Friday Fundas: Three Act Play

3 Act Play – Popularly known as 3 Act Structure is a technique used in writing and story telling. The entire story or the screenplay is divided into 3 parts, the first part involves introducing the main characters of the movie and their situation. Usually in this portion a unusual situation or challenge occurs in the life of the  protagonist and his/her life will not be same for ever. This marks the end of the first act. In films usually this ranges between the first 20 min to 40 min (in case of Indian movies which are long) of the movie. The second act is the build up phase during which the protagonist is on the quest to solve the problem and the situation gets only worsen with no hopes for a solution. This is the lengthier portion of the movie which lasts about 45 min – 60 min at the end of this act usually the protagonist takes a significant step that no one would easily imagine. The last portion is the climax (usually very slick 10 – 15 min) which leads to the final solution to the original problem and ends with the protagonist solving the problem. An anti-climax happens if the problem is not solved in the expected way…

One of the popular Indian movie Don (1978 Hindi film) and Billa (1980 Tamil film) this structure is followed very clearly. The first act ends when the original Don is killed and the street side singer takes up the challenge of posing as Don. The second acts is all about how he infiltrates into the enemy camp and establishes himself and overcomes challenges one after another. The problem gets worsen when the only police officer who knew his original identity is killed and the protagonist takes a extreme step to bring out the truth. The climax  is how he solves it and emerges victorious. It keeps the audience guessing till the end. In the 2006 remake of Hindi Don, Farhan Akthar made changes to the climax portion converting it to an anticlimax which worked brilliantly as the audience were taken by surprise. The success of the screen play involves how well the writer engages the audience in all the 3 phases. If it is not written well or if you see random situations  just thrown in you do not get connected and end up disliking it. Three act play is not the only structure for writing scripts… there are other formats as well and many of the modern film makers like Tarantino, Guy Ritchie use various improvisations over this to treat the audience differently. In the coming week I will write review on a movie which follows 3 Act structure to the book.

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