Paani – inspiration vs efficiency in screenplay writing

As I work hard in completing the detailed screenplay for Paani, I come across something that I am sure other creative people suffer from – at least I hope they do. How do you really know if something is really good or not unless at that moment of writing your feel a surge of inspiration – a surge of emotion ? Something inside you that tells you a big ‘yes’.
And how many of those inspired moments do you need in a film both in conceiving it and in the execution of it to make it inspirational for the audience ? For the film to transcend, as it were from prose to poetry ? The problem is that you could wait forever for inspiration – sitting staring out of the window as I am right now. When people ask me why I have made so few films, the real answer is that I trust my heart and not my mind. And to live through the heart all the time can be completely and utterly exhausting, frustrating and ultimately self destructive. So where does one find the balance ?
In just getting on with it. To trust that in disciplining oneself into the mundane everyday process of just being efficient and writing, the inspiration may (and usually does) come and suddenly you are alive, and your eyes blur with tears and your heart beats faster. Your fingers type without you asking them to, and you are inspired !!
Remembering that not every moment in a screenplay can be moments of great inspiration. First you will never finish it, but also you will exhaust your audience’s emotions in the 2 hours they sit in the movie theater. There is the technical aspect of screenplay writing which says that “between great inspirational moments there need to be pauses and connective tissue to ease the viewers mind to the logic of story telling. It is likely that without these pauses the viewer at the end of the film will just go ‘huh ??’
PAANI is a love story based in a City where the Water Wars have broken out between those that have Water and those that do not. At a time when Water has become a weapon of social and economic control.

36 Responses to “Paani – inspiration vs efficiency in screenplay writing”

  1. Heart is always empty but a voice is always present silent somewhere within the heart And talks with “ishara” for the mind to listen And The person to implement maybe.

  2. Trupti Shinde says:

    Central Mumbai- Dombivali : I want to wash my face. When I turned on the tap:
    My mom shouts: Don’t waste water, there is water cut tomorrow, take water in mug then wash your face .
    Western Mumbai-Borivali: Tap is on in full force and bucket is overflowing. When I tried turn off the tap-
    My aunt shouts: Donít turn off the tap, it keeps bathroom clean.
    I have seen this two major differences of usage of water in.
    In previous case, I get infuriated coz of scarcity but learns to value it and later case I feel content coz of profuse water but scared of future problems.

  3. Sir,
    Whatever little I have learned about screenplay, its an art/craft of compelling story telling in about 2 hrs, where the audience don’t need to pause and look around other people sitting besides them in the theatre.(Hollywood uses minute to minutes softwares to control and release emotions – Beats)
    Little the audience will ever come to know what deep inspirational/emotional journey of the Writer will be surgeoned by the Director’s craft of making it an enjoyable visual emotional experience.
    Film Maker is a sculptor who models, carves and chisels his own work and craft resulting in ScreenPlay Direction and Editing.
    Vinod Agarwal – Wonders would Romeo, Ranjha, Farhad, Majnu choose to Die/starve without PAANI for their beloved…?

  4. Deepak Rajgor says:

    When I begin a story with character, I end up with a type, and when I begin my story with a type, I ended up with….
    nothing!

  5. AJ says:

    PAANI
    Basic necessaity for the human, human body
    Glad you are talking about it now …
    World is Waiting for You
    And while heart, mind balance grows in you for the ultimate creative potential you have and will show the world …

  6. rishi goswami says:

    hello sir ,you planning to make this film in hindi or english ?

  7. AJ says:

    Before Heading for New Year and Welcoming 2010
    Thursday, December 31, 2009
    A Day and enough time to re-evaluate the self, life and contribution to Life Ö
    Did we do something to make this world a little better !
    Did we do something to make this world a little more human !
    Thoughts for self, family and world we live in
    Time to re think future and its possibilities

  8. kedar says:

    ‘And to live through the heart all the time can be completely and utterly exhausting, frustrating and ultimately self destructive’
    very true!…
    …………………………….
    about PAANI, i am very much eager to see how you are going to present it visually…for it is based in future yet it is not sci-fi film…Children of Men had that set up but it was based in London…PAANI is based in Mumbai…hmm…interesting…very interesting…
    is it possible for me to be part of the process by any way?…

  9. austere says:

    Thank you.
    Such inspiration must be a rare commodity.

