In the last few years, at least a couple production houses have resisted the need to get just the combinations right — the Kodambakkam way of getting well-known names together — for success.
Production houses such as S. Sashikanth’s YNOT Studios (Irudhi Sutru and Vikram Vedha) and S.R. Prabbu’s Dream Warrior Pictures (Theeran Adhigaram Ondru and Kaithi) are some of the production companies that have set up in-house creative teams to read, assess and critically develop scripts.
S.R. Prabhu, who was first with Studio Green, before branching out to produce his own films under Dream Warrior Pictures, said he began putting together a process for selecting movies due to sheer volume of scripts that came his way.
“After our productions, Joker and Aruvi I was flooded with so many scripts. I had to get somebody to curate them for me. This was the first level and then slowly we started adding people to the team to scrutinise the scripts,” he said. He added, “We don’t have ‘writers’ per se, but we have script doctors.”
Mr. Sashikanth said that setting up a creative team was one of the first decisions he took when he started making movies.
“Looking at film production from outside, I realised that crores of money were being funnelled into a film by a producer just after he listened to a two-hour narration by a director. How could you take a decision like that? That’s when I started thinking about better ways,” he said.
Sashikanth says he began understanding the various aspects of screenwriting from the very beginning.
“I went for screenwriting workshops and realised that a producer should be creatively involved. Even in our own industry, big production houses like AVM Studios used to sit with writers and then find the director, cast a hero and so on,” he said.
“Evolution of that learning process was the realisation that script was important. Over the years, we put together a content team that looks at how to develop scripts and ideas.”
Mr. Sashikanth insists that a pre-requisite of working with his company is that writers and directors shouldn’t be rigid. “We incubate the idea from its embryonic stage, but there are films for which we got a full-bound script. Our next release, written and directed by Karthik Subbaraj, featuring Dhanush, was an idea that was pitched to us by him a few years ago. With him, we didn’t start from the very beginning since he is a very good writer himself,” he said.
Of course, Mr. Prabhu, whose recent production Kaithi, starring Karthi and Narain, was a smashing success, says that taking screenwriters to the next level has run into a few problems.
“Writers today don’t have the creative guidance or a platform. They don’t have monetary support. They have no place to share their ideas and learn. They have tremendous insecurity too. Only when industry defines screeenwriting as a craft will writers let go of their insecurities,” he said. “Almost every script changes by at least 50%. The core idea, however, remains.”
Beneficial in more ways
Filmmaker Pushkar, who co-directed Vikram Vedha with Gayathri, a smash hit in 2017, said collaborating with a knowledgeable producer was beneficial in more ways than one.
“We developed the idea over 3 years and we would constantly bounce off ideas with Sashikanth. He was our sounding board. We had no ego issues with each other. So, there was no question of the film getting creatively affected,” he said.
Screenwriter Arun Rajagopalan, whose Adho Andha Paravai Pola starring Amala Paul is ready for release, said producers can safeguard a third of their revenue if they invest in a good script.