A former journalist and columnist at the Times of India, Suresh Nair made his Bollywood debut as a dialogue writer with Jhankaar Beats in 2003. He wrote the screenplay for Bollywood hits like Namaste Landon, Singh Is King, Airlift, and Bang Bang, and is the co-writer and co-producer of Kahaani and Te3n.
Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981): This Steven Spielberg movie, the first in the Indiana Jones series, ignited a fascination for cinema in me. An entire generation of people have memories of watching Indiana Jones films. He is suave and sophisticated like James Bond, but from a different era. In fact, the first 10 minutes of RLA resembles a Bond film. It was the right mix of all elements of commercial cinema – adventure, fantasy, romance, action, and suspense.
Watch the trailer of Raiders Of The Lost Ark.
I remember the day I first saw the film. It was Diwali. My friend and I pooled all the crackers at home and tried to replicate the climax scene of The Raiders Of The Lost Ark. After watching Indiana Jones films, I know many people wanted to be archaeologists. But me, I was inspired to become a filmmaker.
Sholay (1975 Bollywood movie, directed by Ramesh Sippy): I don’t think there is any commercial film in Bollywood that matches up to Sholay. It had a brilliant script. Everything in it – the relationship between the characters, the tragedy that strikes the village, the backstories – is so well-delineated. The climax song sequence of Sholay won over fans across the world. It’s a musical, a friendship tale, a revenge saga.
Sholay is an important part of my childhood memories. In those days, we had audio cassettes of movie dialogues. I bought a cassette of Sholay dialogues and memorised them. I would enact the scenes with my friends. I played Jai and another friend played Veeru.
Jewel Thief (1967 Bollywood movie, directed by Vijay Anand): I watched this film much later in life. I’d call it one of the best thrillers ever to have been made in India. Starring Dev Anand, Vyjayantimala, and Ashok Kumar, and directed by Vijay Anand, this film was shot in various locations across India – something unusual for that time. The acting was great and the film had excellent music. The twist in the story at the end was brilliant. I would say it is one of India’s few Hitchcockian thrillers.
Steven Spielberg: I have grown up watching his films: Jaws, ET, Lost Arc, etc. There are always surprise elements in his films – something the audience would never have seen before. I was spellbound watching Jaws and Jurassic Park. The first time I saw a dinosaur in Jurassic Park, I was shocked and amused. I had never seen something like that on screen. The first war sequence in Saving Private Ryan is again, unparalleled. No one has ever shown a war on the screen like that. Spielberg is a director who uses cinema in uniquely creative ways.
Woody Allen: I am a huge fan of his writing. Not just his screenplays, but his short stories and essays as well. His movies handle themes of life, relationships and death, all laced with a unique sense of humour. His book, Without Feathers, made me wonder how one could write humour like that. My column in Times of India was heavily influenced by Woody Allen’s style of humour. Among his movies, my favourites are Everyone Says I Love You, Annie Hall, and Match Point.
Balachandra Menon: He is not well-known outside Kerala. He directed, produced, and acted in a number of movies in the ’80s and ’90s.
His portrayal of marital relationships is interesting to watch. He plays a policeman in April 18, actress Shobana’s debut film. But his character is very different from the cops we see in Malayalam cinema. The focus is not on his professional identity, but rather, on his marriage with a danseuse (Shobana). The husband-wife relationship depicted in the movie is interesting, although it has some misogyny. Similarly, in Nayam Vyakthamakkunnu, another film he directed, Mammootty plays a politician. Here again, the focus is on his dysfunctional family life. Menon is the person I look to when I write about opposite-sex relationships.
Sreenivasan: I would say he is Mollywood’s Woody Allen for his ability to play with humour. His films are about modest characters and situations that the audience can easily relate to. The deadpan humour seems simple, but has deeper meanings. For instance, in Sandesham, he portrays a hard truth satirically. No other Malayalam director has written this many memorable dialogues, dialogues that people continue to use in everyday situations.
Amitabh Bachchan: I worked with him in Shootout In Lokhandwala and Te3n. The latter was the experience of a lifetime. For the movie, this 73-old-man ignored his physical limitations and worked hard to be different from his popular image. He reinvents himself in all his films. During the shoot in Kolkata, thousands of people would show up to catch a glimpse of him. He would address them gracefully, without any qualms. He never tries to exert his clout on directors. People like them inspire me to work harder and be humble.
Robert Ludlum: His Bourne Identity made me a lover of the thriller genre. The book is completely different from the film. A drowning man is rescued from the sea. He has no memory of his identity or anything from his past. The book explores his attempt to find out who he is. The story unfolds layer by layer, revealing incredibly fabulous twists and turns.
Sujoy Ghosh: My friend, and my ultimate source of motivation. I would have never started writing for cinema if not for Sujoy. He persuaded me to write dialogues for Jhankaar Beats. It was also because of him that I did Shootout At Lokhandwala and Salaam E Ishq. Although I was unsure of myself, he had confidence in me. His faith in me is a great source of strength.