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Flashbacks Overused? When to Use & Avoid it?

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One great mind had once told ‘The challenge of screenwriting is to say much in little and then take half of that little out  and still preserve the movement of your story’. This paves way to the thought that a great filmmaker would be able to convey his story with the visual medium dominating over the dialogues. Screenwriting is that aspect of filmmaking that announces one as an half-filmmaker already the moment he/she completes writing one successfully.

When something of this kind has a significance of an immense magnitude, one would have to be really cautious while laying the steps for writing this screenplay. There are many different styles of pulling of a decent screenplay for a film that have evolved over all these years. But the idea of having a flashback in a story has seen its existence increasing these days. Though, It’s not anything new for a screenwriter to adopt a flashback in his story, yet they prefer having it no matter what. I wonder if they realise the necessity of a flashback in their story and by doing it so, are they paying full justice to their story?

Flashbacks isn’t the Entire Film

Somehow, nowadays flashbacks hinder the pace of a film or that I would call the engaging factor in that film. Like, remember the flashback in lingaa? Almost the entire second half of the film was flashback. Now, this is killing the idea of an actual flashback itself. The viewer at one point even forgets that it is a flashback as it’s the flashback that runs on the screen the most time. This way, it isn’t doing any good for the film as such since it acts only as a spoonfeeding technique and the charm of the story is lost.

Flashbacks Cannot Eliminate the Mystery.

Every story has a little of mystery or something that at least the audience doesn’t know about. Now, we could rely on this fact and weave out a story on it. When they don’t know what happened, and you start from the middle of a story, the mystery is intact. Remember kamal haasan’s vetri vizha (1989)? This film had the mystery quotient intact and gave us a flashback at the right time answering all our questions. This mystery propels the story as it makes the viewer sit thoroughly with anticipation. This anticipation is lost the moment one starts to spoonfeed.

Flashbacks are the Last Option!

Also, Flashbacks have become very redundant and writers adopt it when they are stuck to form a resolution to their story. One has to realise that, flashback is the last option of giving details, making sure that there isn’t any other way of telling it other than a flashback. Take joker for instance, the whole characterisation and the actions of the protagonist was based on something happened to him in the past. In that case, the filmmaker had to go for a regular flashback to explain his past.

The Audience have to Anticipate an Answer!

The audience have to be counted as a key player in keeping a flashback for your story as, it should take shape only when the audience are asking for it. Like in Baasha, everyone like manikam’s  brother had the question of who actually was manikam! When audience are anticipating the answer to their question, that’s the right time for you to answer them!

Eliminate the Not Needed Ones, Please!

Similarly, one cannot have a flashback scene for the very obvious ones like if it is a conversation about a husband and wife about their honeymoon, there isn’t need of a flashback for the audience as if it isn’t of much value to the story (like if the honeymoon sequence has nothing to do with the events in the present). Take sathuranga vettai (2014), where he explains about his past, the makers chose to present it in an animation sequence that runs for about 3-5 min where they don’t divulge any other facts that doesn’t contribute to the story.

In a way, flashbacks have to take forms only when they are contributing to the filmmaker’s vision and are assisting in taking the story a step forward. However, flashbacks could be developed as per the filmmaker’s requirement that could result in an entire new way of a flashback! Recall Virumandi (2004) which was appreciated for it’s non-linear screenplay  technique filled with backstories!

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