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The much hyped “Agnyaathavaasi” finally bit the dust bringing

disappointment to fans and losses to distributors.

The writer director Trivikram is blamed by all for his lazy writing. In fact
nobody expected the movie to be such huge let down, though we
smelled a danger signal after the teaser release.

When rumors poured that Agnyaathavaasi (AV) is based on French


movie “Largo Winch”, many reviewers, writers expected that AV would
be a big hit even if they copied the movie properly. Moreover, Trivikram
never failed as writer in his movies. So where it went wrong?

One analysis is that the movie failed because the director tried to
“Trivikramaize” action movie “Largo winch” by forcibly inserting comedy
and other elements of his forte into that racy action thriller. But it is not
100% correct.

Then why did this fail? Or even a basic question – why do the movies
fail. Simple – when they fail to engage or entertain the audience. What
do you need to engage or entertain audience? Great story? Or great
screenplay? Or comedy? Or music? There could be many reasons.

But one main reason for failure is – not telling story effectively, in other
words, not having a proper screenplay.

There are several books on screenplay. Syd field’s screenplay technique


suggests there are 3 ACTs in any movie screenplay. Another screenplay
book by Blake Snyder “Save the cat” also suggests, more or less similar
structure of ACT-1, ACT-2 and ACT-3 but sub-divides these acts into
Sub-acts. So let’s apply what went fine w.r.t. screenplay – in case of
Attarintiki Daredi and what actually went wrong in case Agnathavasi.
Probably this article is like postmortem on Agnathavasi screenplay.
Overall, screenplay of the movie has below structure.

ACT-1: Initial set-up of story, introducing main character and his goal.
Occupies first 25% screen time(on average). ACT-2: Conflicts, hurdles,
faced by main character in achieving his goal, sub-stories, Villains.
Occupies next 50% time, i.e. 25% run time onwards to 75% run time.
ACT-3: Towards the solution. Last 25% screen time.

ACT1:It basically establishes set up for the story. It states the theme of
the movie, gives us a taste of what movie is going to be. It introduces
who is protagonist and what he wants. Usually it occupies, at
maximum, the first 25% of the screen time. If set up can be established
even in lesser time without losing the detail, it is even better. ACT-1
could be further sub-divided into (as per “save the cat”) 5 more sub-acts
–Opening Image, Theme Stated, Set-Up, Catalyst and debate. Attarintiki
Daredi: In AD movie, the ACT-1 VERY clearly establishes who is Gautam
Nanda and what he wants. We can mark completion of first song in the
movie as completion of ACT-1. Agnyaathavaasi : In AV also, there
seems to be no issue with ACT-1 actually. The film starts of on a good
note, introduces audience with 2 murders, Khushbu and then the hero
AB. After completion of the first song, hero clearly explains his goal and
this marks completion of ACT-1. In comparison, both AV and AD score
almost similar w.r.t. ACT-1

