The man who gave us Johnny Gaddar and Badlapur tells us what he is looking for in the entries of the Asia Society India Centre’s 3rd edition of the New Voices Fellowship for Screenwriters. Sriram Raghavan says it all in this crisp yet engaging interview, much like his films.

Sriram Raghavan

You have been a film student yourself; did you have such ‘fellowship’ opportunities then?

No. We just narrated our stories to each other and brainstormed on ideas. It’s fab that there are so many such opportunities now.

What can an aspiring writer/ filmmaker look forward to from this experience?

Brutal feedback. Often the script is torn apart in different directions. It can completely throw off a writer but it can also show alternate paths and approaches to their subject. I wish I could apply for some of these fellowships but it’s restricted to debut or second projects only.

As part of the panel, what do you plan to bring to the table? How do you see yourself contributing to this?

Honestly, I participate in these projects because it’s tremendously stimulating for my own work. In an abstract way, I gain a lot in my own writing. And I hope that one of the fellows has that terrific script that I love and can make right now.

Is there anything specific you are looking out for in the entries?

A good original story well told is all that we are looking for. Something that would make me want to rush to the cinema hall to see this on a Friday.

Sriram Raghavan

As a Director, how do you approach your scripts?

My maximum time and effort is to get the basic story right. The take off point can be a terrific plot or a fascinating character. My first draft is usually very synoptic and broad strokes…I go into a detailed screenplay much later….

Your films, especially Johnny Gaddar and Badlapur, have never followed the conventional story telling formula and yet people have loved them. What do you think clicked with the audiences?

Badlapur is my first film to be a box office success. The earlier ones didn’t do well on release. I don’t know about conventional story telling formula; I try to keep the viewer involved and try not to spoon-feed.

You have always had extremely interesting casting. Johnny Gaddar has been Neil Nitin Mukesh’s best ever, you showed us a different side of Saif in Ek Hasina Thi and more recently, Varun’ Badlapur avtaar has been spoken about and loved too. What’s your casting quirk?

I don’t know. Incidentally, all the three actors you mentioned were our first choices.

Varun Dhavan with Sriram Raghavan

All your films have had male protagonists with an offbeat treatment for female characters. What’s your take on making “Heroine the new Hero”? 

I think it was always there but now there’s some focus on it because of some recent stunning box office results. I think there will be lots of new kinds of stories coming in.

Do you see yourself making a woman oriented film? What happened to Happy Birthday? It had an intriguing cast and ring to it too?

One of the scripts I am working on now has a strong female lead. Happy Birthday hopefully will happen sometime soon….

There are so many aspiring filmmakers / writers who have amazing scripts but don’t find support to make their films. What advise would you give them?

Keep at it. Every studio and production house today is looking for fresh subjects. Fellowships like this help bring your work to the film industry. I do believe that every good story will finally find it’s film.

What’s your advice to anyone who may be preparing to send in their entries for this fellowship?

Keep your standards as high as you can. Test your story with your colleagues before sending it. Take criticism and feedback seriously…without trying to defend your script. It’s not a contest or a lucky draw. If it’s not accepted just go ahead and write another. If you enjoy writing, that’s already a profit.