By Dr. Iqbal Kuttipuram
(As told to Shevlin Sebastian)
As a homeopathic doctor working in Dubai, I interact a lot with my patients and hear a lot of stories. One day, a patient gave me a few DVDs of Bengali films. In one there was a 15-minute film, called, ‘Tapan Babu’, made by Indranil Roy Chowdhury. It is about a doctor's relationship with an old patient. Later, the doctor commits a robbery. It was the spark that gave me the idea for ‘Diamond Necklace’: of a Dubai-based Dr. Arunkumar stealing a necklace from a patient, to pay off his debts.
Dr. Arunkumar is the hero, as well as the villain. The character is based on a friend of mine, who would move around with twenty credit cards. I have seen many Malayalis in Dubai who lacked financial discipline. They would spend excessively by using their credit cards. But, in 2008, when the recession hit Dubai, they were unable to pay their bills. Many of them ended up in jail.
When I heard that 'Diamond Necklace' was a hit, I felt a huge sense of relief. You must remember that an enormous amount of money, effort and teamwork go into a film, on the basis of my story. Out of 100 films released in Mollywood every year, only four or five become hits. So, there is a moment of celebration when a film does well.
For a good screenplay, the original idea should have the potential to be developed into a script that lasts for two-and-a half hours, and keeps the viewer glued to their seats. The images must be fresh and interesting and should never have been seen before. There should be a smooth progression from one scene into the next. I always write the script from the viewpoint of the audience.
The viewers should experience all the emotions of the character, and have to be convinced that it is genuine. Whatever script you write, if there is no emotional core in it, then the film will not do well. If you look at the early Siddique-Lal films, even though it was slapstick comedy, there was an emotional resonance and that was why they did well.
Having said that, for the success of 'Diamond Necklace', it needed the aesthetic skills and fine craftsmanship of director Lal Jose to convert what was on paper into unforgettable scenes.
I have been a scriptwriter for ten years and had some good hits: 'Arabikatha', '4 The People', and 'Swapnakoodu'. I wrote the basic story of 'Niram', which turned out to be a super-hit. But 'Gramaphone' and 'Sevenes' did not do well. Even today, I have no idea what makes a film a hit. But I feel that if you write something with the utmost sincerity, the audience will accept it.
Many people have wondered how a doctor became a scriptwriter. Well, I wrote my first script when I was studying at the Dr. Padiyar Memorial Homeopathic Memorial College at Chottanikkara [25 kms from Kochi]. Through a mutual friend, I showed it to veteran director Kamal. Although he did not make a film, he liked the script. He asked me to meet him. Later, Kamal, who became my mentor, allowed me to sit in at story discussions and occasionally I have worked as an assistant in his films.
The lessons I learned from Kamal are helping me even now.
(Scriptwriter Dr. Iqbal Kuttipuram has had several hits in Mollywood)
(Published in The New Indian Express, South India and Delhi)