‘Kalamkaar’: The Luminaries of Bollywood

It is the writers who conceive and pen the stories, characters, dialogues and lyrics of the movies that entertain us, inspire us and sometimes, change us. We look at some of the greatest writers of Bollywood whose work has left an indelible influence on the history of Hindi cinema.

‘Kalamkaar’: The Luminaries of Bollywood ‘Kalamkaar’: The Luminaries of Bollywood Source : Press

"Writer, director, music director, cinematographer, editor--all are important. It is just that they don't come on posters so they are not most celebrated. For us, who are in the business, we don't get enamored by stars. We make stars, we create them, we give birth to them" says renowned film director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra.

Bollywood cinema has always been as much a writer's medium as it is a director's. If we look back, some of the most landmark movies in the history of Hindi cinema achieved popularity and status because of the characters, dialogues, lyrics of evergreen dance numbers and the entertaining story.

A quintessential Bollywood film has ‘masala' (literally, a mixture of spices) which is genre-transcending and all-encompassing. A masala film has bits of everything-comedy, romance, action and most prominently characterized by the melodrama and the variety in dance numbers.

Khwaja Ahmad Abbas: The Padma Shri award winner was popularly known as K. A. Abbas. His film ‘Neecha Nagar' won the Palm d'Or at the 1st Cannes Film Festival in 1946 for the screenplay he wrote. The Chetan Anand directed film is a pioneering work of social realism in Indian cinema as it highlighted the gulf between the rich and the poor in society. It still remains the only winner from India at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. Abbas received Palm d'Or nominations for ‘Awaara' (1951) which is one of the most popular films of all time and ‘Pardesi', a 1957 Indo-Soviet co-production which he also directed. He also wrote some of the most famous Raj Kapoor's films like ‘Shree 420' (1955) and ‘Mera Naam Joker' (1970). He was a prolific director and made the 1964 film which he also wrote ‘Shehar Aur Sapna' which confronts the theme of urban migration amid rapid industrialization.

Mukhram Sharma won the first ever Filmfare Award in 1955 in the Best Story category for the film ‘Aulad'. The prolific writer was active in the industry for almost four decades. His most popular films include ‘Vachan' (1955), ‘Sadhna' (1958) was about society's view on prostitution, ‘Talaq' (1958) and ‘Dhool Ka Phool' (1959) which had the famous song "Too Hindu Banega Na Musalman Banega, Insaan Ki Aulaad Hai, Insaan Banega" written by Sahir Ludhianvi. He won the Filmfare Award for the first two again in the Best Story Category. His films dealt with the important social issues of the time.

Abrar Alvi was the writer of Guru Dutt's famous films in the 50s and the 60s. He wrote films like ‘Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam', ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool' and ‘Pyaasa' that are considered one of the most highly regarded films in Indian Cinema. His dialogues in the 1955 classic ‘Pyaasa' shot him to fame. ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool' failed to make any money but the writing eventually earned it critical acclaim. He also wrote ‘Chaudhvin Ka Chand' (1960) and Shammi Kapoor's Professor (1962).

We know Nabendu Ghosh as an Indian author of Bengali literature whose work dealt with "historical upheavals of 1940s - famine, riots, partition - as well as love." But he was also a prolific screenwriter. He wrote the screenplay of Guru Dutt's 1954 noir-comedy ‘Aar Paar'. He also wrote the screenplay of Bimal Roy's 1955 drama ‘Devdas', ‘Yahudi' (1958) which was based on Agha Kashmiri's play, ‘Sujata' (1959) based on Subodh Ghosh's short story which is about caste system, ‘Bandini' (1963) which is a female centric movie exploring the conflict of love and hate. For Hrishikesh Mukherjee directed 1967 film ‘Majhli Didi' Ghosh won the first Filmfare Award for Best Screenplay.

Wajahat Mirza is one of India's most famous dialogue writers ever. He penned the dialogues of India's one of the greatest films ever-the Oscar nominated Mehboob Khan directed Mother India (1957), K. Asif's epic period drama ‘Mughal-E-Azam' (1960) and Nitin Bose's crime drama ‘Ganga-Jamuna' (1961). He also wrote the screenplay of ‘Watan', ‘Bahen', ‘Ye Gulistaan Hamara' and ‘Heera'.

Gulshan Nanda was a popular author whose novels were adapted into Hindi films of the 60s and the 70s. He was a diverse writer who covered themes like social ills to romance and even thrillers. Some of the most popular films of the period were written by him like ‘Kaajal' (1965), ‘Kati Patang' (1970), ‘Khilona' (1970), ‘Sharmeelee' (1971) and ‘Daag' (1973). He received Filmfare Award for Best Story nomination six times. Interestingly, some of the films he wrote were later released as novels because of the immense popularity.