  10. ????? ???????
    ??????? ???????? ,?????????,???? ,????????,????????????? ????? ??? ???? ??????? ????? ,???????? ??? ???????? ??? . ?? ???? ????? ????? ?? ,????????? ?? ??? ???????? ?? ????? ???.???? ?????? ?? ??????? ?????????? .
    ??? ???, ??? ?????? ?? ?? ????
    ???? ?? ?????? , ???? ??? ?? ???
    ???????, ?????? ?? ?????? ?? ?????
    ?????? ?? ?????? ????? ??????? ?? ???
    ?? ??? ????? ????? , ??????? ??? ???
    ??????? ?? ????? ???? ??? ?????
    ?? ???? ??? ?????? , ?? ?? ??? ?????
    ?? ??????? ?????? ??? ???? ?? ????
    ?? ???? ?? ????? ?? ?? ??? ????
    ???? ???? ?? ????? ?? ?????? ?? ????
    ?? ??? ?? ???? ?????? ???? “????”
    ??????? ?? ?? ???? ??? ?? ?? ??????? ???
    ??? ??? ???????
    ??? ??? ???????
    ??? ??? ???????
    Aap sab ko navvarsh 2010 ki haardik mangalmay shubhkaamnaaye.
    ALL RIGHT RESERVED @DEEPAK SHARMA
    http://www.kavideepaksharma.com
    http://kavidepaksharma.blogspot.com

  11. mark anderson says:

    Hi Shekhar, Looking for inspiration to write a screenplay?
    Let us remember Kabir for a moment to seek some inspiration:
    Jal say Patlaa kaun hai? (What is thinner than Water?);
    Kaun Bhoomi say Bhaari? (What is Heavier than Earth?);
    Kaun Agan say Tez Hai? (What is hotter than fire?);
    Kaun Kaajal say Kaari? (What is balcker than Kaajal/Kohl?)
    Kabir says:
    Jal say Patlaa Gyaan hai (Knowledge is thinner than water);
    Paap Bhoomi say Bhaari (Sin is heavier than the Earth);
    Krodh Agan say Tez hai (Anger is hotter than Fire);
    Kalank kaajal say Kaari (Immorality is blacker thank Kaajal/kohl)
    Sometimes profound meaning is conveyed through simple gestures and sounds (read-words)……My Best Wishes to you for a Very Happy, Peaceful, Productive and Promising and Fulfilling New Year 2010!!!!!

  12. Deepak R says:

    yes..now the challenge of boxing up an idea..converting it into an easily digestible ready meal..!is that an artist’s job?
    allowing it to evolve forever, can one choose to approach it that way..it afterall does after the movie is out of your hands too..!
    how can one be sure at all..but is it important?.. its a battle indeed..but when in doubt isn’t that a battle better fought at the editing table than at this stage..you are clearly an artist who finds joy in allowing instinct and the moment take over than pin it down to a bound idea..the artist in you struggles to be free..the craftsman aims to shape this freedom..as long as You are living the spine of the idea..you’ve got one of the key bits nailed, is it not?..
    can one conspire to inspire?..so many times inspiration is found in the silent mundane threads..(Straight Story by Lynch was filled with so many of them)
    ..allow..let go..
    and many thanks for airing this creative journey.

  13. Deepak R says:

    yes..now the challenge of boxing up the idea..fleshing out a satisfying ready meal..!is that an artist’s job?
    allowing it to evolve forever, can one choose to approach it that way..it afterall does after the movie is out of your hands too..!
    how can one be sure at all..but is it important?.. its a battle indeed..but when in doubt isn’t that a battle better fought at the editing table than at this stage..you are clearly an artist who finds joy in allowing instinct and the moment take over than pin it down to a bound idea..the artist in you struggles to be free..the craftsman aims to shape this freedom..as long as You are living the spine of the idea..you’ve got one of the key bits nailed, is it not?..
    and moment of inspiration..can one conspire to inspire?..so many times inspiration is found in the silent mundane threads..(Straight Story by Lynch was filled with so many of them)
    ..allow..let go..
    and many thanks for airing this creative journey.

