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Cinestaan script contest: Three-stage process decides the winners

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An elaborate process that involves anonymizing the submissions to prevent bias and a lot of fierce debate along the way decides the top 5.

Our Correspondent

The grand purse of Rs50 lakh is not the only distinguishing feature of Cinestaan India's Storytellers Contest, the second edition of which is set to draw to a close with the winners being announced on television and Cinestaan.com on Friday, 8 May.

India's biggest script-writing contest, supported by the Screen Writers Association (SWA), is also one with an elaborate three-stage process for judging the entries. At the end, all the contestants, including the winners, retain the rights to their works.

The contest was started in 2017 with the aim of encouraging people, including amateurs, who fancy their storytelling and writing skills to take a shot at creating engaging film scripts.

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

As veteran scriptwriter and teacher Anjum Rajabali, who chairs the jury, never tires of saying, "Unless our scripts improve, our cinema will not improve." Rajabali, among Indian cinema's leading script consultants and the man behind films like Drohkaal (1994), Ghulam (1998), The Legend Of Bhagat Singh (2002) and Raajneeti (2010), should know.

The contest is open to Indians anywhere in the world and the second edition accepted entries in Devanagari as well. Each contestant had to submit a synopsis of his/her story in not more than 2,500 words after registering with the SWA or similar body to protect copyright.

These synopses, nearly 3,000 in all, were vetted by an experienced team of readers guided by Rajabali and his group of mentors. The readers received the synopses only after they had been stripped of all means of identifying the writers.

The team shortlisted over 125 submissions for the next round. Those in this shortlist were asked to submit their registered screenplays of not more than 120 typewritten pages.

A team of senior readers evaluated these screenplays on the basis of guidelines devised by Rajabali. After much debate and discussion, a final shortlist of screenplays emerged.

The shortlisted scripts went to the jury comprising actor-filmmaker Aamir Khan, writer-director-editor Rajkumar Hirani and scriptwriter Juhi Chaturvedi, chaired by Rajabali. The jury went through each of the screenplays, made notes and joined a discussion chaired by Rajabali to get to a consensus.

There were fierce arguments, given an element of subjectivity in judging a piece of writing and the varied knowledge and experience of the jury members. But they were able to come to an agreement on the five winning scripts.

The five winners, whose names will be announced on television, Cinestaan.com and social media on Friday, will continue to hold all rights to their work (as do all the other contestants). They will also be assisted by Cinestaan to set up meetings to make their pitches to production houses.