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Shortlisted writers laud Cinestaan script contest, masterclass as a boon for those without connections

Rajkumar Hirani, Anjum Rajabali and Juhi Chaturvedi, three of the four judges of the contest, held a day's workshop for the shortlisted contestants.

Tryo Ribeiro, freelance journalist and aspiring screenwriter

The Cinestaan Team

Over 120 shortlisted writers turned up for the screenwriting masterclass conducted in Mumbai on Monday as part of the Cinestaan India's Storytellers Contest by three of the four members of the jury — filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani, and writers Anjum Rajabali and Juhi Chaturvedi.

The contest, which was announced in October last year and attracted close to 4,000 entries, is currently in the final stage of evaluation.

Entries for the second edition of the contest, run by Cinestaan Digital Private Limited, which also runs the website Cinestaan.com, are now being accepted online at https://scriptcontest.cinestaan.com. It carries a total prize money of Rs50 lakh.

Mumbai-based freelance journalist Troy Ribeiro, one of the aspiring screenwriters who attended the masterclass, said he had heard of the contest from many of his acquaintances. “It was on the web. Everybody was talking about it,” he recalled.

Another participant, Juilee Desai, a homemaker from Pune, said she learnt of the contest from a writer friend. “He recommended it," she said. "I am a novice in this field. I have written for digital platforms, but nothing in the script area. But I had a story with me and I submitted it and it got shortlisted!”

Rajkumar Hirani at the workshop

Ribeiro said the contest is a boon for people with no connections in the film industry. “I have been trying for a couple of years to get into film writing," he said.

"I think if you don’t have a godfather, grandfather or anybody, these competitions help. I know I am a good storyteller. It’s a bit expensive at times if you keep applying for such competitions with no guarantee [of winning]. But since I have nobody, I thought let’s try on this stage,” he added.

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Entering the contest proved to be a blessing for Desai. “Thanks to that, I at least have a bound script with me now," she said. "Otherwise it wouldn’t have happened. I got a deadline, so I wrote the script!”

Anjum Rajabali at the workshop

She was quite pleased with the assistance she got from the team behind the contest, terming her experience as "good". "The team was very helpful. Whatever queries I sent were responded to. And the prizes are amazing! I am from Pune. I have a small child. So, it was completely overwhelming to come here,” she said.

Arijit Lahiri, a writer from Kolkata who also attended the masterclass, echoed Ribeiro's sentiments when he said, “It’s a great platform. It seems like a genuine platform, especially with names like Anjum sir, Raju Hirani and Aamir Khan. They are creatively sensible people who understand and make great cinema. So, it’s a great platform to be on. It’s giving a platform to new writers, who are from nowhere and have no connections, just based on their content.”

Juhi Chaturvedi at the workshop

Ribeiro, however, expressed the desire for some feedback. “It's so far so good, but I would like one thing to be added," he said. "Anjum said he has put scribbles [on the scripts]. That should be shared, at least with those who have been shortlisted, so we know where we are going wrong. If they give me that feedback, probably in the second edition I might put in more money and go for it. I just want to know how I can improve."

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Lahiri agreed. “It would be great if we got feedback on the script because people [the jury] have read it,” he said.

Ribeiro, however, was emphatic that this contest is better than other such contests. “I have seen other things, like NFDC [the National Film Development Corporation] does. They don’t even get back [to you]. So far, this contest has been better. When we sent our stories, we were told not to mention our names, which was very good. And this workshop was the icing on the cake!”