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Story, teleplay and dialogue writers from across Indian television industry boycotted the annual Indian Television Academy (ITA) awards on November 4 even as the event celebrated the best of small screen with gusto. What triggered their protest was the Academy's letter to the Film Writers' Association (FWA) that rejected their request to include an award for Best Story alongside Best Teleplay and Best Dialogues on the ground that Indian television shows do not have any story. "The rejection was not the reason for the anguish of writers, but the reason stated for it," says Purnendu Shekhar, one of the most recognised television writers.
The letter states that "on present day TV here (India), there is no story in the serials. There is no 'beginning-middle-end' structure. It is just an assemblage of tracks fleshed up by teleplay and dialogues". Signed by the ITA's CEO Vierendra Bhargav, it further adds that "the story, as understood in its classic definition, is patently absent here. That's why we had decided not to keep a Best Story Award and accord rightful recognition to teleplay and dialogues".
The receipt of the letter has created a furore among the writers. "I couldn't attend the awards due to illness, but I do believe that it is wrong to say that story writers do not play any role. Stories of Indian shows may not have a finite end, but they do have a beginning and a life of their own, which is integral to the screenplay," says Bhavani Iyer, who won this year's award for Best Teleplay for Star Plus' Ek Hazaaron Mein Meri Behna Hai.
The Academy, which lists veterans such as Manmohan Shetty, Javed Akhtar, Revathy, Mahesh Bhatt and Zarina Mehta as advisors, has also mentioned them in the letter. However, several of them, when contacted, feigned ignorance on the matter. Bhatt adds that the work put in by story writers cannot be undermined. "One may not applaud the content, but one cannot deny the importance of a crucial entity of the medium. Tracks are a part of a larger story movement," he says.