Have you been raving about the dialogues by Alia Bhatt in Gangubai Kathiawadi, and do you still emulate Shah Rukh Khan’s signature Kaun kambakht from Devdas? You’re in for a treat then, for this interview features the man behind the dialogues in these epic movies by Sanjay Leela Bhansali — Prakash Kapadia.
The 60-year-old from Mumbai is a B.SC graduate from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s College, where, he says, 90 per cent of his plays won prizes. In fact, on one occasion, when he didn’t win the prize for the best script and all the colleges went against the decision, the judge of the event came to Kapadia and asked him to give a chance to the other participants.
“That was my achievement. I was the only one at IPTA to win the K Abbas trophy for three years, consecutively and it is still at my house; I am proud of it,” he says. Kapadia won the Gujarat State Sangeet Natak Academy award for his play Atam Vinze Pankh, which was made into the motion picture Black, and he has also won a State Award for his play, Suryavanshi. For his films too, he’s been awarded generously. For Dariya Chhoru, Kapadia bagged the State Award for best dialogues and won the IIFA, V.Shantaram, and Screen Award for best screenplay for Devdas. He’s also received prestigious awards for Black and Bajirao Mastani.
How and when did you get interested in dialogue writing?
It all began with Gujarati theatre. In theatre, it’s 80 percent words and 20 percent light and set, so the drama is mainly based on dialogues. But even for all my films, I have always written screenplays and dialogues.
It was the same case with my first Gujarati film Dariya Chhoru, which Sanjay bhai (Leela Bhansali) saw, following which he offered me Devdas. I have had a long association with Sanjay bhai. In fact, Gangubai Kathiawadi is the first film for which I have only written the dialogues. It was actually an emergency, as SLB wanted to do a script written by his assistant. So, he asked me to do the needful. Since we have known each other for over two decades, I couldn’t refuse, and I am glad that the audience is loving the dialogues.
Tell us about your experience and process, when writing the dialogues for Gangubai?
After Sanjay bhai told me that he wanted to do the script and I had to improvise it in any way possible, I started off by first reading the script, and then the book. What appealed to me the most was the title of S Hussain Zaidi’s book, Mafia Queens of Mumbai. So, for me the protagonist had tobe a queen. The first dialogue for the film was “Kamathipura mein kabhi Amavasya ki raat nahi hoti, pata hai kyun? Kyuki wahan Gangu rehti hain,” which set the mood of the story. So, Gangu was my hero of the film, and that’s what I focused on.
When and how did your association happen with Sanjay Leela Bhansali?
Sanjay bhai had come to watch my first movie. After seeing it, he came out and commented that the film’s true hero was the writer. That’s when I was introduced to him. Soon, he offered me Devdas. Since then, it has been a 23-year-long association with him, which is still going strong.
Which are the other filmmakers that you’ve worked with?
My first film, Dariya Chhoru, was directed by Vipul Shah, which was also his debut movie. Then, I did a Marathi movie Katyar Kaljat Ghusali with actor Subodh Bhave, which was his directorial debut. I have worked on Ajay Devgn’s Tanhaji, which was helmed by first-time director Om Raut, and I have just completed another script, and I am working with Sanjay Leela Bhansali on Baiju Bawra.
Being someone who works behind the scenes, how do you take to the fact that people on screen garner fame with your words?
I love it. I am helping them get where they want to. Never the king but always the kingmaker — whether they believe it or not, I am a part of their fame.
What’s the most challenging and rewarding part about being a dialogue-writer in today’s times?Nowadays due to our fast-paced lives, people no longer feel their emotions intensely. So, it’s challenging to make them aware of their feelings so that they can cry, laugh, feel hurt, and rewarded. The most rewarding part is that I have the remote control to your emotions for those two hours. I love being a writer because I can take you through a rainbow of emotions, pulling you through a string of situations. It feels like I am a puppeteer, and I love that feeling. Also, when people clap and react to the situation, it’s very rewarding as every artiste, be it a poet, writer, musician or director, seeks that attention for their work.
Is there a film from yesteryear for which you’d want to script the dialogues?
I have never thought about that because movies were my teachers. I used to love watching films — my friends and I would bunk lectures and go to the theatre to catch the first day, first show. They were a big motivation for a B.Sc chemistry student to turn into a writer.
From where do you draw the inspiration for your work?
For me, my parents were like God. They were my greatest support system. I started writing after reading my father’s shayaris. It inspired me and I felt that even I should try this. For me, work is worship as wherever I am today, is only because of it. So, I do it with honesty and passion. The love of the audience is what inspires me to do it every day. People might not know me by my name, but they surely know me by my words.
If you had to share some advice to aspiring professionals in your field, what would you say?
Karne se hoga, chalne se pahuchoge (It will be done by doing; by walking you will reach). Work honestly and passionately. And at the same time, don’t get hurt by rejection. As I had written in Devdas, Har dil mein ek adalat baiththi hain, so don’t be disheartened if the world holds you guilty but do your work with so much dedication that you don’t feel guilty in your own heart.
Lead Image: Prakash Kapadia