  14. DQ says:

    SHEkhARrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr OOOOOOOoooooooooooooo Shekhar
    .
    paata hai christmas wish nahi kiya menei malOOoom hai kuUUu???
    .
    http://www.fileden.com/files/2007/4/5/957660/christmas%20cancelled.jpg
    .
    Copy paste the above…
    .
    PsSssst B a GOOod boy this year……..
    Waise good boy ka defination kya hota hai?
    ChUkles~
    Mew mew
    HaPpY NUdE YEAr TO you and to all ours folks Here~
    SapnA

  15. Gagan says:

    Shekhar
    Pearls of creativity need thread of Expression to make a necklace. By Expressing, Creativity fulfills itself, as it resonates in the hearts of everyone it touches.

  16. Muzyka says:

    Hm.. interest.

  17. Gopi says:

    How are you casting this film Shekhar?
    Are you looking for new faces?

  18. danny bloom says:

    Sir, have you considered setting the film in a future polar city where survivors of global warming have gone north fleeing India by billions?

  19. Spider says:

    i saw your TED speech, it was great. You said when a person is in a panic state, he can give his best. That is quite true, mind should always be half empty for the new thoughts and ideas to emerge, it should not be completely filled with the pre-conceived notions and thoughts because the reality will be always different. panic state is also a kind of quick thinking.

  20. Unless I doubt myself at every moment at every turn, through the entire creative process, I cannot produce anything of substance. For me it is not about my own AHA moments while being creative.

  21. Arko says:

    Dear Sir,
    During my schooldays i was taught that ‘water’ is another word for ‘life’,it has got no REPLACEMENT!.True enough,ever since i was a child i too like every human being have felt its vital necessity but only now under the influence of my matured self i can well understand its real VALUE.Water is not just a mere chemical mixture of hydrogen and oxygen,it is a life savior–the cause of our very existence.The age of cloning has dawned upon us.In this present time of advanced technology and scientific dominance,where ‘impossible’ is the word which carries almost no significance,the problem lies somewhere else.It is our lack of PRESERVATION.Why are we so lazy to save a cup of water or is it that since we have got so much,we care too less???Now the real question is can we think of an alternative for water.If the answer is ‘yes’,lets wait and die,if ‘no’ lets preserve and live.
    Wishing all a very warm and productive new year,2010.
    Regards-
    ArkO
    mob:+919051196658

  22. pragzz says:

    You probably already saw this, but Liz Gilbert gave a TEDtalk detailing the creative process. Considering what you’ve said about having to chase inspiration (before it starts chasing you), this resonated with her talk as well. If you haven’t already, check it out… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86x-u-tz0MA

  23. truco ruleta says:

    Sometimes it’s really that simple, isn’t it? I feel a little stupid for not thinking of this myself/earlier, though.

  24. manish says:

    Shekharji,
    A adiwasi man saw a peacock in jumgle. It thrills his heart. He painted it using coulers and tools avilable to him. It may not be polished and refined as our modern art is, but it is more real and oroginal.
    I thing sometimes technical divices crushed the literal meaning of the theme, but some have capacity to maintain a balance between them. You and A.R.Rahman are two of them.

  25. Hakimuddin says:

    Sir I had transcribed and annotated footage of a documentary called Paani, it was a series of short films made by young people who live in slums of Jogeshwari about what ‘paani’ means to them. I remember you being there for the screening at Bandra last year. I was wondering if I could assist you with Paani?

  26. manish says:

    Shekharji,
    We saw the God as a creator.
    We sow a tiny seed in the earth and it turn to be a huge tree. Every leaf is a great creation. From where does a bird learns to build her nest.
    When we create something we have to allow the existancial forces to flow with us.
    Nature and the whole existance is our inspiration.

