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5 screenwriting lessons from SS Rajamouli that will make your WIP soaRRR

Updated: Jan 1, 2023

How to write an epic blockbuster

SS Rajamouli in a cameo from RRR.
SS Rajamouli in a cameo from RRR.

Image: Screengrab from YouTube video by T-Series

Today, when most other movies are biting the dust, SS Rajamouli’s latest, RRR, is smashing records at the Indian and international box office.

It only makes sense to find out how Rajamouli’s films and screenplays have resonated with diverse audiences across all classes and geographies.

And this interview of the visionary director with award-winning film critic Baradwaj Rangan has the answers. Check it out below.

For your easy, anytime access, I’ve culled out from this video 5 bits of advice Rajamouli shares on screenwriting. Go through these whenever you want a boost for your WIPs. If you’re a film professional, you shouldn’t miss this one.

Tried-and-tested stories > new ones

In a surprising reveal, the Baahubali director shares that it doesn’t matter whether you write a unique story or a usual one. Its chances of success and failure are the same, he says.

“What connects with the audience is the emotion,” he continues. “Not a different story, not a standard one.”

He adds that you have to work harder on a new story. “The audience’s tolerance levels for it are surprisingly low,” he reasons.

Audiences accept the mistakes in run-of-the-mill stories because they’re used to seeing them, he explains. As long as you give them a good laugh and emotion, they’ll be okay with what you offer, he says.

#NoteToSelf—the same ol’ story, or written from scratch, remember to infuse it with emotion in all the right places.

No worrying about your audience

Every other publication describes how South Indian cinema has a finger on the audience’s pulse.

But Rajamouli asserts that he doesn’t think of the audience when writing a story. “I only think about my excitement levels at the time,” he says.

So, how does he gauge the audience’s tastes? He does factor them in at some point, doesn’t he?

He says he does that when he has to “relive the story and its scenes” and show them to his technicians or family members for feedback and reactions.

#MOTS—give your thinking mind a break while writing a story. Then, run it by a trusted few when taking it ahead.

Art over commerce

One of Rajamouli’s most iconic takes is about prioritising the artistically crucial over the commercially viable.

“You have to be careful not to let commerce take over art,” he says. His mantra: it’s always art that leads, and commerce follows it.

Ideal scripting time

It’s a question that’s on everyone’s minds, including mine. It’s also on Baradwaj Rangan’s because he does pose it to the visionary filmmaker.

In response, Rajamouli estimates 4-5 weeks for outlining the storyline and plot points, followed by 5-6 months for the detailing. Total time: 7-8 months. He mentions this time may vary depending on the nature of the project.

The deadline is, thus, now set for the second PiKu & ViRu story! (Buy/download/review the first one here; it’s FREE on Kindle Unlimited!)

Normal to feel confident and afraid

This one may not be a writing lesson, but it can help defeat writer’s block.

It’s another eye-opener, as fear and Rajamouli don’t seem like a possible combination. Yet, he confesses to feeling it while making movies.

Yes, you should have confidence, regardless of whether you know or don’t know how you’ll make it big, just like how he has right from the start. He further attributes his confidence to following all due procedures while making a film. But he admits he still can’t tell how it would perform. That fear coexists with confidence.

The key is to follow the tenets of meditation and “approach a job with a calm, free, and uncluttered mind,” despite the fear. “If there’s nothing in my hands, I won’t worry about it.” He also lets fear act as fuel to keep going.

In short, let the fear be. It’s natural and part of the process. Just do your job nevertheless simultaneously.

Post backdated on Thursday, 22 September 2022


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