more feature films. I think I have few stories to tell.