Screenplay writers should be aware of socio-political situation of the country: PF Mathews at KNIFF

Writer PF Mathews has been widely felicitated for his contributions in Malayalam literature as well as for his screenplays for films like Kutty Srank (2009), which won him the National Film Award for Best Screenplay, and his latest work, Ee.Ma.Yau, directed by Lijo Jose Pellissery.

At the screenplay writing workshop organized for aspiring writers as part of the Kazhcha-Niv Film Festival 2018 on 9 December, Mathews spoke about scriptwriting and some of the crucial components that a writer must keep in mind while conceptualizing a film script.

He emphasized the pivotal role that the ideology of a writer plays in writing, and said, “A writer has to select the stories of the character. For example, if a character is 100 years old, it’s not possible to select stories from the entire length of his living time, we have only two hours, so we have to choose the life experience of that particular character. That choice depends on the viewpoint of the writer. So, the writer has to have a clear-cut philosophy about life.” 

Citing the example of Sophie’s Choice, a novel written by William Styron, where Sophie, forced to choose between her children at Auschwitz, chooses her son and leaves her daughter for certain death, he said, “She [Sophie] makes that decision. So, it makes me think about the role of the scriptwriter, who has to choose the life situation of the particular characters. That choice will tell something about his philosophy towards life, his attitude and his viewpoint.”

He also pointed out the importance for a writer to be immersed in contemporary times, saying, “A screenplay writer has to be aware of the socio-political situation of the country, be more careful about the politics. Scriptwriting is not lighthearted, it’s a serious thing. In earlier times, in mainstream films, we can see that in a lot of films, the antagonist is almost always a Muslim character. Once, I asked the writer that why is this character a Muslim and he replied that it was only a name. I told him that it’s not just a name, there’s a politics behind that. After all, we are living in a period of Islamaphobia…in that situation screenplay writers should be more careful about life and the socio-political situation in their country.”

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Speaking about the Kazhcha-Niv Film Festival in particular, he lauded the festival team for all their efforts and said, “I think the festival is like off broadway. Film festivals conducted by the government is part of the establishment, there would be vested interests in their decisions. Sanal [Kumar Sasidharan] and Jiju [Antony] are very good and I think they can give a better film festival experience to the next generation”.

The Kazhcha-Niv Indie Film Festival is being held from 7 to 10 December 2018 in Trivandrum, Kerala.

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