Season 2


Is Something Wrong With Our Dialogues? How to Write Subtle Scenes?

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Indians love to talk, don’t we? So it is evident our movies are made with characters speaking a lot. It is the honest portrayal of our culture, but does it make your movie look good and interesting?

Dialogues play a crucial role in any film. It is one of the basic and vital thing that gets the movie to the audience, but in most cases it just takes the movie to them and not the characters who lived it. Do you get it?  Well answer this,

I am sure all of you watched Endhiran, the blockbuster from Super star and Shankar, now what do you think about Vaseegaran? Wait, do you even realize which character is he? Many Rajni fans may wonder “how can we not know our Thalaivar name”, but the truth is we know Chitti better than Vasee, because the former makes the story. In understandable terms, the characters didn’t make a mark, the story of course did.

Film makers mostly use dialogues as another rope or ladder to get the audience to the story. But dialogues don’t serve that purpose.

Make that Everlasting Character, but How?

Vandhiyadevan, Elizabeth, Sivagami, Robert Langdon, Ron Wesley.

I am sure your recognized all the above characters, well how do you think they stand tall in our memories? Kalki, Jane, Dan Brown and J.K Rowling didn’t write just stories and fed in people to carry them, they created people, they made them live the story. There are many ways to make your story interesting, one such easy and brilliant way is proper usage of dialogues. And dialogues can be made interesting in many ways, one such way is by keeping the number down, Subtlety.

When you make your character talk less you actually make a bigger mark, leave a bigger mark and create yearning. Let me show you some examples:

Listen to the dialogue exchange between Vikram and Aishwarya Rai here,

So she jumps, he saves and she vows revenge and yes all this happens when a song plays describing his growing emotions for her which might not be acceptable. Now listen to this:

She doesn’t say a no or yes clearly, most likely teases him. He waves a bye. She smiles.

Now both these movies were by a same man, Maniratnam. The former flopped and the latter still continues to teach youth some love, life and film techniques. There are many reasons and parameters based on which the flop and success happened. Yet the easily unnoticed reason was “Dialogues”. Raavanan was penned by Suhasini Maniratnam while Alaipayuthey was written by the director himself. Another interesting point to note is that another film of Mani that failed “Thiruda Thiruda” was also penned by his wife Suhasini.

Go back to the Raavanan scene. She tells him she will be the one to kill him, it is written, asks him to pray if at all he has faith, suddenly tells that her husband, recalls what he(Vikram) said, tells no one can beat her husband. It actually carries this simple message “You will not be spared”. Yet, Suhasini chooses to let her characters talk and talk. There are many other instances in the movie where the characters speak a little too much than needed. The other characters know what’s going to happen, we know what will happen, everybody knows everything in the first 30minutes of the film.

So what is the interesting point in your film, when your audience already know the story (Raavanan was a loose adaption from the epic Ramayana) and the dialogues affirm it.  

Write it Big, Make it Subtle

Initially, as I started with this write -up, my big question was” Am I the right person to write about subtlety?”. I am a loud and talkative person who has very little experience with being subtle, as a matter of fact more than half of the people in our country are me. Not subtle. Maybe you, the on reading this to learn how to have intelligent dialogue are more like me too. So how do we write subtle dialogue? One quick suggestion from a fellow struggler would be, don’t write subtle dialogue. Not when you begin.  Write the dialogues in the elaborate way you can, pouring out all the emotions of the characters, now re-read them, you will know where it is too straight, where it is too blunt and where it is too much. Re-write in the subtle way making sure your dialogue gives the same meaning the elaborate one did. This makes the subtle dialogue even more intelligent as you properly worked on the dialogue and meaning to be conveyed, also makes it interesting for our audience.

Give Your Audience Some Work to Do

To make your story highly interesting, subtle is one important key. Audience love finding the underlying meaning. They like it when they decipher the truth and feel proud. Do not spoon feed them, let them stay in curiosity thinking what would the character say or do, or what did he/she actually mean? Don’t keep them wondering though. Give them the answer in the subtle way and not on the nose.  This does not mean that your characters should always murmur and leave, some characters might burst out during extreme emotions, some might be at loss of words. Use the cards well, use them keeping in mind your character and not the story. Shape your character and let the audience know them. Create a relationship between your audience and your characters. But this leaves me with a bigger question,

Are We the Right Subtle Audience?

As said in the start of the story, Indians love to talk. We are the shout-at-anger-sorrow-joy kind of people. We easily get annoyed when one answers in monosyllables, Haven’t we seen aunties and uncles scolding their children when they don’t speak out, but having said that we have also seen them scold when children talk too much. So, do our audience adapt to subtlety, and if yes to what extent.

The answer is quite simple. Our culture which bring the question becomes the answer as well. Why do you think we accept when Mani’s characters speak less but not when K.S.Ravikumar or Hari’s characters do the same?

Because we know our culture well and only when we see the same on screen we relate and have empathy towards the characters. One cannot have a vegetable vendor say “I’ll see to it” in a heated argument on the roadside, we can also not have the Managing Director of a company fight on the streets. Don’t think I am a racist.  But that’s how our people live. A section of the society does not blurt out with words, while another section talks a lot. In the process of making interesting dialogues do not make unbelievable, irrelevant characters.  

To conclude, dialogues can make your movie a lot interesting that it actually is provided they are not just used to tell the story from different voices, directly on our faces. Not all the time we can be subtle or talking, we have our own ways and times and so do our characters. When she wants to cry, let her. Don’t make her shout. When she wants to open her hearts out to her closed one, let her. Don’t shut her mouth. Use subtlety in its best form, it is the only way to make your dialogues interesting.

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