ACT-2:Once 25% of the movie is complete and clearly establishes what


hero wants, ACT-2 starts and occupies next 50% of the screen time i.e.
from 25% of the movie time to 75% of the movie time (on average).
Once hero knows what he wants, the story will progress forward as
hero tries to achieve what he wants and in that process he will face
hurdles from antagonists or other circumstances. Actual story happens
in this ACT-2. The movies that have good ACT-2, usually do well. As per
screenplay book “Save the cat”, ACT-2 can be further divided into 7 sub-
parts. One will be surprising to see Trivikram’s magical screenplay
fitting into this structure very nicely in case of AD and distorted in case
of AV. Let us see in detail, the 7 sub-acts of ACT-2: Break into Two: Hero
breaks into ACT-2. Usually this is the first step of hero towards his goal.
In case of AD, this is marked by a wonderful sequence of Rao Ramesh
getting stroke in the car, hero joining him into hospital, Nadia
confronting hero (for not joining him in a better hospital), and finally
hero joining as driver in their house. Where as in AV, hero’s first step
towards goal is to enter into the corporate company. The sequence
conceived for this is not so great and at the same time not so bad too.
Hero’s gang kidnapping Vennela Kishore, attacking a security guard,
changing the application, interview process all have been explained in
detail but one gets doubt whether there isn’t any better way for hero to
enter into the company. Overall, this sub-act has worked excellent in
AD but just a “flat” scene in AV. B Story:This “B” story is sub-story.
Usually romantic tracks with heroine, comedy tracks with other artists
are termed as sub stories. As per the “Save the cat”, it is defined as –
“The classic “B Story” usually begins when the hero proactively enters
Act Two, turns left, looks across a crowded room, and there she is! She’s
not only a guide, but the girl he’ll fall in love with!”. In case of AD,
immediately after “Break the two” sub-act of entering into Rao
Ramesh’s house, both the heroines are introduced and the scenes
involving are cute. So AD definitely succeeded here, while in AV, this
turned to be major drawback for the entire film. Anu Immanuel’s
introduction scene, her “5 lakh” story, Keerthi’s introduction and hero’s
interaction with her are pale. Though Keerthi’s interaction with her
father are somewhat better.
Fun and Games:This is the time for some digression. After all, hero is
also a human being and he also needs some time off from pursuing his
goal. This is the block that provides ample entertainment to the
audience. Because of these fun part, story looks to be progressing
slowly at this point of time in ACT-2 and usually audience accept that
(except, maybe, in edge-of-the-seat thrillers). Party song in AD and
scenes before and after that song all fit well in this block of ACT-2. In AV
also, at this point, story focuses on hero solving Anu’s issues, and hero
interacting with Keerthi. These scenes were boring NOT because
audience do not except fun at this moment, but because the scenes
were not really funny. Actually at this point also movie was actually
going as per the structure. But the scenes were written without writer
questioning himself – “whether this will really be funny (or entertaining)
on screen?”. Many people are blaming Trivikram for failing in this part
because, they know it is his forte. If he was really honest to himself, he
could have conceived better scenes here. But he seems to have got
“chaltha hai” attitude here.

Midpoint:To put in the terms of Indian audience this is “interval block”.


To be frank, in AV also, this is handled reasonably well. To make this
article spoil free, not revealing the block here, but all “good” interval
blocks usually have some surprise element. So is AD and AV. In AD, it is
the revelation that Nadia already knows Pawan is his nephew. This
surprise element coupled with the hurdle created in the process of goal
accomplishment for hero, makes the audience engage into and expect
from second half of the story. Both AD and AV have scored well here.
However, as remaining first half (especially ACT-2 part) part is not good
in case of AV, interval talk was of “average movie” or “flat” story.
Bad Guys Close In: From the beginning of ACT-2 till mid-point (i.e. from
25% to 50% of the movie time) hero moves towards his goal but
progress was slow and so are the hurdles. But after that, from 50% to
75% of the movie time hero intensifies his endeavors. So are the bad
guys too, to stop hero from achieving what he wants. This is the time
for mind games, uncovering hidden facts but the bad guys (or the
hurdles or the negative circumstances) are very powerful at this point.
In AD, this is the block that actually bored the audience. Though AD is a
big hit, it has it’s own share of flaws. “Bapu bomma’s” love story, entry
of Siddappa, following fight – all fit the bill, however, Ghazni episode of
Samantha was too much of a liberty a writer can take. Still audience
forgave and forgot it as they were happily humming and swimming in
DSP’s musical stream at that point. In case of AV, Vinda’s flashback
episode revealed here and it was handled well. However, by the end of
this block, neither the bad guys take over the scenario nor the hero
lands in soup. Because of this, audience “subconsciously” feel the
absence of the “conflict” and start feeling bore.

