Anjum Rajabali explains the judging process

After a successful first season, the second edition of the Cinestaan India’s Storytellers Contest has begun.

The contest is judged by a jury of eminent persons from the Hindi film industry. Chaired by well-known screenwriter and sometime actor Anjum Rajabali, the jury includes filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani, actor-producer Aamir Khan and screenwriter Juhi Chaturvedi.

At the event on 26 November to award the five winners of the first edition of the contest, Anjum Rajabali explained the process being followed from the moment an aspiring writer logs in to submit her/his synopsis.

Highlighting the need and desire for transparency in the entire programme, the jury chairman said, “The prizes are spectacular [a total of Rs50 lakh in cash]. So, it is imperative that the process for assessment and evaluation be strictly transparent and as objective as possible.”

The synopses received in the first round are read by a battery of script readers, none of whom knows who the authors are because the names are taken out before the synopses enter the system of evaluation, he explained. “Then a lot of cross-referencing is done, which means each story is read by multiple readers.”

Continuing, he said, “The synopses are assessed. Then they are evaluated. Then recommendations are made. Those recommendations are examined by me where cross-referencing is done. From that, a large bunch, which is culled out, comes to me. I read them personally and the cream of those are then invited to send in their screenplays.”

Once the final scripts are received, a similar process is followed. Any identification of the author is removed and the scripts are sent for reading by middle-level readers. “Twenty-five of them are culled and sent to me. I go through those with two senior readers, who are very experienced in the craft of screenwriting,” said Rajabali. 

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Out of those 25, eight are shortlisted and sent to the jury comprising Aamir Khan, Rajkumar Hirani, Juhi Chaturvedi and Rajabali. “I read them a second time,” Rajabali said, while the rest of the jury reads them for the first time. Then by consensus they arrive at the five finalists, who are graded. Only then is the final result announced.

Rajabali agreed that the process is arduous but asserted that all protocols are followed without exception. “There can’t even be a hint of a possibility of any kind of favouritism or unnecessary subjective element which can enter the picture and influence the results,” he said. “So this is the best attempt we are making right now to ensure that these protocols are adhered to.”

The results of the first edition of the contest were declared last month, with the first prize of Rs25 lakh going to Christo Tomy from Kerala for his story titled The Funeral.

Watch Anjum Rajabali talking about the transparency while judging the contest:

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