Sachin Bhowmick directed and wrote the romantic black comedy classic ‘Raja Rani' (1973) starring Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore. Sachin was a prolific write and was involved in the screenplay of over 90 films. He wrote evergreen classic films such as ‘Golmaal' (1979), ‘Brahamachari' (1968), ‘Anuradha' (1960), ‘Aradhana' (1969) and ‘Karan Arjun' (1995). He won the Filmfare Award in the best story category for the film ‘Brahmachari.'

Gulzar is India's one of the most celebrated modern poet and perhaps the greatest lyricist ever in Indian cinema. He has been active as a lyricist for almost six decades now since his first film ‘Kabuliwala' came out in 1961. He co-wrote the screenplay and dialogues of Hrishikesh Mukherjee's classic ‘Anand' which marked his debut as a screenwriter. He wrote three other classics of Mukherjee-‘Guddi', ‘Namak-Haram' and ‘Chupke-Chupke'. Later, he directed the films he wrote himself like ‘Aandhi', ‘Mausam', ‘Meera' and ‘Angoor'. He won the National Award for best screenplay for his 1972 film ‘Koshish' starring Sanjeev Kumar. Gulzar penned the lyrics of famous songs like ‘Tere Bina Zindagi se Koi', ‘Aanewala Pal Jaanewala Hai', ‘Aaj Kal Paon Zameen Par' and ‘Tumse Naraaz Nahin Zindagi'.

Salim-Javed writer duo is most famous for scripting Ramesh Sippy's ‘Sholay' which turned them into superstars overnight. They wrote 24 films together out of which over a dozen were critically and commercially successful. They experimented with the structure and story which reinvented Bollywood movies. They created the character of "angry young man" and brought spaghetti western influence in Hindi cinema. They explored themes like politics, crime and rural-urban divide but at the same time made it palatable for the masses by turning them into Masala films. ‘Zanjeer' (1973), ‘Sholay' (1975), ‘Deewar' (1975) and ‘Don' (1978) are some of their best works.

Vijay Tendulkar is the most famous playwright in Marathi theatre but he also wrote about a dozen feature films. He worked in the 70s and 80s with pioneering directors of Indian New Wave cinema like Shyam Benegal and Govind Nihalani. With Govind Nihalani, he worked on ‘Aakrosh' (1980) and ‘Ardh Satya' (1983), and with Shyam Benegal he was the writer of ‘Nishant' (1975) and ‘Manthan' (1976). His subjects revolved around social issues and he approached them from a radical perspective. He highlighted the political hegemony of the powerful and the hypocrisies in the Indian social mindset. Manthan won him the national award in the best screenplay category in 1976.

Anurag Kashyap is widely considered to be one of the best contemporary directors in Hindi cinema. But before he became a successful director, he had already written films like ‘Satya', ‘Shool', ‘Kaun' and ‘Yuva'. Ram Gopal Verma's cult classic Satya (1998) made him famous. Shool (1999) won him the National Award. ‘Paanch' (2003) was his directorial debut which was never released but it was ‘Black Friday' made in 2004 which made every notice the director in Kashyap. He directed some of the most brilliant Hindi films in last decade like ‘Dev.D' (2009), ‘Gulaal' (2009) and ‘Gangs of Wasseypur' (2012) which made him one of the most respected directors currently working in Bollywood.

Abhijat Joshi is the co-writer with Rajkumar Hirani, Indian cinema's most commercially successful filmmaker ever. His best works are ‘Lage Raho Munna Bhai', ‘3 Idiots', ‘PK' and ‘Sanju'. The key to his success is presenting important subjects in a light-hearted and entertaining manner. Juhi Chaturvedi, the writer of critically acclaimed films ‘Vicky Donor', ‘Piku' and ‘October' is currently one of the finest screenwriters currently working in Hindi cinema. After the outstanding success of her first two films, Chaturvedi ventured new avenues in her slice-of-life drama October, which wasn't as commercially successful like her previous films but received rave reception from the critics.

Honorable Mention: Sahir Ludhianvi won the Padma Shri award in 1971 for his contribution to Indian cinema. He wrote in Hindi and Urdu and is widely considered as the best poet-lyricist of India. He won the Filmfare award for Best lyricist twice-firstly for ‘Taj Mahal' (1963) and the second time for ‘Kabhie Kabhie' (1976). His most famous lyrics are "Main Pal do Pal ka Shaayar Hoon."

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