My worst nightmare was telling my kids that I didn’t follow my dreams
Business consultant turned scriptwriter and lyricist Niren H Bhatt talks about his journey to the films, fulfilled dream of writing scripts, debut Hindi film All is Well and association with Gujarati theatre and movies.
Where are you originally from? Briefly tell about your background and education.
Born and brought up in Gujarat, I did engineering from Baroda followed by MBA from Indian Business School, Mumbai in 2007. Then I worked as a business consultant with an IT Solution company that had niche clients. Even though I was from a different field, I used to write plays and songs simultaneously. Writing was always my passion. When I was in college, I had already written about 35 plays. When I came to Mumbai, around six music albums that had my songs were released by then. In Gujarat commercial plays are quite popular. I have directed, acted and written many Gujarati plays. My first play was produced by Umesh Shukla (director of All is Well) in 2010.
How did screenwriting in films and serials happen?
While I was working as a business consultant I used to approach various people from the industry along with my scripts. When I got a serial called Bhai, Brother, Bhaiya – that’s when I left my job. It was a comedy serial by the makers of Sarabhai Vs Sarabhai. Though leaving my job was a big risk but I had to take that decision. I thought either it is now or never. My worst nightmare was telling my kids that I used to write once and didn’t really follow my dreams. In fact when I left my job, I didn’t tell my family for many months. My wife who is a sculptor was quite supportive in this whole process.
What other projects have you written before All is Well?
I wrote many serials such as – Savadhan India, Jinny aur Juju, Tarak Mehta Ka Ulta Chashma. I started writing Tarak Mehta Ka Ulta Chasma in 2012 and have written around 200 episodes so far. Prior to All is Well I wrote a Gujarati film called Bey Yaar. Before this film released, Gujarati films used to be just the way Bhojpuri films are. But Bey Yaar was made as a path breaking urban film. The film broke all records and was the highest grosser.
How did the idea of All is Well strike your mind? Are there any inspirations from somewhere?
All is Well’s idea was brought up by film’s co-writer Sumit. The film is quite close to his life and heart. Then we sat together and built on it. All is Well’s story is about a dysfunctional family in which there is friction between father and son and the film showcases how son helps his father to get his life back on track. We thought of making a musical emotional road journey. During their journey they understand each other. This story is a very universal story as everyone has similar issues with their parents and children.
It is said that All is Well was written keeping Rishi Kapoor and Abhishek Bachchan in mind. Is that true? Why was the reason behind showing them as reel father son?
While writing I hardly keep the actors in mind. For this film, after writing it for some time, we were kind of sure about who is suitable for the father’s role which is played by Rishi Kapoor. It was bit obvious. For the son’s role, Abhishek seemed best as he has this image of a family man. Also the bond he shares with his father is well known.
All is Well is being touted as a film that tackles thorny issues with a social message. Tell us more about it.
All is Well is a feel good film. We are sure of the fact that most families will go out of cinema halls as happy families. All families have some or the other internal problems. Even though there are conflicts in your life, it is always better to ignore those problems and move on. The film also says that no matter what kind of issues we have with any member of the family, the family values still prevail.
Umesh Shukla’s previous film Oh My God was appreciated by one and all mostly because of it’s content. Did this fact lead to any pressure while writing the script?
Each film is a new film. So there was no scope of any kind of pressure. Umesh is more like a friend. In fact he is also the co-writer of the film. Therefore we were never under any pressure. Since Oh my God revolved around religion it was undoubtedly a bigger concept. It’s canvas was huge. With All is Well we wanted to bring to notice the little day to day things which usually go unnoticed.
You have also written lyrics for Fugly? What comes naturally to you – screenwriting or penning lyrics?
I am most comfortable with dialogues and lyrics. From my initial years I have been reading a lot which has made me comfortable with words. When one is writing lyrics, words are the most important part of it. And words are something that I’m closest to as they come naturally to me.
Your show Tarak Mehta Ka Ulta Chashma has been there for a while but it still manages to be a hit among the viewers. What makes it one?
Tarak Mehta Ka Ulta Chashma is based on day to day life and happenings of people. Once you watch the show you get the feeling of watching stories of normal people who have normal lives like each one of us. There is nothing extraordinary about it. Even the comedy is not out of the world. It is situational comedy and viewers get to relate a lot with the show which has made it popular.
Is there any wish list when it comes to working with a particular director or actors?
It is a long list as I want to work with almost everyone – from Raju Hirani to Anurag Kashyap. Coming to actors I really want to write a film that stars actors such as Irrfan Khan and Nawazuddin Siddique in it.
What kind of subjects would you like to explore in future?
One of the subjects that I’ll be exploring in one of my next film is based on a Superhero. It will be again directed by Umesh Shukla though the cast is not decided yet.
What are your upcoming projects? Where do you see yourself in coming years?
My next film called Gujju Bhai the Great is ready for release next month. I have written lyrics for the film. I’m sure Gujju Bhai the Great that stars famous Gujarati theatre actor called Siddarth Randeria will be even a bigger hit than Bey Yaar. Sidharth has huge fan following in Gujarat. He is like the Kapil of Gujarati theatre.