Who did the actors first thank in their acceptance speeches at last month’s Oscars?” asks an excited Datta Dave. And, then, without pausing, he goes on to answer, “Their scriptwriters.”
The Claremont Mckenna College, California alumnus and former business manager of Shekhar Kapur is a man on a mission. “I would like to see writers get their due,” he says. His vehicle: Mumbai and Los Angeles-based Tulsea Pictures, a talent management company for screenwriters, a group of people long neglected by Bollywood.
In the past, Tulsea has handled clients such as Anjum Rajabali (who has written Ghulam, Pukar, Raajneeti and Satyagraha), Atul Sabharwal (Darna Mana Hain, My Wife’s Murder), Vikramaditya Motwane (Dev D, Udaan, Lootera) and Akshat Verma (Delhi Belly, The Ode).
Dave and his partner, Chaitanya Hegde, who has a background in advertising and has also been an executive producer to Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra (Rang De Basanti, Delhi-6, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag), rue the fact that most Hindi film producers cannot see beyond Mumbai when it comes to original writing. “There are great writers in talent pools such as Chandigarh, Bangalore and Jamshedpur. It’s just that they do not know how to scale the high walls of big production houses. That’s where we come in,” says Dave, who produced Sulemani Keeda last year, a comedy about, interestingly, two struggling writers trying to peddle their screenplay.
“We are always on the lookout for emerging and young talent,” he adds and goes on to give the example of Sagar Haveli (Gandhi of the Month, now in post-production), a former agriculturalist from Pune, whom Tulsea now represents. Then, there are brothers Satyanshu and Devanshu Singh from Munger, Bihar,who, apart from being screenwriters, are also poets and teachers, and aspire to direct their first feature soon.
Other than negotiating the best deals for writers, Tulsea also provides them legal support in their contracts with big production houses, thanks to the firm’s tie-up with one of the biggest law firms in Mumbai. Handling about a dozen clients at the moment in Bollywood, Dave and Hegde have ventured into the TV space with a unique deal — Tulsea recently mediated the tie-up of Colosceum Media and Ormax Media. Colosceum has produced shows such as Splitsvilla, Roadies and MasterChef India, and Ormax uses consumer research techniques before conceptualising TV scripts for general entertainment channels (GECs).
It is this type of creative dealmaking that makes the Tulsea duo stand out. UK-based production house Beautiful Bay Entertainment (BBE) is teaming with Tulsea Pictures on a script development programme, to be helmed by Vikramaditya Motwane. Every six months, Dave’s firm also organises the Tulsea Writers Day at big production houses in Mumbai, where studio honchos are introduced to fresh writing talent. “We are always thinking up different ways to add value to the work of our clients,” says Dave.
Tulsea is now venturing beyond Bollywood. The firm has represented Amit Kumar (Monsoon Shootout), Kanu Behl (Titli) and Sonia Bahl, a Los Angeles-based writer, in their international forays. Dave and Hegde are also looking at other avenues to cut smart deals for their writer clients; talks are on with ad firms and web companies. It seems that the duo has its future role scripted out.