“Be your harshest critic”

vijendra-prasad

He is the man with the magic touch, a man who needs no introduction. K. V. Vijayendra Prasad (Koduri Venkata Vijayendra Prasad), a prolific Indian film screenwriter and director known for his works in Telugu cinema and Bollywood. He is the screenwriter for more than twenty five films, most of which are blockbusters. His most recent works include Bahubali: The Beginning and Bajrangi Bhaijaan which are the biggest blockbusters of the year.

Sparing some very precious time from his busy schedule, he visited the AISFM campus recently to share his valuable inputs about his life, his cinematic journey and of course his stories, while interacting with our students.

A very humble and down-to-earth man, he never ceases to surprise with his unassuming nature. Said he before the interaction with the students’, “I always say that the person I am interacting with is more intelligent than me and I can learn from him and most of the time it happens. There are so many people here who have theoretical knowledge about films. So I wish to learn something from you.”

Talking about the movie that was on everyone’s mind, Bahubali, he recalled, “When my son Rajamouli wanted me to write a story for Prabhas he said that it should be a costume drama. He said that he should be able to create sequences where he can picturize good fights and that he wanted the female characters to be very powerful, as equals to the male characters. Then he asked me to include some grey characters also. The next morning I told him this scene – ‘a young man is displaying his dexterity in swordsmanship and when his father tells him that he is the best swordsman he had ever seen, the young child asks him in return – haven’t you heard of Bahubali? He fought with 200 people and he killed them all. By evening he was soaked in blood and not a drop was his. The father was mesmerised and asked where is this warrior, I want to see him. So the child replied that Bahubali is dead. Backstabbing is more powerful. – This is the scene I told Rajamouli and it didn’t have a beginning or an end then. Then I told him the scene about a mother carrying a child, wading across a river. I told him these two scenes and I saw the gleam in Rajamouli’s eyes. That’s how it all started.”

Bahubali seemed to be the top question again. Answering more questions about the hugely popular film that is been released in two parts, the veteran writer of this magnum opus said, “I never thought of writing it in two parts because it was a single story. But as it started evolving many beautiful sequences started coming up. I then knew that it would be at least five hours long and it would be impossible to shorten it to 2.5 hrs. Initially what we thought would be done with a 60 to 70 crore budget went on to become a 110 – 130 crore film. It is then that we thought of making it in two parts, that way we are safe and it also makes economic sense.”

Here are the excerpts of the session between the legendary writer and our students:
What is the future of Indian cinema under the subject of mythology?
It has a very good future; we love our mythology with its larger than life characters. Bahubali’s success is the success of the film industry of India. It has crossed the border of regional movies and become a pan Indian movie. Our Indian culture has got the vast resource of mythology, which no other nation can claim. I read somewhere that Bernard Shaw had read the whole Mahabharata and had said that ‘if it has happened, it is the most wonderful thing; but if it is written by somebody else, then it is a miracle’. It has thousands of characters for generations to come. Even if the best of screenplay writers attempt, they cannot write the Mahabharata again. We should have the imagination to pick up the characters from them. Very soon people will know the beauty of mythology and it will explode in the world. That’s what I wish for and pray also.

How do you get such different ideas for stories; that too back to back – be it Bahubali, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Eega or Magadheera which are all different genres. Please share the secret.
Why, do you want to be a competitor? A story is nothing but a lie; it is fiction and not a fact. So, one should have the ability to lie very nicely and putting it together should look like the truth; and I can lie very well. (Laughs)

