Updated: Nov 30, 2022
Mining out the best nuggets of advice from the filmmaker’s interview
No movie is perfect, they say. Except if it’s Vishal Bhardwaj’s Omkara. Followed by Hum Aapke Hain Koun at least for me. [Read: How Hum Aapke Hain Koun was way ahead of its times]
And then comes K.G.F: Chapter 2.
I watched this Kannada gangster drama a week after its release, giving into the hype surrounding the film and its predecessor. While K.G.F: Chapter 1 was impressive, especially in its second half, the first half could have done with a trim, unlike its lead actor Yash’s beard :D
But K.G.F: Chapter 2 was so consistent in its writing, screenplay, and characterisation that it made no mistakes. It all flowed perfectly. At one point, I began to get into the protagonist Rocky’s head and knew he wasn’t as concerned about his stash’s whereabouts after a CBI raid as he was about the sole gold biscuit they had taken away.
For a movie that comes from an industry that has struggled with infrastructure issues, this is truly a mammoth achievement. It’s a case study on how the right budget and marketing strategy can help bring a filmmaker’s vision to life. I’m surprised how the critics who panned this film just didn’t get it at all. The movie truly blew my mind away.
Naturally, I was curious to find out its director Prashanth Neel’s screenwriting advice. Thankfully, this interview between him and film critic Baradwaj Rangan has all the answers.
Here are 5 screenwriting lessons from Prashanth Neel culled from the video. You simply don’t want to miss out on this blockbuster recipe. Do note that the excerpts have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Define your protagonist’s childhood
What makes it hard to disbelieve Rocky’s fights with scores of goons is the backstory involving his childhood conditioning by his mother Shanthamma (Archana Jois).
“Most of our adult behaviour is dictated by our childhood experiences,” says Neel. “If a hero hits a hundred people, the strength he gets for it is because of something that has happened in his past.”
The key takeaway here: childhood event = something big is going to happen in the future, as Prashanth Neel puts it.
Focus on your screenplay and storytelling more than the story itself
While it’s imperative to get the story right, considering it acts as the foundation for your film, your screenplay deserves a lot more care and attention.
How a story is told > how good a story is, says Neel. “It doesn’t matter what the story is. Hollywood makes a movie on ants and another on Godzilla and convinces you with both. How a story is told is about the screenplay,” he continues.
Having a solid screenplay truly ensures a gripping and seamless movie experience, as it also includes elements such as pacing and character actions. “Most of the things you see (on the screen) come from the screenplay, but we improvise (too),” Neel explains.
MOTS: Of course, have a good story in place, but also ensure a well-written, water-tight screenplay. The key is to “follow the process” in all departments.
Give your audience what they want
Having a finger on your audience’s pulse is especially important when you’re starting out, says Neel.
“Once the audience begins to trust you, you can make a movie that you like and present it to them.”
Art follows commerce, according to Neel, in complete contradiction to SS Rajamouli’s “Art should lead the commerce” mantra. [Read: 5 screenwriting lessons from SS Rajamouli that will make your WIP soaRRR]
Apparently, Neel developed this belief after facing difficulties while getting his first directorial Ugramm out in theatres.
Think like an editor
In K.G.F: Chapter 2, the tragic scene involving Reena (Srinidhi Shetty) becomes more impactful when the wish she makes for Rocky, following her nightmare in a previous scene, is spelled out after the antagonist Adheera (Sanjay Dutt) fires his gun and not in the previous scene itself. That’s how we realise who’s at the receiving end of the bullet, and it makes for a gut-wrenching moment.
K.G.F also shows Rocky’s childhood as “flashes of memories” than an entire event.
Truly, these scenes wouldn’t have come to life if Neel wouldn’t have channeled his inner editor in the writing stage. Just the reason we storytellers need to build and hone our film-editing skills.
Reduce online exposure
“I stay away from online banter,” says Neel.
Makes sense if you want to be productive and better at what you do.
I, too, have cut down on social-media time so I can focus on writing more and getting sh*t done. (Buy/download, read, and review my book PiKu & ViRu here; it’s FREE on Kindle Unlimited!)
Post backdated on 30 November 2022