June 2019 | 772 words | 3-minute read
The 2019 Filmfare Awards, Zee Cine Awards and Screen Awards for the Best Screenplay featured an unlikely name. Arijit Biswas, the head of HR Digitization in TCS for the film Andhadhun (Blind trance). Arijit shared the writing credits and the award with director Sriram Raghavan, Pooja Ladha Surti and two others.
Arijit’s interest in the arts began in the mid-90s when he was studying engineering in Kolkata. He was an active member of an amateur theatre group. He says, “The group folded up after college, but I was able to pursue my writing.”
One of his theatre friends introduced him to a TV production house, and he went on to write many scripts for Bengali TV. During one such writing stint with Zee TV, he first met Sriram and they hit it off. Even though they met in 1997, it was only 10 years later when they actually worked together as a team.
Sharing a passion
Arijit’s own needs and compulsions fit in well with Sriram’s inclinations. He says, “We discovered that we both thought alike in a number of ways. We were both equally fascinated with noir and its shades of grey.” They also discovered that they had the same reading influences as children. He adds, “Reading those crime mysteries, I learned to appreciate the element of poignancy that was such a big part of noir, a certain sadness expressed over the crime, which fashioned my own writing.”
The two friends found that their style of working also suited each other. Arijit says, “Professional writers find it difficult to work with Sriram as he tends to flit from one thought to another. He likes to see plot ideas evolve and does not believe in frozen scripts.” Arijit’s own job compulsions meant that the unhurried pace of work, entailing years spent over one script, suited him. Typically, the writers would come up with several versions of a particular scenario, and then decide on which version to include once the story took shape.
Arijit revels in this form of creative and collaborative writing process where any scenario could lead to any number of potential scenarios. He says, “At one moment, we might think we are at the end of our story, and then suddenly, someone suggests a new idea and we are back to the interval.”
The excitement inherent in this style of writing appeals to Arijit. He says, “I do not have the discipline to become a novelist. Collaborative writing offers me the assurance of having my work accepted, and the ability to get quick real-time feedback on what works and what doesn’t.”
Arijit, who writes in English admits, “I can manage to write Hindi as it is spoken on the street, but when it comes to drawing room conversations, my vocabulary finds it hard to cope.” If the writing demands a slight rough edge, Arijit is in his element, writing Hindi using the Roman script.
Foraying into film writing
Arijit’s first foray into film writing was Agent Vinod, a spy thriller. He says, “When Agent Vinod failed to become the success that we hoped it would, we began working on Badlapur which brought me some recognition and a Filmfare nomination.” Thereafter, the duo began working on Andhadhun.
Currently, he is working on the script of a war film, based on the true story of a 21-year-old war hero, Arun Khetarpal, who was posthumously honoured with the Paramvir Chakra for his courage until his death in the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971.
He says, “This film will go beyond the confines of a mere war film or a biopic. But it won’t be the flag waving jingoism that we see around us.” This genre is familiar territory to Arijit, as he has been fond of military literature since his childhood.
While Andhadhun brought in the awards and the acclaim, it is Badlapur that he sees as his most powerful writing so far. “As a human document, it is closer to my heart,” he says.
Writing is not the only thing that has brought Arijit fame. He has also won the Best Director Award at the Kolkata Film Festival of 2018 for his debut film, Surjo Prithibir Chardike Ghore (The Sun Goes Around the Earth). This is the story of Tapan Chandra Pal, a self-styled scientist who spends 40 years of his life trying to convince Kolkata that the sun goes around the earth.
The awards are a huge boost, but Arijit is already looking forward to his next script, and even more to the endless discussions and ideation sessions that are the highlight of his writing journey.
Photo by Tejal Pandey