Featured Writer: (In Conversation With) Durgesh Singh for Gullak 3

Just like the featured actors section, I have been, for a long time, wanting to start a section for writers and directors. 

More than anyone else, it’s the writer and director of the film/series that shapes the story. The outcome is their blood, sweat, and tears. Unfortunately, there are only a few writers and directors that we know of. Are they good enough to be that popular is another question. Let’s not go there for now. But we have such amazing talent here on OTT that it’s unfair to not give them their due. 

This section belongs to the writers, who lay the foundation and directors, who construct masterpieces. 

I am so glad that our first featured writer for this section is none other than the wordsmith of Gullak 2 and 3, Durgesh Singh. 

I was fortunate enough to have gotten a chance to speak to him about how he managed to write Gullak 3, especially the last episode of the season, so well. Where did he get the idea from? Is it something he has experienced in his own life or is it his observation of the middle class families and their atrocities? 

People who have lost their fathers would understand this better: 

It feels like you are still alive and someone has taken you off your life support. You are suffocating yet struggling to breathe because you still cannot give up on life. The funny thing is you never knew you need support to breathe. Because till this very moment, life seemed absolutely normal. And that life support, my friend, is your father. 

This is exactly what happened with Durgesh Singh, 12 years ago. Though still struggling, he was busy living his life here in Bombay. As he was in love, life looked great and all of it seemed like a happily ever after. That is when, all of a sudden, someone pulled the plug of his support system. His father had passed away.

From that experience comes the last episode of Gullak 3 that made everyone cry. 

‘Aise Hi Jaate Hai Yaar Log.. Koi Kisiko Kuch Nahi Batake Jaata,’ this line has been haunting me for the last 12 years, from the day I saw my father’s dead body. He didn’t tell me before leaving and such incidents break you from within. So yes, this episode has come from personal experience, from the moments I have lived in my life.’

Talking about the scene where Annu Mishra is seen wearing his father’s chappals in the hospital and again in the last scene, Durgesh Singh says, ‘My father was very fond of chappals and when he passed away, when there was no one around, I used to wear his chappals, I used to wear his clothes to feel closer to him.’

That is when the writer within me woke up and asked him how easy or difficult it is to revisit such heartbreaking memories to pen them down. As a writer, I find it immensely difficult to rip the skin off the wound and put the pain on paper. 

‘It’s not easy but at the same time it is not that difficult either. It is the emotional baggage that I have been carrying with me for so many years. I had to release it somewhere.’

As it is out now, are you finally feeling light? 

No, I don’t know if I am feeling light but one thing is definite. I still feel that if my father would have been here to actually watch this (Singh’s work and success), he would have been so happy. Even now, I feel that this pain and the haunting memories of the people you lose is an endless loop. It will keep coming back, at regular intervals. I don’t know how relieved I am, but I feel good about it. I have actually put out what was within me for such a long time. 

Durgesh Singh also feels that people have been able to connect well with Santosh Mishra’s heart attack scene (that also brought along fear of his death) because of the pandemic. There are so many people who lost their loved ones during Covid, suddenly and unexpectedly. And ‘koi kuch batake nahi jaata’ doesn’t necessarily only be about death but it is also true for break-ups, seperation, and other losses in life. So, there is not a single person who would not relate to this feeling. He also believes that your writing will hit hard only if it comes from personal space. 

And that brought me to my next question (and the answer was the best part of the interview)

May it be Shanti Mishra taking a stand for Furtilee or Furtilee’s feeling that there is something that’s not right about the rishta. She feels that she won’t be happy with the guy and that was enough to reject the guy. There is absolutely no drama created around the decision or generally, in the entire series. How did you manage to keep it so straightforward and simple?

Drama ki zaroorat nahi hai. Our lives are already very dramatic. Jaise Furtilee hai waisi ladkiya bahut hai. Unki shaadi aur naam ko leke jo problem hoti hai.. Maine ek ladki dekhi thi bachpan mein jiske naam ki wajah se uski shaadi nahi hui. 

Sirf naam ki wajah se?

Sirf naam ki wajah se kyuki uska naam bahut funny tha.. Aisa humko laga funny tha. Uss waqt bachpan mein samajh nahi aaya. Baad mein baat ki, pucha, pata kiya toh pata chala ke naam ki wajah se shaadi kyu tut jaati hai. Waha se Agua episode nikla. Waha humne Furtilee ko introduce kiya aur Furtilee ab logo ko itni pasand aa rahi hai ke emails aa rahe hai Canada se, London se ke bring back Furtilee in season 4.

So is Gullak S4 in the pipeline? Have you started writing for the next season?

It’s still in the discussion stage but I think writing for it will begin soon. 

As you spoke about the character, Furtilee and how people are loving this character, I think it’s a little unusual for people to accept new characters. We have already seen that new characters, when introduced in sequels, do not work well as the makers tend to lose focus from the main plot. How do you manage to introduce new characters so well that they become a part of the family?

