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Bollywood writers rally against ‘harsh contracts’

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Bollywood writers rally against ‘harsh contracts’

Bollywood screenwriters are rallying against "harsh contracts" that disproportionately favor producers.

It leaves many writers facing financial struggles and a lack of creative autonomy.

With over 55,000 members, The Screenwriters Association (SWA), akin to the Writers Guild of America, spearheads the effort to address the power imbalance.

Anjum Rajabali, a senior member of the SWA, said: "Most contracts have arbitrary termination clauses and offer paltry fees, especially to newcomers.

"They also don't pay writers for reworking drafts and give producers the right to decide whether a writer should be credited for their work or not,"

Mr Rajabali added that some contracts restrict writers from seeking union support if there’s a clash with the producer.

In December, SWA held a meeting attended by over 100 writers, including prominent Bollywood figures like Abbas Tyrewala and Sriram Raghavan to discuss contract changes.

Mr Rajabali said: "The plan now is to invite producers to sit across the table and work with us to make contracts more equitable." 

He said some producers acknowledge the need for better pay and job security for writers.

The success of a prolonged writers' strike in the US last year has strengthened Indian screenwriters.

However, experts said that a strike may not be imminent in India.

It’s because good relationships are crucial to secure work in India, and the sheer volume of people aspiring to enter the industry.

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Contractual agreements for writers are relatively recent in India, having emerged in the mid-2000s. 

Earlier, writers relied on verbal agreements with producers for payment. 

However, as corporate funding increased, contracts became more common. 

Rajabali notes that contracts became more stringent as producers sought to minimise financial risks.

One contentious clause in recent contracts requires writers to indemnify producers for losses resulting from protests or controversies related to a film. 

This addition is attributed to instances of groups targeting films for allegedly offending religious sentiments. 

Writers argue that such clauses leave them vulnerable and negatively impact creativity.

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