Vivek Shukla On Scripting ‘Chhota Bheem’ And ‘Surreal Play’ – A Screenwriting Initiative For The Visually Impaired

Since an early age, Vivek Shukla was quite the filmbuff and an ardent dreamer (by his own admission). But was quite unsure, as to what he wanted to do in his life. Whilst in college, a theatre workshop subsequently led Shukla to find his true calling i.e. scriptwriting.

In the later years, Shukla went on to write some of the most noteworthy animated shows for Indian television such as New Adventures Of Bal Hanuman and the extremely popular Chhota Bheem.His repertoire also includes other shows such as Akbar Birbal  for Discovery Kids and Bunty Aur Billi for Toonz Animations.

Interestingly, the writer has decidedly stuck to writing a wide variety of animated shows for Indian television. This decision coupled with his vast experience has helped him evolve as one of the most prominent names in the field of of Animation Screen Writing and Live action TV in India.

In a tete-a-tete with Madaboutmoviez.com, Vivek Shukla spoke to us about his journey, his creative influences and Surreal Play – an amazing initiative that helps visually impaired learn the art of scriptwriting.

Republished below are some excerpts from the conversation.

From being an IT professional to being a scriptwriter, it’s been quite a journey. How did this transition happen? What were the challenges you faced during the same?

 

My childhood was full of imagination and films. I was not very clear about my dreams and goals in life. After completing my schooling I was  very excited to experience the world outside. My elder brother enrolled me for a course in BCA. After joining the course I found the subjects alien to my interest. However since I was not to clear about my aim and goals, I continued studying BCA.

But destiny had something else in store for me, I happened to attend a theatre workshop which changed my life. I got to know about acting, writing, and direction through the workshop. I left BCA without clearing the last semester and jumped into theatre completely. My family was very apprehensive about my decision initially. They were worried about the choice of my profession but I told them that I’m exploring the field of writing and direction and this is what I feel I can do the best and eventually they supported my decision.

At what point in life did you realize your passion for scriptwriting? Were you inclined towards the same since a very young age?

 I am an avid reader since childhood. I enjoy reading comic books and other writing as well. I am blessed to be a part of a family who appreciates art and literature. As a child I always loved to imagine and see the world from different point of view, which became a pastime for me

When I was in my teenage, I watched world cinema and came across the Academy Award winner film Cinema Paradiso, which made me curious about different language films. But somehow I lost contact with these films for few years. When I joined the theatre group, my love for world cinema emerged again. I wanted to watch more of world cinema. But unfortunately in those days it was almost impossible to find video cassettes or DVD of such films. I struggled a lot and finally got an unique idea came to my mind, I downloaded script of Cinema Paradiso and read it. This is how I started learning the depth and beauty of scriptwriting by reading it. Once I read couple of scripts which I downloaded from the internet, I started writing small plays and short films which got appreciated by my theater  group and people around me. This helped me realize that scriptwriting is the tool for expressing my thoughts and vision.

Which films, filmmakers, literary works and scriptwriters have influenced you and shaped your creative process?

For me every film has a way of storytelling but only few have been written in  such a way that they twist the mind and incites to think different. I always loved to see one thing in different ways. There are ample amount of films that have inspired me and shaped my thought process

The French film Amelie is the game changer in the world of scriptwriting. That film changed the way of writing screenplay. I loved Cinema Paradiso as I mentioned earlier. Giuseppe Tornatore is the writer director who created Cinema Paradiso and also The Star Maker, Malena, The Legend of 1900, Baaria and many more films. Recently I watched a Belgium film The Brand New Testament, it really opens a new door of scriptwriting.   But I’m a big admirer of Charlie Kaufman’s work. He is a legend and goes in depth of a scene so beautifully that it is hard to believe that something like this is just a piece of fiction. His Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind is such a gem, that I can not stop myself to watch it again and again. There are many Hindi films as well like Guide, Ganga Jamuna, Garam Hawa, Do Bigha Zameen, Namak Haram, Anand and many more that I feel are amazing pieces of work and can help to understand the depth of scriptwriting.

Vivek Shukla

Till date, you have mostly scripted animated shows including Chhota Bheem and New Adventures of Bal Hanuman. What attracts you towards the genre of animation?

Animation scriptwriting is a different way of writing. Animation writing is a great exercise to learn scriptwriting where you have to write camera angles, framing, background description and movements of characters. Learning scriptwriting is similar to being in 36 chamber of Shaolin, where your hands are tied up and legs are chained and then will be asked you to fly with your imagination.

What differences have you observed in scripting for animation film vis-à-vis other filmmaking formats? How does the change in formats alter or influence the process of scriptwriting?

 As I mentioned in earlier question’s reply, animation scriptwriting is about how to write in detail and with depth. When someone has to write for animation then he has to be sure that his visualization is very imaginative and strong enough to see characters movements. There are so many do’s and don’ts in animation which a writer has to follow and that is why I said crippled and chained wings to fly in the limited imagination. For example, in animation I have to make sure that in one frame there should not more than 3 or maximum 4 characters at a time, otherwise the movements of those characters will take more time to animation and as well production will also raise. Also has to make sure about the locations and props we use to write has to be in the list given by the creative team to the writer. 

But in Live action, there are no such limitations and that makes a different way of scriptwriting for animation. I personally feel that if one can write animation script then he can write Live Action scripts easily. But if a Live Action writer get to write animation script it will be difficult for him/her initially as the format of writing completely changes.

Any plans to venture into direction and scriptwriting for feature films?

Animation writing is writing from a director’s point of view. Whatever I write in animation is almost 75% of a director’s vision. So I’m already prepared for future direction which will not be a difficult way to express story for me. I have written few scripts for feature films which I’m waiting for the right time to start.  

A still from the animated show ‘Akbar Birbal’ scripted by Vivek Shukla

What advice would you like to give to aspiring scriptwriters?

Read more literature and world around you as well. Try to read things that are around you such as the grass, bench, chair, pen, street, food. Everything has a story, you just need to see it. Reading is seeing and vice a versa, So seeing is the tool that needs to be worked on.

Could you tell us about the scriptwriting workshop that you are doing for the visually impaired children?

Recently during a conversation with a friend I learnt that  there are few visually impaired writers in the world. There are no schools or institutes that specializes in the theory of teaching creative writing to the visually impaired. I paused and realized Surreal Play – an interactive technique of writing without using pen and paper can be a new beginning for them in the field of creative writing as a profession.

Could you tell us about your future projects?

I am writing few animation projects for web series as well for TV. An animation show called Palace Of Kamalpur, which is based on ancient Indian culture and discoveries is on the way in production. I am also working on a web series for kids The Jolly Baby Club which is a for a Germany based production house. Apart of that I’m writing a live action documentary on life of Shafiq Syed, the child actor of award winning film Salaam Bombay.

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