By Apurva Asrani:
Editor’s note: Apurva Asrani has been embroiled in a conflict with actress Kangana Ranaut over the writing credits of the movie “Simran”. This is a first person account written by him on Facebook, produced here with his permission.
I have always supported Kangana in her fight against the system. Being a self-made person myself, and having experienced being an outsider at some point, I applaud her courage and her determination to fight the good fight.
I know there seems to be a discrepancy regarding credits. Many of you have outraged against her ‘additional dialogue & story’ credit appearing before mine on the poster, and I am thankful to you for your support.
While it is demeaning for any writer’s name to be pushed after an ‘additional’ writing credit, I want to bring to your attention that it’s not the ‘credits’ that irk me so much. There is something bigger that I have noticed, something that I cannot make sense of.
I have no problem with Kangana Ranaut taking an ‘additional writing’ credit on “Simran”. She has contributed to the film and I would be ashamed to take solo credit for someone else’s dialogues. Her getting an additional writing credit has never been the issue here.
The issue arises when in the credits, the ‘additional writer’ is given precedence over the writer, who actually put finger to keyboard and broke the stare of a blank page. It is also disconcerting when the additional writer, Ms Ranaut in this case, goes to town discrediting the original writer and claims that she has actually written the film. That has always been my fight. Nothing more. Nothing less.
I would be naive to believe that additional writing credits can and should be totally done away with. There are several instances when the written word gets embellished by an objective intervention. If the director chooses to credit that intervention, he must first get his writer’s consent and then go ahead.
Ms Ranaut has been claiming in several interviews that Hansal Mehta, the director of “Simran”, approached her with just a one line screenplay of the film. She says that the story was a dark & gritty thriller at that stage and that she herself developed it into a light, fun film.
This completely discredits me and my efforts, and I have to call out this lie at the cost of so many of her fans turning against me. Those that know me will know that I have always strived for the truth, and that is more important to me than a hit film.
Hansal sent me a news article of a woman in the US who crossed the line of the law. I loved it and thought it would make a great film. But I didn’t want to do a serious film after “Aligarh”. As gratifying as the experience of making Aligarh was, it churned my insides out and left me emotionally drained. I saw “Simran” as an opportunity to have some fun. This was two years ago!
I signed a contract with Hansal’s company Karma Features, developed the idea into an original story, and wrote a one-line screenplay. Hansal loved it and took me to meet Kangana. She heard the narration and jumped at it. She told us she would do it.
Jubilant to work with my favourite actress, I began research and development. I went to the US and studied the subject, I met lots of people who added value to the idea. I then returned and began writing.
I wrote nine drafts of the script. With each draft I went deeper into the character, I gave her an identity, motives and colour. Both Kangana and Hansal gave me valuable inputs. I incorporated some, rejected some. They were always happy with the outcome. I have proof of this. Besides, writers write for the director and his/her approval is the final word for us.
At no point (during nine drafts and one & a half years!) was there any talk or communication that Kangana didn’t like the tone or direction of the script. In fact, she used to jump with glee when I finished my narrations.
When they went to shoot the film, I heard stories about things transpiring on set. I would not like to go into that now. But I waited excitedly for them to return with the material and when it came earlier this year, I dived into editing it.
I was thrilled to see that it was exactly the story and screenplay that I had registered at the Film Writer’s Association. I noticed that Kangana had improvised many dialogues, and I thought those improvs were excellent; in keeping with the lines and thoughts that I had written.
At no stage did I see this new narrative of theirs coming. It was only the day after I finished the first cut of the film that Hansal called me to meet. He informed me nervously that Kangana is turning director (with her new production), and therefore, has demanded a co-writer credit.
I naturally had a shit fit. Feeling shocked and betrayed, I refused to give in. For two months, he and his co-producer Shailesh tried to arm twist me into giving her a co-writer credit. The details of which I will reserve for the future.
I finally gave into an additional writing credit, but only because they claimed their film would be stuck if I didn’t do so. But I refused to give her a co-writer credit, and we signed a letter where they promised me the same.
Today not only do I see her credit before mine on the poster (which I had decided not to fight), but I also saw Kangana on her ‘Facebook Live’ event yesterday claiming that she had written the film (with Hansal) from a one-line treatment he gave her. She had already discredited my one line in her Mid Day Interview in April, saying it was a dark & gritty thriller till she wrote a new film.
I have tried to be dignified about this for so long, but I am at a loss to understand why Kangana would snatch the hard earned work of a writer. I wish she had been graceful about this and acknowledged what I brought to this film.