  27. Mahafreed says:

    Hey Shekhar,
    Waiting to watch your film. Mumbai is going through this crazy water shortage and we need to see a film like that.
    As far as inspiration goes, I agree. If I don’t feel enough for the story I’m writing, I end up doing a bad job of it.

  28. Cine Lover says:

    As I see and feel, there can be two types of situations that co-exist with this whole scenario of “Waiting for Inspiration” and this is true with every person whether he is a scientist or an artist. Whoever is dependent on functioing of mind has to face this situation, whether he should wait for an inspiration to bless his mind so that he can go ahead or he should put his mind at relax and should start taking first step, (which may not be first step in reality as it may not be in appropriately and exactly related with the desired thing) as then mind may follow the action.
    This inertia of not taking first step and rather waiting for an inspiration also has several forms.
    1. Creator is well fed and can afford this process of “WAITING FOR RIGHT MOMENT OF INSPIRATION”.
    2. Financially Creator is not comfortable and TO DO is his/her necessity and then he/she will start working and something will come out of his/her inner energy level which is normally does not act because outer level of energy is nsufficient to help in normal works of day to day life.
    3. A new creator, who has to prove to the world and who has to get recognition of the world, will also surpass this hindrance of not taking first step and waiting for an inspiration to fall upon his mind. His desire to do something good, to prove to the world that he is also something in the world of creation will bring him sufficiently good material.
    4. People trying always to do things in perfection may try to finish the job first in their mind and hence they wait and wait. Somewhere they strat believing too much into the destiny. And things do not remain limited to creative process only but every single aspect, small or big, of the life starts getting affected by this trend of mind. Person will feel it in smallest of work which could be going out to buy vegetables or calling a person. He may delay it even if it is for 5 minutes but he will not act spontaneously.
    In any case one edits and re-edits and makes a lot of changes in the first draft so it is not the case that things coming because of inspiration do not under go changes. For the sake of practicality things are changed all the time specially in the fields of writing and filmmaking.
    Mind may function in any direction. If we want to move ahead on the path of Ifs and Buts it is very much capable to produce suitable situations before us.
    Though this is also true that there is a properly suitable time period for any thing to give or take birth.
    regards

  29. Cine Lover says:

    As I see and feel, there can be two types of situations that co-exist with this whole scenario of “Waiting for Inspiration” and this is true with every person whether he is a scientist or an artist. Whoever is dependent on functioing of mind has to face this situation, whether he should wait for an inspiration to bless his mind so that he can go ahead or he should put his mind at relax and should start taking first step, (which may not be first step in reality as it may not be in appropriately and exactly related with the desired thing) as then mind may follow the action.
    This inertia of not taking first step and rather waiting for an inspiration also has several forms.
    1. Creator is well fed and can afford this process of “WAITING FOR RIGHT MOMENT OF INSPIRATION”.
    2. Financially Creator is not comfortable and TO DO is his/her necessity and then he/she will start working and something will come out of his/her inner energy level which is normally does not act because outer level of energy is nsufficient to help in normal works of day to day life.
    3. A new creator, who has to prove to the world and who has to get recognition of the world, will also surpass this hindrance of not taking first step and waiting for an inspiration to fall upon his mind. His desire to do something good, to prove to the world that he is also something in the world of creation will bring him sufficiently good material.
    4. People trying always to do things in perfection may try to finish the job first in their mind and hence they wait and wait. Somewhere they strat believing too much into the destiny. And things do not remain limited to creative process only but every single aspect, small or big, of the life starts getting affected by this trend of mind. Person will feel it in smallest of work which could be going out to buy vegetables or calling a person. He may delay it even if it is for 5 minutes but he will not act spontaneously.
    In any case one edits and re-edits and makes a lot of changes in the first draft so it is not the case that things coming because of inspiration do not under go changes. For the sake of practicality things are changed all the time specially in the fields of writing and filmmaking.
    Mind may function in any direction. If we want to move ahead on the path of Ifs and Buts it is very much capable to produce suitable situations before us.
    Though this is also true that there is a properly suitable time period for any thing to give or take birth.
    regards

