Updated: Jul 24
A content-oriented film packed with humour and entertainment has always ruled Bollywood. Films and filmmakers who have taken the risk of walking on the wire with their unique and new content and found their balance between the two wings of good content and entertainment have set new bars, covered new milestones and have added new pages in the books of history.
The script is said to be the backbone of any film. It is the masterplan and everything while making a film revolves around it. Any film is as good as its script hence screenwriting can be said as the first step to filmmaking. However, another fact about the screenplay or the script is that the creator of it, the screenplay writer does not get that recognition what they deserve. On the other hand, we have a writer duo of Abhijat Joshi and writer-director-editor Rajkumar Hirani who have done four films together. Films like Lage Raho Munna Bhai, 3 Idiots, PK and Sanju not only ruled the Box-office but also got their names imprinted in the heart of the Indian audience.
The duo is known for its content-oriented scripts tightly packed with entertainment. For the past two decades, this duo has been the assurance of the blockbuster films. But what makes them so consistent in the ocean uncertainty? What makes Rajkumar Hirani & Abhijat Joshi’s script a hit? Let’s try to figure out what exactly goes under the hood.
The uniqueness of premise
“100 years of cinema has happened. Anything you do feels like it has already been done. The struggle is to find out unique ideas. After that, its a lot of patience. You keep writing and rewriting until you are happy. The script is the real foundation” - Rajkumar Hirani
The uniqueness of the content has always been the key element in Rajkumar Hirani & Abhijat Joshi’s scripts. They try to make everything in their script unique and new, weather its character, setting or dialogue, but it should be unique. They try to make every scene complete and unique in itself. Their way of telling a simple story, in a very creative way with humour involved in it makes their script so special, and its this creative uniqueness that the audience expects and appreciates.
They have always come up with a unique premise of the story like an alien landing on earth speaking Bhojpuri in Rajasthan or, a local gangster of Mumbai wanting to become a doctor for the sake of his father’s validation. Such an experiment makes their screenplays unique in the crowd of thousands. Their unique storyline always finds its place in the hearts of its audience.
The characters designed by Abhijat and Rajkumar are iconic and memorable. A unique story can only be propelled by unique characters. A duo of friends riding on the motorcycle and sidecar or an alien standing almost naked covering himself with a Radio transistor are so unique that they end up in the posters as well. Professor Virus wears a hook for a tie from the very first introduction to the audience to the very last shot of the climax.
These characters take responsibility to entertain and propel the story. Not only the protagonist or the antagonist but the supporting characters are also worked out in a similar fashion. Munna Bhai is always incomplete without circuit or the role Kamli And Sunil Dutt play in Sanju’s story makes it nearly impossible to tell it without them. The way Abhijat and Rajkumar have designed the character of Farhan, Raju and Chatur in 3 Idiots are all clear examples of what these supporting characters mean to them.
Humour out of everything!
They not only try to keep the storyline and the character interesting, but they also give their characters interesting names like Virus, Rancho, Silencer, PK, Circuit or Munna Bhai to make it even more captivating and memorable. In short, they try to drive humour out of everything. When the content or the message of the film comes to the audience warped in humour, it becomes very much palpable to the audience. They even used humour in an intense scene from 3 Idiots where Virus(Boman Irani) sends Farhan (R Madhvan) to his office to get a vacuum cleaner and Rancho (Amir Khan) and Virus throw the office keys at the same time at Farhan.
Their memorable dialogues also reflect the theme of the film, like how Mahatma Gandhi in Lage Rho Munna Bhai says “Tum 3 goliyon se mujhe to maar sakte ho lakin mere vichron ko ni” or “Laughter is the best medicine” in Munna Bhai MBBS. But what makes it so unique is their style and detailing they do with their characters and dialogues.
They try to use all genes of comedy not only punchline or jokes but observation, satire, surrealism, slapstick, anti-humour, dark humour, character comedy, heritage comedy, and the list goes on and on, in short, they try to use all tips and tricks, whatever can make their audience engage in the theatres. They strongly use their cinema to entertain first, then as a method of conveying a message or an idea.
