Good characters let the audience get involved in the film – Amberdeep
Story, screenplay and dialogue writer Amberdeep Singh has been a game changer in the Punjabi film industry. From making Pollywood realize that the script is the real hero to coming up with scripts that worked as a catalyst for singer-actor Amrinder Gill’s acting career and writing strong female characters in his stories; each of Singh’s films have done exceedingly well, levitating him into stardom. His career in Punjabi cinema started in 2008 and his last release Love Punjab is already being remade in Hindi. Singh who is busy writing for Priyanka Chopra’s Pollywood production Ik Onkar talks to Pandolin about his writing style, how every new film still makes him nervous and his plans to turn director.
How did your tryst with films happen? Tell us about your work so far.
I hail from a small town called Abohar in Punjab. As soon as I completed my post graduation, I moved to Mumbai and started assisting directors such as Lekh Tandon, Raj Kanwar and Guddu Dhanoa. While assisting them, I was also involved in writing scripts and dialogues for some projects. That’s when I realized where my heart lay. My father was a journalist, so I guess writing is in my blood.
I debuted in the Punjabi film industry in 2008 as the scriptwriter of the Punjabi movie Chak De Phatte, for which I also co-wrote the dialogues. Next, I co-wrote the story of Zee TV’s Chal Di Da Naam Gaddi. I also wrote the dialogues for the popular TV soap Baa, Bahoo Aur Baby that aired on Star Plus, and co-wrote the screenplay and dialogues for SAB TV’s serial Gunwale Dulhania Le Jayenge,. The script for Gurpreet Ghuggi, one of the contestants in the comedy reality show Hans Baliye was also co-written by me. From 2010, I started penning the script of TV show Comedy Circus followed by Comedy Nights with Kapil. The list of my Punjabi films includes Singh Vs Kaur, Daddy Cool Munde Fool, Dil Vil Pyar Vyar, Goreya Nu Dafa Karo, Angrej and Love Punjab.
Last year Angrej set a benchmark in various forms. Has Love Punjab manage to achieve that this year?
I think so; people made me feel that it did. I have around 5000 Facebook friends and I think at least 100 people wrote a review of the film, which was a big thing for me. The results are great when you understand that one’s competition is with oneself only. In the field of art, you are fighting your own fight with yourself. And nothing satisfies me more than the moment when someone comes out of a cinema hall and says that it was a good film.
Tell us about your association with singer-actor Amrinder Gill with whom you have worked in your last three releases?
Daddy Cool Munde Fool was our first film together. While working on it, I realized that bhaji (Amrinder Gill) has so much potential but he is unable to explore it. And even he felt that I’m a regular on the set and do my work sincerely, so we developed a similar affection for each other.
When Goreya nu Dafa Karo was being worked out, he made sure that he was a part of the narration, which helped him capture the character properly. The same process was followed for Angrej and Love Punjab – from the process of writing to the filming, he was always there and fully involved in the whole process. He is a very intelligent and sensible man. He understands each and everything properly. He always ensures that none of his characters matches with something that he has already played. Despite the fact that he is a huge star in Punjab, he is quite humble.
Coming to your writing, the characters that are penned in your stories often leave an impression. How much time do you take pondering on each character and building them?
When a thought comes to my mind, I start finding characters in my surrounding. For instance, the character of the parents played by Yograj Singh and Nirmal Rishi in Love Punjab is similar to that of my parents. I have always seen them fighting like that. I think one doesn’t really have to go outside to trace those characters. You will find them in your real life. That’s how people manage to relate to those characters. Even the husband-wife character of Amrinder Gill and Sargun Mehta could be any husband-wife’s story – how a couple fights and what they expect from each other. People immediately connect with these characters because they are like that in their real life.
So how important is character building for any film?
I think it is the most important aspect. But just to put them in an order – the ‘thought’ comes first , then characters followed by situations and dialogues. If the thought is correct, then everything is correct, and good characters let the audience get easily involved in the film.
From where do you trace material that becomes part of your scripts and dialogues?
When you start feeling a character while writing it, the dialogues come naturally to you. I don’t make an effort to write nor do I stress myself to write certain kind of dialogues. When I write what comes naturally to me, that is what finds resonance amongst people.
What is your writing process like? Does it take long for you to pen your stories or they come instantly?