  30. Goutam Ghosh says:

    sir please take hrithik as leading man,as u planned.it will be my dream come true

  31. Utopia Soul says:

    @Cine Lover..A excellent elaboration of thought provocation.
    i do like to add my views regarding this problem of creative writing that how to judge, whether i am going in the right direction or i am just spreading ink over the page, which don’t even worthy to read…
    Actually a month back i was in similar mental status. In the middle of script and waiting for that push from heaven or god knows from where, to get back into the feeling. i waited and waited long that it’s became frustrating me and i start believing that the concept on which i am working is bullshit. So, i told myself to dump it and move ahead with some other idea. i followed it and i came back to normal state. than after few day’s i was in the middle of the bath and suddenly, i got this hit with the point where i was stuck. you know that state is so fragile that you don’t want to miss it so noted it on the mirror with the help of fog. i run out for pen. i came back. fortunately it was still there and i noted it. and there after i finished the script.
    So , this whole experience of mine tells me that you should just follow what your heart is saying..and i think that’s what you do..!So, sooner or later you will get over with it..
    Cheers..!!

  32. komal sharma says:

    sir i heard lot a about PAANI
    pls update us,like hirthik is hero,it going to be taken 4 languages,english,spanish,hindi and one more.any way my pryers for paani
    love to hear Ar rahmans song on paani.
    wats ur email sir my email is komalsharmaj@gmail.com
    will send u some mantras to keep paani moving fast
    tc

  33. Will says:

    Hi Shekhar,
    I’ve just watched your TED talk where you mentioned your new film Paani, it brought back an amazing memory to me.
    I’m 37, and when I was at school I wrote a story that was highly commended by my teacher, the only story I wrote that was highly commended as I remember.
    The story was based in a city where the rich occupied the upper / higher levels of the city and the poor lived in the streets. There was no access to this upper world for the poor, I had forgotten this story and then watching your talk it started to come back.
    It’s interesting that your story is based on the control of water, in my story I had one central character who roamed his lower city dreaming of what lay above, I find it hard to remember much of what I wrote and I no longer have a copy but I do remember the ending and this is linked to your water theme.
    The main character looses all hope and eventually takes his own life, he did so by injecting water directly into his blood stream, his final thought being.
    “I push the syringe and feel the cold of the water hit my body, I take a final breath, I arrive”
    I’m not sure now where I thought he arrived at, heaven, hell, the upper city, but he was ending one journey and starting another.
    I’ll look out for your film.
    Will

  34. Manikniknik says:

    Dear Shekhar
    I am sure we are in for a great treat with your hard work on ‘ PAANI’. I admire your courage and the confidence in yourself, leaving your accounting profession and following your passion.
    I am at the door of a similar journey, not quite sure where the destiny is. Walking out of a Consultant Radiologist job isn’t easy for a career in creative art with Films. I knew all through my childhood that I would work with films and ended up with x-ray films.
    I am now writing and as you say, what should we look at to derive signals of assurance that the script will be accepted by the audience. In fact when my moods change the same lines sound very different and creates a different context tethering the script lines in a zigzag direction. I think I should maintain myself in the mood of the character I am writing about, to hold the plot together and achieve a profound impact.
    You, and if I may mention the other man, Morgan Freeman are an inspiration that keep feeding my hope, reminding me that one day I will be making my point though I am 46 now.
    PAANI Yes, The world is poor amidst abundance. Millions of Indians are hungry everyday while there is a surplus crop produced in India….and so it is with Water. That’s how human beings have organised themselves.
    Catch u on twitter.

  35. Arko says:

    Dear Sir,
    It’s been a long time since we have received any news regarding your current project PAANI.The last time in your writing you revealed how the film’s screenplay faced a surge complexity and even disclosed the brief story outline.As being a theater and film enthusiast i’m eagerly awaiting for any sort of news concerning the progress in it’s script or it’s execution.
    One more thing: Sir, please do inform me if you think of taking any auditions for the character roles in PAANI.You may contact me through my email id which is as follows:-
    blackisgreat@gmail.com
    Thanking You,
    Your avid fan
    ARKO.

Leave a Reply