What was the most discouraging moment in your cinematic journey and how did you overcome it? Do you experience a writer’s block, how do you overcome it?
Unless you struggle you can’t come up in life, there is no easy way out and hard work always pays off. If somebody is not recognizing your talent, it’s their bad luck, so don’t underestimate yourself and always have confidence in yourself.
Yes, I too have a writer’s block sometime. Let me tell you about how Bhajrangi Bhaijaan came about. One of the best movies of Chiranjeevigaru is Pasivadi Pranam, I liked the movie a lot. About seven years ago I wanted to rehash it and make it with a commercial hero and a child’s character who cannot talk. Then I thought about including the hero’s character going to Pakistan and how he has to solve it. Later the thought of making him a bajrangi came by and I started weaving the story. We could have written against Pakistan but it didn’t feel right, that was the writer’s block for me. Then about four years back, I read about a couple in Pakistan whose child had a hole in her heart and they had come to India for the operation. When the hospital authorities came to know that they are from Pakistan and that they had come to India by taking loans, out of compassion the hospital authorities waived off their costs. They spoke about it on TV and I immediately connected to them. I thought I should make a movie which will lessen the enmity between the two countries and that was the impetus for me to write the Bhajrangi Bhaijaan story.

Could you please share some tips on writing stories?
Have you seen a pebble in a stream? It is in the water for thousands of years and when you pick it up and squeeze it, will even a single drop of water come out of it? No! It’s not absorbing anything. But if you dip a sponge in water and squeeze it, it will be full of water. So my suggestion to you is; tune your mind to whatever you see, read or hear. Whatever it is that you aspire to be in films, always keep your mind open and learn. That’s how I tune my mind. Nobody is above committing mistakes. You may think high of me. But don’t grab and swallow everything I say. Always have a reasonable doubt and use your experience. Everybody is bound to make mistakes.

You said that you watch Sholay before you write any film, does the entire film inspire you or is it any particular scene?
I consider Salim & Javed my gurus. Whenever I see Sholay my thinking capacity gets charged and it elevates my mind.

When you write a story, do you think of the ending in the beginning itself or does it evolve in the process? What comes to you first; the plot, character or theme?
I was watching the Kamal Hassan – Sridevi movie Sadma with my assistants. The ending is like a stab in the heart. And I said, let’s make the same ending but put in the interval. My assistant suggested that the girl should actually stab the hero in the heart. With this in mind, the Simhadri story evolved. That’s how stories keep evolving. If I am writing a movie for Nagarjuna, then I will write a story that will suit his image. This is one criterion. The other is, if somebody gives me an instance and says write a story centred on it, then I will write accordingly. So it is not a single approach. Depending on the necessity I write the story.

In the movie Magadheera, the introduction scene of the girl, where the hero touches the heroine’s hand, how do you write such scenes?
If it is a clichéd story of a boy meeting a girl, then it is boring. The theme has come umpteen times. There is nothing wrong with it as it is a good formula, but if you put new factors into it, it becomes a new story. Always try to be innovative and don’t put anything which we have already seen. Be your harshest critic. There are people who watch many movies and they are good critics but they cannot write a story. The entire encyclopaedia cannot create a single poem. Don’t keep on acquiring knowledge, it is useless. Look into yourself for new situations. Believe me, I watch very less movies as I can’t sit through a movie; I wanted to convert my weakness into my strength and turned into a writer. I’d suggest, don’t try to imitate, try to be innovate instead. Second thing is expectation and anticipation. If a boy meets a girl in a movie you will expect them to fall in love, there is no newness. But create such circumstances, that they fall in love. Audience must feel the necessity, that is anticipation. Most successful formula for a story is, don’t write the usual story, try something different. Create an anticipation in the audience and fulfil it to the maximum.

The celebrated writer ended the session by sharing another anecdote about Bahubali. He asked, ‘has anyone of you felt happy when people said bad things about you and used foul language against you’? He then said, “Let me share a story, I went for a bath during the Godavari Pushkaralu. I finished my bath and was coming back when I heard some villagers discussing the climax of Bahubali. They were yelling and saying ‘how can Katappa kill Bahubali? You should hit the writer for writing such a story. Bahubali shouldn’t have been killed.’ Hearing this, I couldn’t control my laughter. Even though they were yelling at me indirectly, I felt happy.”

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