Karan Johar has stated in an interview that filmmakers are forced to look towards foreign films for content, because there is a lack of writing talent in India.
He is entitled to his opinion, but if producers paid writers even a fraction of what they pay for the rights of foreign films, they might get better scripts. It has been said before, that producers in India either do not invest in script development—even though they all admit that content is king—or do not give writers the respect/remuneration they deserve. In the old days, most big production houses had writing departments; today how many do?
For many years films were made without ‘bound’ scripts, with scenes and lines being written on the set, and stars putting in their own two bit. Now, at least some production houses and stars insist on bound scripts, which means nothing since hardly any of them care to read. Many production company executives just chuck the scripts submitted to them in some forgotten corner, or worse, steal them. At least two major production houses are notorious for simply stealing the ideas they like, making small changes and passing them off as their own.
All this while, there was little or nothing the poor writer could do about it, if he/she wanted to continue working in the industry. Now the Film Writers’ Association has reportedly acquired teeth, and it is not so easy to gyp the writer of his/her credit or dues.
The other thing is that very few producers have the courage to experiment with original ideas and stories. They are happy adapting regional hits or stealing foreign films, because those plots are tried and tested. Again, now they are being caught and penalized more often, so that avenue is also drying up. So they have to cough up for buying rights.
That still does not solve the problem of not being able to generate scripts. It is simply not true that there is a shortage of writers in India. If our filmmakers could or would read, they would be aware of the profusion of talent in Indian literature. A lot of those books—not just Chetan Bhagat—can be turned into good films. But then the original writer should be given respect and paid well. Bhagat is successful and supposedly on Asia’s power list, but see how he was treated by the makers of 3 Idiots, who grudgingly gave him credit (and shamefully little money) and then happily accepted awards nominations (and wins) for best story.
Look at our ad films, documentaries and some TV serials, and you can see, writers have gone to media where they get returns either in terms of money or appreciation. Make writing films worth their while and talent will follow.
PS: Karan Johar thinks writers in India are not good enough and then waves a soppy Stepmom as an example of good cinema?