My typical Saturday morning consists of coffee and Namaste America, America’s comprehensive source for clips, interviews, features, and everything else Bollywood. For those eurocentric types, Bollywood is one of the largest production centers in the world. Though strictly song-and-dance films, it is a multi-billion dollar film industry that produces over a thousand films a year selling over 3 billion movie tickets annually.
Naturally, I was curious when I came across this blog posting, Want To Be A Bollywood Script Writer? over at the Dream Ink blog. In case you ever wondered what challenges writers face in other countries, rest assured that heartbreak and disappointment are global concepts. From the post:
Venita’s (Venita Coehlo) journey in Bollywood so far has not been smooth. Out of 17 scripts that she has written, only two got produced and saw theatrical release, including Sanjay Gupta’s Musafir. When she saw the other one in a theatre (she does not want to name the film) she was horrified to see that only one scene written by her was retained in the film. But the film’s credits had her name as the screenplay writer! “I wanted to go and hide somewhere,” she confessed.
According to Venita, Bollywood still follows the 1970s rates and laws for scriptwriters. Once you sell your script for a promised amount (you get payment in parts and full payment is hardly ever made), you part with all rights to your script. Even if the film is shelved, your script does not belong to you anymore. Payments range from Rupees 3 lacs (near S$12K) to Rs10 lacs, and you will be lucky to see any money after getting the signing amount.
“To work in Bollywood, you must supplement your income by other means,” she said, “unless you become a writer who has written hit movies.” She means Jaideep Sahni.
Writing for television is more strenuous but money is good in TV, she said. One month of income from TV can equal 2 years worth of toiling in Bollywood (as a writer).
Copying is rampant in Bollywood and ideas are stolen shamelessly. One has to learn to live with it. If you fight the powerful filmmakers, she said, you can kiss your future goodbye.
Corruption within the industry seems typical with regards to intellectual property, wages, and credits. From PassionForCinema:
One of the horror stories we heard was how a producer had stuck his son’s name in the screenplay credits along with a very senior writer.
Wow. And you thought you had it bad?