Writing Is A Lonely And Thankless Tob: Ritesh Shah

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Mumbai(PTI): Writer Ritesh Shah says writing stories is a lonely and thankless vocation and finds it difficult to detach himself from the arduous process even in his sleep as he feels inspiration can strike any time.

The 42-year-old scribe has been behind some of the biggest and critically-acclaimed films of recent times, including “Pink”, “Airlift”, “Kahaani” and the latest, “Raid” in various capacities — story writer, screenplay or dialogue writer.

“Writing is lonely, difficult, thankless and damn hard. It’s not even sit-on-the-table process, it is lonely. Most of the times you are writing alone, the story can come to you at any place – in a bus, while you’re having a drink or in the washroom.

“There is no escape from it. It troubles you in sleep also. Sometimes, you think you have solved it. Sometimes a scene comes, or the full film comes, and then you realise in the morning, it was all nonsense,” Shah told PTI in an interview.

The scribe says he would be doing “disservice” if he glamourises writing.

“It is a terrible job. It’s hard to write and very hard to write commercial Hindi films. It doesn’t come easily,” he says, who has a loyal listener to all his story ideas – Roger, his dog.

Mainstream films have been Shah’s forte and he attributes his love for it to movies penned by veteran writer duo Salim-Javed, which fuelled his appetite in his growing up years and it ended up having the biggest influence on him.
The writer, who penned commercially-viable films like “Namastey London” and “Force”, however, emphasises the skill is not easy as “there is a lot of pressure of pleasing”.

“Forget the audience, first the actor has to be happy with it, then the technicians, the director, the producer, the finance-marketing people have to like it. So, how can you write something, which pleases you and the audience?” Shah says.

Born in south Kashmir’s Anantnag and raised in Srinagar, the writer remembers his 15-year-old self living in the conflict-hit state. He recalls there was not only a threat to life but the education system was also in shambles.

“The education got badly affected in the ’90s and the middle-class Kashmiris went to different parts in the country to study,” says Shah, who migrated to Delhi in the summer of 1990.

He pursued English Literature at the Hindu College and later opted to do mass communication from Jamia Milia Islamia.

Filmmaker Imtiaz Ali and TV personality Roshan Abbas were his seniors and “Udta Punjab” director Abhishek Choubey was his junior.

“There are two-three boys in every batch, either in Hindu or Jamia, who migrate to Mumbai. That’s a pattern,” he says.

His calling to Mumbai happened somewhere around 1998 when he adapted Polish playwright Slawomir Mrozek’s play “The Police”, which a lot of people from the film fraternity saw and liked.

An actor, who featured in the play – Shah swears he will never disclose his identity – asked him to move to the metropolis and told him that a film can be made on his adaptation.

“I came to Mumbai with that script. I was able to make initial contact with him but after that he didn’t get back to me and I didn’t know what to do with my time. So, by chance I went for a TV meeting with a friend and happened to get a writing job,” he says.

After working for six years in the TV industry, he landed his first writing job for films with Sujoy Ghosh’s “Home Delivery”, for which he would later pen the dialogues.

Soon after, he bagged “Namastey London”. Nine years and several movies later, came the massive recognition in form of the National Award-winning film “Pink”.

“There’s nothing that I desire to do as much as I wish to write. I am not tempted to produce or direct or choreograph. I love writing. I love my lines to be spoken on the screen or to be sure that now the audience will laugh or go quiet,” Shah says.

Currently, the writer has his slate full – he has penned the upcoming Arjun Kapoor-Parineeti Chopra starrer “Namastey England”, Diljit Dosanjh’s “Arjun Patiala” and Nikkhil Advani’s “Batla House”.

Shah says he has more to stories to tell and his stock is far from over.

“I came to Mumbai for a week and have stayed here for 18-odd years. I am an extended guest in this city. I am supposed to go back but I haven’t yet,” he says.

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