Pulse of the audience
The duo is famous for countering the social issue. They know the collective consciousness of the general Indian audience. They fetch their content from their life experience that is why the audience finds it so relatable and gets connected to the film as if it’s there own story on the screen. Their interest in the human story can be seen in Sanju the way they have structured the script. While making the biopic on a real-life personality who is a very recognizable face, screenplay becomes an even more challenging task, and in this case, the selection of the scenes is what the screenplay is all about.
Rajkumar & Abhijat love to invest in emotions, even in Sanju they focus on father-son chemistry and the friendship Sanju (Ranbir Kapoor) shares with Kamli (Vicky Kaushal) as a subplot of the film. They try to carry their audience with the emotions of the film. If we notice keenly, sometimes the emotions of the film even overshadow the logic. For example, in Lage Raho Munna Bhai when Victor D’Souza (Jimmy Shergill) randomly calls Munna Bhai (Sanjay Dutt) in the middle of the night to help Simran (Dia mirza) in the radio studio, I mean how did he know he is there! Rajkumar and Abhijat justify this as “sometimes we deliberately do that because the audience is already flowing with the emotion and they are involved with the scene and just to explain a point is actually driving them away from the scene.”
They try to tell the stories which are from the audience, by the audience and for the audience. In a world where everyone is running in a race, to prove themself in a monotonous world, where criteria for judging are marks obtained, or salary earned. In a world like that when Amir says “Kaabil bano kaabil kaamyabi to saali jhakk maar ker piche aaegi” so it hits the audience hard. Even with the film like PK in which they challenged the very belief of a human on the existence of the god and religion, they successfully kept the audience with them no matter in what religion they have their faith in or how they see god. They brought out their point without offending any belief or perspective towards the god and religion with there clever writing, maintaining the thin line between both sides. Here also, a line says the crux of the film and makes it a point not to offend any belief, when PK says, “Is gola per do bhagwan hain ek jo tumhe banaya jiske baare main tum kuch ni jaante ho, or ek wo jisse tum banaya jo bilkul tumhare jaisa hain.”
The science behind every scene
Rajkumar Hirani and Abhijat Joshi try to bring sense out of every scene. The scene is not over until it delivers something crucial out of it. In their script, every scene is a complete movie in itself, every scene has a beginning, a middle and an end. If the scene does not have an outcome, it is not in the film. With this method, they keep the audience engaged with every scene.
They work on a formula of their own, which they call LCD (laugh, cry, or drama). According to this, a scene must contain an element that either can make the audience laugh, or make them cry or have an intense drama in it. Every scene has its setup, body and a resolution.
A duo of writer that creates and an editor who eliminates don’t let the script have any loose ends. They try to keep the screenplay so crisp that if you notice in 3 Idiots Chatur Ramalingam (Omi Vaidya) does not have many dialogues other than some one-liners until his speech. Yet they develop their character by his reaction shots throughout the film. Like how he looks at Rancho in the class when Rancho gives his definition of a machine or he raises his hand first when Virus asks “kya koi hain jo iss saal ye pen le jaae ga?”. They strictly believe in the policy that if they need 4 words to explain there point they won’t use 8 or if they need 2 words to explain their point they won’t use 4 and if they can do it without a word, they will.
Well, these were some of the layers inside the writing style and process of one of the finest writer duo of our time, who have created a total of five masterpieces of Bollywood with a correct balance of entertainment and content! What's your formula to hit it right?
Raj Kumar Hirani doodle by Ashif Mohammed https://www.instagram.com/p/CBAZHDnFCfk/
Munna and Circuit sketch by Aditya Kandpal- https://www.instagram.com/p/CCbEsj_DuxM/
PK and Jadoo Illustration by Jayesh Phadnis- https://www.instagram.com/p/CCIxcZ4D9LC/