While Angrej was being made, we thought that we’ll make a modern film that will be based in Canada. We came up with a thought and spent a month on it to create the script. But somewhere I felt that something was missing. One day we were talking about Punjab, and people living abroad and so we thought, why not make a film showcasing the real Punjab and the culture here. We closed the previous thought and started developing this idea. Therefore, at times, you don’t have to think too much but a thought can strike anytime and at any moment. That’s why I don’t do many films because a thought will only enter my mind when it has to. Unless something touches my heart, I can’t develop it. Such things can’t be created by giving a certain time period. When an idea strikes it gets included in the story.
So you’re always in search of a good story?
I think the screenplay writer never goes out of me. I’m just thinking about ideas 24×7 and finding them. If any kind of an incident occurs in my life, I keep thinking about how that can be included in some script. I enjoy that process a lot and don’t take writing as a stress.
You are always on the set when the film is shot. How important is it for the writer to be on the set?
I always want to be on the set and this at times is a big problem for me. While writing something, I visualize it in a particular manner and I don’t want it going wrong because the other person might interpret it in some other form. When a writer is on the set, he can always tell you how exactly he has thought the story. Though even the director has his own vision, in my case I’m quite firm that whatever I’ve thought should be perceived in that particular way.
Your writing has brought a stark change in Pollywood as your stories have made female characters look as strong as their male counter-parts, which was a rarity in Punjabi films.
Male and female are two characters on earth. And if you are just showing a male’s character, cinema can’t be proper. Somewhere I thought that people missed having strong female characters in Punjabi films. Fortunately, my scripts have strong women characters. In fact, besides the female lead, even the character of the mother that was played by Nirmal Rishi in Love Punjab and Anita Devgan’s role in Angrej were written with a lot of detailing.
Out of story, screenplay and dialogue writing, which process do you enjoy the most?
I think I enjoy all three. Basically, it is the thought of the film that I really enjoy it. And I don’t differentiate between screenplay and dialogues. When the narration takes place, even that process holds a lot of value and brings happiness to me.
How do you deal with writer’s block?
The phase when a thought isn’t coming to your mind is a slightly painful process but I don’t give much importance to it. I keep myself positive. A hunger to constantly find something has to be there in you. Though I’m quite positive through the entire journey of the film but I get nervous before the release. I get scared that what will happen if whatever we have thought and made, goes wrong and people start questioning our work. Since there is no set formula and there is always a risk.
Success and failures are part of life. Though all your films have done well but what if any film doesn’t work, how would you take that?
I haven’t ever thought about this. But I’ll try that such a situation never arises. The chances of failure are more when you are doing some huge experiment and in such a case you are already mentally prepared. But I don’t think I’m even prepared for a situation like that.
Are you satisfied with the way the Punjabi industry pays its writers? And are writers getting their due in this industry?
To me it generally pays (laughs). From the beginning, I have been clear about my payments. I always knew that I would do less but quality work.
I think since the release of Angrej, the value of a writer has gained a lot of importance in the Punjabi film industry. Now Punjabi audiences don’t ask how the film was, instead, they ask how was the film’s story? The script is the biggest hero and then come the other factors.
Which Punjabi screenplay writer’s work do you admire?
Veteran writer Baldev Singh Gill who has written films like Chann Pardesi, Bhabo, Jee Aayan Nu, Dil Apna Punjabi, Miti Waajan Mardi, Naseebo etc. I also like Dheeraj Rattan’s work.
Priyanka Chopra’s production house Purple Pebble Pictures is producing the Punjabi film Ik Onkar, which is written by you. Tell us more about it.
Ik Onkar is the tentative title. The film is produced by Priyanka’s mother Madhu Chopra, it’s being directed by Karan Guliani and will feature Amrinder Gill in it. The thought and basic concept has come from the director but I’m developing it further. It is based on some social issues of Punjab.
There is also news of Love Punjab being remade in Hindi.
That’s right. Bollywood producer Inder Kumar, known for films like Beta, Dil, Dhamaal etc has bought the rights of Love Punjab’s Hindi remake. He came to the premiere of Love Punjab and felt that the film should also be made in Hindi. Presently I’m in the process of writing it. Most of the film and its essence will remain the same.
And you were also planning to direct a film?
I’m still going to do that though the shoot has got a bit delayed. Amrinder Gill will play the lead role, though the rest of the cast hasn’t been decided yet. In this project, I would want to focus completely on the direction. Therefore, I might involve some other writer on this film. I had always been excited to direct a film and had eagerly wanted to do it. But once again I’m nervous now.