Writer’s Dilemma – Original Thought or Stealing Ideas

character development

Character Development

Hidden Figures

Released: 1 December 2016
Elevator Pitch:
The story of a team of female African-American mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the U.S. space program.
Genres: Drama | Biography
Creators: Allison Schroeder(screenplay by), Theodore Melfi(screenplay by), and Margot Lee Shetterly(book by)
Stars: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe

Hidden Figures Biography, Drama, History | January 6, 2017 (United States) Summary: The story of a team of female African-American mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the U.S. space program.
Countries: United StatesLanguages: English


The story of Hidden Figures revolves around the lives of three African American females, finding their place in a man’s world, especially when racial discrimination was largely prevalent.

Unlike movies such as Apollo 11, the focus of the story wasn’t the space mission itself. Rather, in this case, NASA and its space mission served as a backdrop for the story. The story focused primarily on the treatment of Americans towards African-Americans.

Given that the Story is set in 1943, we as an audience learn about the racial discrimination early in the story. However, the story also focuses on gender discrimination, but it takes a backseat to the principal theme.

So, the Story World introduces us to America, which is still emerging out of its racial prejudices. While there are Americans who are progressive and supportive of African-Americans, there are others who are uncomfortable sharing a room with a person of color. And then there are those who are on the fence about the matter. They are unaware of their own prejudices.

In such a world, we are introduced to our three main leads, who are pursuing their individual dreams. Of these three, Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) is the Primary Protagonist, while Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) are the parallel leads.

We follow Katherine’s journey, who’s a brilliant African-American mathematician. The story begins when the NASA’s core team needs a mathematician and Katherine gets a temporary promotion in order to save a critical project.

Since Katherine must now work with the core team of scientists, she’s transfered to the main office building. Given that this is a new development, it is understandable that the NASA was not prepared for it. Which is why it doesn’t come as a surprise when we as an audience learn that there’s no reserved restroom for “Colored People”.

The building where Katherine and other African American employees were staffed had a reserved restroom for “Colored People”.

Given this scenario, we can relate to Katherine’s dilemma. She has got an incredible opportunity to work on a bigger mission, to serve a greater purpose. However, the trade-off is that she has to suffer the prejudices of patriarchal American men.

Consequently, Katherine has to run several blocks to use the restroom in another building within the premise. This leads to Katherine taking almost 40 minutes’ loo-break. This is understandable, given that NASA is a highly secured complex with buildings far apart from each other. It can be assumed that the building with reserved restroom is far off with in the premise.

When her superior Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) comes to know about this, he does what we as an audience would expect from a rational, sensible character. He puts an end to the discrimination and prejudices within the building. He’s not out to fix the world. However, He could fix his team. And that is what he does.

Here, the “Restroom” subplot revolving around the lack of restroom for a female colored staff adds to the main theme of the story. It helps us understand Katherine’s struggle and connects us to her journey.


Dil Hi Toh Hai

Released: 19 June 2018
Elevator Pitch:
The Noons are a family with values, traditions, and legacy. Rithwik, the eldest son of the family, is the most loved. His life revolves around work and family, leaving no room for love, since he doesn’t believe in it. Will a perfect son always be this perfect? Or will love trap him?
Genres: Drama | Romance
Creators: Ekta Kapoor (ALTBalaji)
Stars: Karan Kundrra, Yogita Bihani

Dil Hi Toh Hai Drama, Romance | June 19, 2018 (India) Summary: The Noons are a family with values, traditions, and legacy. Rithwik, the eldest son of the family, is the most loved. His life revolves around work and family, leaving no room for love, sinc… Read all
Countries: IndiaLanguages: Hindi


Now, this is one of the recent shows from AltBalaji. The story is set in contemporary India. As with most romantic drama, the lead characters are at loggerheads at first, then fate brings them together and they get to see each other’s good side, which ultimately leads to romance.

However, this show borrows the “Restroom” subplot from Hidden Figures and tries to incorporate it into a romantic drama, set in contemporary India.