All Is Lost: In 2nd part of the ACT-2(50% to 75%), usually, the plot
thickens, hero suffers, and suddenly he feels like he has lost everything.
In AD, Rao Ramesh asks hero to leave the house and Nadia keeps mum.
That step of Rao Ramesh makes hero’s chances of reaching the goal
bleak. In Agnathavasi, THIS IS THE MOMENT MOVIE GRAPH STARTS
GOING SOUTH. After the flashback episode, people expect the plot to
thicken, and “subconsciously” they are expecting villains to take over
hero and push hero to the corner. But in AV, hero doesn’t lose anything
and writer attempted a long comical scene here, which is definitely
wrong place and timing. Had the writer attempted to proceed with the
story honestly, AND SAVED THOSE FUNNY EPISODES FOR ACT-3, and
focused on creating stronger conflicts, or something that makes hero
feels he is cornered by the villains, fate of the movie would have been
different. If only Trivikram has continued next 25 to 30 minutes after
the flashback of Vinda with an intense drama and couple of twists that
can engage audience for that 25-30 min, surely audience would have
forgiven the “flat” first half. Moreover, any comedy scene in which hero
beating or blasting another actor will be successful only if that other
actor has done sufficient “wrong-doing” by then. In Raviteja’s Venky
movie, Brahmanandam insults Raviteja several times and even tries to
manhandle him before the scene in which he is beaten up by Raviteja.
In Attarintiki Daredi also, Brahmanandam’s arrogance and his ill-
intentions are clearly established before the scene in which he is
beaten up (more over this part comes in ACT-3). But what blatant
mistake or grave injustice or serious sin Murali Sarma did before this
so-called comedy scene. By this time it was already clarified to hero that
he is not even “villain who did the conspiracy.” So why would audience
enjoy if hero is beating Sarma. This is the block from where movie went
downhill. Trivikram has not followed the structure “correctly” at this
point of time of the movie.

Dark Night of the Soul:This sub-act marks the end of the Act-2. This is
the point of time hero lost everything and, it looks like, he has no
chance of accomplishing his goal. He has no hope. While in AD, it is
handled well as Mukhesh Rishi calls and asks PK to abort his mission
and come back. PK’s emotional answer is in sync with the theme of this
sub-act. In AV, there will be a scene (board meeting) in which hero is not
accepted as CEO. This marks the end of act-2 and hero’s final hunt for
solution (will) starts. STOP. STOP. STOP. Let’s go to ACT-1 for a while.
What is the goal of the hero? To become CEO or to find and avenge
Vinda’s death? ACT-2 usually ends on a note of hero losing hope of
achieving his goal and “bad guy” looking all more powerful. What
happened in AV is the wrong “Plot point” being used to mark end of act-
2. After the Vinda’s flash back, plot must have thickened with intense
drama and hero-villain’s cat and mouse game and by this point of time
Villain’s must have got clear upper hand on hero and that (which is
related to hero’s goal) should have marked the end of act-2.

ACT-3:While ACT-2 ends with hero losing all hopes and the entire
situation looks grim and gloomy for him, at the start of ACT-3 he
suddenly finds a thin ray of hope again. The tensions that piled up in
the previous scenes (during ACT-2) start to get relieved slowly. As per
the “save the cat” book, this ACT-3 will also have sub-parts like Break
into Three, Finale and Final Image. In AD, hero suddenly finds a hope in
the character of Brahmanandam. The emotions piled up in previous
(emotional) scenes start to get relieved. Hero again enters Nadia house
in order to achieve his goal. While ACT-1 usually occupies first 25% of
time, ACT-3 occupies last 25% of time (on average). In AV, hero starting
to Bulgaria marks the beginning of ACT-3. But in ACT-2 hero was never
pushed and cornered, so neither the hero nor audience felt any pain.
So start of ACT-3 doesn’t bring any excitement to the audience. While
“Katamarayudu” song was part of ACT-3 in AD, it was in sync with
screenplay requirement and audience expectations. But such fun part
was already over in ACT-2 in AV. So writer attempted to provide such
relief in ACT-3 through heroines fighting among themselves that hardly
evokes any laughs. Though climax was handled well, it was too late!!
The result is as expected. All movies need not follow same screenplay
structure. Movies like “Hum Apke Hain Kaun” are very successful and
yet do not fit into the screenplay format as discussed above. But, of
course that movie was watched not for its screenplay but for it’s music
and for Madhuri Dixit. There are several such examples. But there are
other bunch of movies that had “immense potential” in their stories but
still failed because of not following proper screenplay techniques.
Agnathavasi is one such movie. If Trivikram narrates to any hero –ONLY
the beginning of the movie, interval twist, flashback episode and the
final twist, any hero in Tollywood will accept this story. But all this put
together will occupy less than 45 minutes. What audience get to watch
in remaining 2 hours and how the story is revealed (i.e. screenplay) is in
Trivikram’s hands and it is exactly here Trivikram failed, to the extent to
be called ‘miserable’ for the first time.

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