Emotions agar hit karte hai na, Shreya, toh I think character andar ka hai ya bahar ka, usko accept kar hi lete hai log. Woh emotions ke saath agar aap beh jaate hai toh woh koi badi baat nahi hai. Furtilee ko bhi hum bade subtle tarike se iss duniya mein laaye hai. 

Kitni saari ladkiya hai na jo shaadi ke baad naam badal deti hai. I ask this question: KYUN?

You cannot simply skip the question and say ke ye mera choice hai. I just want to understand kyu? Kyu naam badal lena kisi se shaadi ke baad? Aapki koi identity nahi hai? Jo teesra episode hai ye sawaal uthata nahi hai. Agar inka voice-over aap sunengi bidaai wala jaha Furtilee baithi hai bus adde pe aur waha ek bachchi ko dekh rahi hai barf ka gola khaate huye toh samajh paati iss cheez ko, right?

You also said ke agar emotions hit karte hai toh har character accept kiya jaata hai but still you have stayed away from emotional atyachar. There is only subtlety in the script. Other writers usually go heavy on the emotions so that viewers don’t get time to think. That is not the case in any of the Gullak’s seasons…

Makers who do that do not know how to strike a balance. Show life as it is, there is no need for extra drama. There is so much drama in our lives ke agar aap wohi dikha de toh maza aa jayega. 

Aur shayad Gullak usike wajah se itna chal raha hai ke drama nahi hai phir bhi hai… Jo real life mein chal raha hai utna hi hai aur woh bahut jyaada hai

(Laughs) Haan kyuki hamare life mein hai already drama. Mera point hi ye hai ke hamare life mein already drama hai.

Kaash baaki log bhi ye sikh le ke jitna hai utna hi dikhao kaafi hai..

Haan tabhi toh hum relate kar payenge na. Maan lijiye aapki life ka koi phase chal raha hai abhi main agar isike aas paas kuch create karu toh aap sabse jyaada relate karegi na? 

Correct! My next question is that I personally feel that people go to theatres for entertainment and OTT for stories. What do you think is the difference between the writing styles and whether Gullak would have worked in theatres if made into a film? 

I believe that the third episode is filmy. It’s a separate episode, completely different from Gullak’s universe and if we would have converted it into a film, it would have definitely worked out well. In fact, if Gullak would have been released in cinema halls, it would have set a new benchmark, a new trend in the series of small town stories. Jo boring template hum use kar rahe hai small town ke naam pe, jo junta ko cheat kar rahe hai basically kuch bhi dikha rahe hai small town ke naam pe.. At least, Gullak would have broken that myth. 

As you mentioned about templates, films truly follow a template these days. The entire script is broken into songs, actions, romance, and they are done. Surprisingly, people enjoy such films. So, do you think there is still a place for good stories in theatres? OTT, on the other side, is giving filmmakers the liberty to explore storytelling.

Yes, there is still a place for good stories in theatres but sadly, we are only telling fake stories these days.

Why do you think there is this difference between theatres and OTT?

Jaldi jaldi jo bhi aa raha hai chaapo… Problem ek language ki bhi hai aisa mujhe lagta hai. Jinhe kahaniya kehni hai na unhein language hi nahi pata. 

This is the one and only industry in the world that doesn’t write scripts in the language they make films in. Puri script angrezi mein likhi jaati hai. 

Then how do actors read it?

Woh saare bhi English mein hi padhte hai…

Matlab hamari suruvaat hi galat hai

Haan hamari neev hi galat hai. Every other industry writes scripts in the language they make films in, Marathi films will be written in Marathi, Chinese movies will be written in Chinese, Persian films will be written in Persian, except Hindi film industry. They write in English.

Matlab language se koi connect hi nahi hai..

Koi connect nahi hai isliye hamari kahaaniya saari disoriented hai

Before OTT, you have written for different mediums. You have written for radio, you have been into journalism and advertising as well. Do you think that experience helped you improve your craft?

Definitely, it did.

But, as I read in one of your interviews, you did not enjoy any of these mediums..

Not much but yes, I enjoyed writing for radio. Now, for OTT also, I am not sure how long I will be here. Maybe 5 years down the line, I will be doing something else

Acting? We have already seen you in Gullak 2

No, not acting. Maybe I will teach writing to students.

Any plans of writing films?

I have already written a film which will go on floor this year

Is it for OTT?

It’s for Box Office

Any more OTT projects that you are working on?

There are two shows that I am currently working on. One is for HBO which will be produced by Goldie Behl and Sonali Bendre and the other is for Lionsgate which will be produced by Drishyam Films. 

As I wrap up this interview, I wish Durgesh Singh all the best for his future projects and hope that he keeps winning our hearts with his outstanding work. 

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