Bollywood writers have for long complained of not being treated fairly by studios and platforms. However, of late, their claim is that with the entry of large powerful corporations in the film and OTT industry, the writer’s situation has worsened with contracts becoming more one-sided and harsher creating much frustration in the tribe.
In a significant move, on December 7, more than 100 Bollywood writers came together at a meeting called by the Screenwriters Association (SWA), the trade union of writers, to discuss their complaints. Well-known names like Sriram Raghavan (Andhadhun), Sujoy Ghosh (Kahaani), Sumit Aroraa (Jawaan), Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari (Bareilly Ki Barfi), Shridhar Raghavan (Pathaan), Harshvardhan Kuklarni (Badhai Do), Sudeep Sharma (Pataal Lok), Abbas Tyrewala (Pathaan) and many others spoke about how the situation needs to change.
Complaints were mainly centred around how average remuneration is shrinking, credit is given at the discretion of producers, termination can be arbitrary, and how they are forced to indemnify producers if there is a socio-political backlash to the film. Toughly worded agreements force writers to waive their moral rights as well as their right to receive royalty, incidentally both of which have been guaranteed by Indian copyright law. The gathering pointed out that while beginners suffer the most, unfair contracts are the norm even for successful senior writers.
Anjum Rajabali (Raajneeti), the chairperson of the Contracts Committee of SWA was clear. “The time has come to say: Enough! Our work deserves its due commercial value, and writers their dignity. To get that, we have to break the existing mindset towards our profession.” “A beginning has been made here,” said Zaman Habib (Ye Rishta Kya Kehlaata hai), General Secretary of SWA. “We shall push back as a united front to make our contracts fair and balanced. This meeting is the first step in that direction.”