Good writing is about the soul, not success: Preeti Mamgain

  •  October 24,2020 By IndianTelevision Team

The Screenwriters Association (SWA) held its first peer-judging awards show earlier this month. The awards were given in various categories and were judged by senior writers from the industry. – which has been a regular partner of the SWA – got into short conversations via email with some of the winners, asking them specific questions about their victory as well as what they put into the craft of writing. We are happy to present you the first of the winners: veteran actor and scripter Preeti Mamgain, who took home the best dialogue award for TV drama.

Preeti has been behind well-known series such as Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin, Jab Love Hua, Saara Akaash, Ek Chutki Aasmaan, and Phir Subah Hogi. Apart from this, she has appeared in front of the camera for shows such as Banegi Apni Baat, Saans, Kanyadaan, Waaris, Haadsaa, Left Right Left, Kitty Party playing character roles.

In this conversation, however, we restricted ourselves to her penning skills. Read on to get insights from one of the better talents in TV.

On what made her entry a winning one and what went into its writing.

If I was to say it in two words, it was – trust and freedom. I received the award for best dialogue (TV drama), but it was also a show which I developed, so I was involved from the very inception. Writing on TV is a collaborative process, but that can also be the reason for 'bad writing'. However, when the collaboration and support is constructive, when the writer is given freedom to express and create, then he/she takes onus for their work, and that's when the best writing happens. Mere Dad ki Dulhan was a baby that I gave birth to, and I was allowed to nurture it and help it grow. 

With the risk of sounding immodest, I would say the strength of my writing in this show was being able to truthfully capture the story world, and convey the emotions and reactions of the characters in a unique and entertaining manner. This involved immersing myself into every character's inner world, understanding how each of them feel, think and operate, and then bring out their most captivating aspects.

On the characters in the show and the nuances she brought in.

It is a simple story, with complex emotions, so the strength in the writing came from the authenticity of characters and emotions. I was very sure from the start that I'll stay true to the story and characters that I had set up, keep everything believable and real, and yet find fresh perspectives to the journeys the characters go on. This reflected in everything, right down to the dialogue. I treated the characters as real people, and tried to convey their real emotions and reactions through my words. The nuancing was not forced. It emerged naturally from the unique elements in the characters themselves. For instance, Amber Sharma is a man who hates the world, and loves his daughter with the same insane passion. His dialogue reflects his derision towards people, and seeing everything from the POV of his protectiveness towards his daughter. He calls her boss "Yamdoot" because the guy always comes with bad news, and takes Niya away from him. While Niya's dialogue reflects her irreverent love for her Dad.

On her journey in the screenwriting trade.

It's been a very, very long journey. I'm a bachelor in Fine Arts from College of Art, Delhi. I trained in commercial art, and worked as a computer graphics artist in the beginning of my career. I was also actively involved in theatre. Writing is something that came naturally because I grew up in a home where literature was held in great regard. My mother was a Hindi teacher, which is why I always had respect and fascination for the written word. When I came to Mumbai, about 20 years ago, I had no plans of becoming a professional writer. But I was surrounded by wonderful writers, directors and actors, and being a very curious person, it led to a lot of self-learning. I used to write scripts, for no one in particular, and then would pester my friends for feedback. I'm surprised they tolerate me LOL.

My first break happened almost accidently, when two of my short stories got selected by a TV channel, for a show which aired a series of episodic stories. After that, there was no looking back. I had found my true passion – writing for the screen. It was literally love at first sight, and it has sustained over the years. Whether I fight with my writing, struggle with it, sometimes walk out on it, but I always go back to it. Because deep down I know that it's the best and the longest long-term relationship of my life! 

On authenticity and the lengths she will go to achieve that.

Authenticity in writing can be viewed from two aspects – authenticity of ideas, and authenticity in the writing itself. Both, according  to me, are critical. Authentic ideas are rare to come by. Most times we see a re-churning of what is already out there. As a writer, we must strive for authenticity by drawing on personal experience, knowledge and awareness of the world we live in. We are creators, so our quest should always be to put out unique and inspiring content. 

When it comes to authenticity of writing, it's important that we stay true to our content. Screenwriting is such a powerful medium because we have direct access to people's hearts and minds. It's our responsibility to bring authentically to our writing - in terms of characters, time, thought-processes. We need to put in that hard work, otherwise we are being unjust to our own ideas.  Good writing is about the soul, it cannot be driven by success, commercial or otherwise.

On whether industry is as invested in screenwriting and writers as it should be.

No it's not. In our industry, currently, a writer has the status of a brick-layer. We lay the bricks, but then comes plaster, paint, lights and decor. And somewhere in that process, the brick-layer is side-lined, the house is taken over, and by the time the house gets ready, everyone has forgotten that some credit is due to the brick-layer as well. 

Having said that, there has been a change in the last decade. It's being felt by at least a few people that writing is the foundation of any screen content. You cannot make good content with bad writing. The result is, that we're seeing some good content coming up in all mediums – TV, web and film. But is there more investment in writing – commercial, credit-wise or status-wise? Well... I feel it's still a long way to go before writers get what they really deserve.