As the story begins, we are introduced to Rithwik Noon (Karan Kundrra) and Dr. Palak Sharma (Yogita Bihani) get into a tiff over Palak’s friend. Palak believes that Rithwik broke her friend’s heart and goes out of the way to make Rithwik pay for it. This leads to a series of events intensifying the rift between Rithwik and Palak.

Now, Rithwik is a prodigal son and most eligible bachelor. Rithwik hails from a rich family. When he was young, his mother abandoned him and his father because father was not rich enough. This had led Rithwik to nurse hatred towards women.

However, Rithwik still respects his some women, including his step-mother, his sisters and other female members of the family. So, Rithwik is portrayed as a mature and responsible young man, with good business sense and a total family person.

On the other end, Dr. Palak Sharma (Yogita Bihani) who’s a pharmacist researching on to-be launched drugs.

When the Noon Pharmaceuticals is set to launch a new diabetic drug, Dr. Palak Sharma refuses to give her approval for the same. Dr. Palak even submits her report to back her review.

Now, Rithwik, the head of a pharmaceutical company, doesn’t bother to cross check the report. In stead, he assumes that because Dr. Palak is a female, she is lying and proceeds with the drug launch.

Now, given the implications, we are looking at a Protagonist, who is portrayed as a mature, sensible man, yet takes a risk on million of lives by launching a drug because he has trust-issues. Rithwik believes all women are gold-diggers.

Now, Dr. Palak seeks help from her journalist friend and exposes the issue with the drug. This itself proves that Dr. Palak is far from being a gold-digger. If she was, she would have used the information to make a deal. Rather, she exposes the Noon family.

Yet, Rithwik, the sensible, mature Protagonist, believes she’s untrustworthy. As the story develops, Rithwik is forced to hire Dr. Palak and get her to review the drug.

On the first day of Dr. Palak’s employment at Noon Pharmaceuticals, Rithwik gives paid-leave to all his female staff and orders reconstruction of all female restrooms, in the five-storied building. Consequently, Dr. Palak has to use the Restroom at a cafe across the street from the building. This leads to Dr. Palak taking almost 40 minutes’ loo-break.


Takeaway

Given that the story is based in a metro city, the fact that Dr. Palak would take 40-minutes to just use the restroom from a cafe across the street can still be written off as “creative liberty”.

To ensure that Dr. Palak feels a need to use the restroom, Rithwik toys with the Air Conditioning within the premise, which includes the pharmaceutical research lab, which requires a controlled environment.

If we were to analyze this, Rithwik wanted to teach Dr. Palak a lesson, so he decided to ensure she didn’t get to use the Restroom. Kind of behaviour we would expect from a school-going adolescent and not a rational adult.

On the other hand, Dr. Palak who is portrayed as a progressive and intelligent women doesn’t protest to this on humanitarian ground.

Now, Katherine’s predicament was not a result of one individual rather a prejudiced society. She had no way to change that overnight. Dr. Palak, however was not financially dependent on a job, nor was she fighting the society. She was pitted against one corporate firm, more so, one individual. She could have found a way to fight back. She does fight back only later when she realizes that the situation was intentionally created to harass her. This happens when she overhears a conversation of her colleagues. Now, assuming there was no way for Dr. Palak to overhear such a conversation, are we to believe that she given her intellect and progressive mindset, didn’t realize the inhuman working condition offered by a corporate.

Now, this is not a prejudiced remark on drawing inspiration from other source. Originality is overrated. As a writer, everything we know distills into our work. And our knowledge is a result of everything we have been exposed to, including literature, cinema, life events and personal experience.

So this isn’t about copying the work. Rather, this is about not doing it smartly. A good subplot can be quite effective in the main narrative. However, as writers, we must understand that once we lay down personality traits for our characters, we can’t ourselves ignore them.

A story is about a change in the status quo. This change is represented by the Central Character. Consequently, the Central Character can evolve during the course of the story, but not deviate from his individual personality to suit the plot requirement.

When that happens, the audience gets disconnected from the story.

Think of Audience as a sailor stuck in a storm at sea. The Story is the boat and character is the anchor. Without the Character, you lost the Story as well as the Audience.

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