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Archive for May, 2008

Okay I’m feeling great this morning. Positively ebullient. Effervescent. Exultant. Elated. Ecstatic. Now that I’ve impressed everyone with my enviable command of the English language, synonyms for happy anyway (did you notice how all of them begin with E?), let me get into the why.

Remember about the project I was griping about yesterday? Yes, the same one authored by me but credited to someone else? Well, I just read that the actor has walked out of the project citing, what else, ‘date reasons.’ (Methinks it’s a monetary fallout as the same actor has recently delivered the only hit in an otherwise lacklustre summer.)

And so begins the cycle of narrations begins all over again. It could take, like forever, before the project goes on the floor.

Juts to give you a little bit of history about the sordid affair, I was approached by this production house, flush from the success of their modest debut film, to pen the script for their next film.  Which I did.

And then waited for them to call to ask me to accompany them on narrations. And waited. And waited.

Then, a little while later, I happened to meet a director who happened to mention that he was directing the aforementioned film which was being written by…

I waited for him to drop my name (and am guilty of a little preening at the time), when I had a round trolley moment. You know when the camera swirls around you feverishly on a round trolley and the room closes in on you? The same.

He dropped someone else name, adding with a wink like he was in on a secret the rest of the world was oblivious to, that the producers had gotten someone else to write the script but decided to credit it to a weightier brand name.

I wondered what to do. After I slapped the smirk off his face, and put a hex on the project and everyone involved with it, of course.

 

Now I have the original copy, duly registered in my name, as well as the contract. My first impulse was to cry foul right then, and sue their asses, but then I figured it would be more ruinous for the production house if I let them complete the project and then sued at the time of release. As in the case of the music director Ram Sampat who recently sued Rakesh Roshan (click here if you don’t know the story), chances of a huge and speedy financial settlement improve considerably of you threaten to stay the release.

 

I don’t think there will be any need to sue anymore. I’m happy that the hex worked.

 

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Curiously, this morning, I found myself running out of ideas for my blog. What’s curious about it, you say (that’s just a mystery writer building suspense). Patience and all will be revealed (now that’s just plain grandstanding).

 

You see, the reason I first started blogging was to discipline myself. In one of my earlier post I’ve mentioned the importance of writing morning pages. Morning pages as I’ve mentioned in one of my earlier posts are nothing but three pages of writing first thing in the morning. That’s it. Just writing – whatever comes to your mind (read more about it here and here).

 

I tend to use the morning pages a little differently. I use them to flesh out ideas that I’m going to write that day. I also use them to remind myself of some common mistakes people make while writing. No matter how accomplished we are or how much we’ve written, we tend to forget some important rules. For example, sometimes I tend to fall in love with my prose and end up writing three pages of description of a tree. Yep, the part readers tend to skip.

 

But, my morning pages today kinda acquired a life of their own and ran into reams full of angst and gripes against the world. The reason being today I ended up reading the paper before the morning pages and read an announcement of a film project. I also discovered that the script that I had written for the producer had had been credited to someone else.

 

To come back to point, gripes are hardly suitable material for a blogpost. I mean, I’m having a bad day doesn’t mean I have to ruin if for others. I should at least give them a fighting chance to ruin it themselves.

 

But that got me thinking. How do people who post everyday come up with material?  So I did some search and came up against some good ideas. Josh Porter outlines some good ideas for general blogging in his blog. As does Lorelle.

 

As I was searching I had an idea. I thought to myself, why not write about certain dos and don’ts for writers not related to writing. I mean I’ve been bummed many times and have loads of experience so the materials all there. And the first lesson is ALWAYS REGISTER.

 

Always register your scripts and manuscripts. You can register Manucripts / film/TV scripts / Songs / Concepts / Stories etc. with the Film Writer’s Association in Andheri (W). They are located in Richa Building, near Mongini’s Bakery, Off Link Road, Opposite Fame Adlabs. You have to be a member first and I think the basic membership fee is Rs. 2700 or thereabouts. Thereafter you can register your stuff at the cost of Rs 1 per page plus Rs. 2 for admin purposes.

 

However, for manuscripts I prefer the copyright division of the HRD Ministry. They are located near Mandi House in New Delhi. You can view and download the copyright form here.

 

On a cheerier note, I started and finished Sue Grafton’s B is for Burglar yesterday. For all you crime fiction enthusiasts, Sue Grafton is the lady for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I’m in a rut, creatively speaking. It’s not that I have a writer’s block. I don’t. The ideas abound plentifully but I just can’t muster up enough enthusiasm to put them down.

I blame it on the heat. I swear, it doesn’t rain soon, I won’t be responsible for my inaction.

It’s is so sweltering that even with the air-conditioning on my poor laptop keeps hanging. Speaking of air-conditioning, as if my social conscience wasn’t enough to dissuade me from having it on all the time, last month’s electricity bill certainly did the job. At times like these I wish I worked in an office. It is so much easier to bury your social conscience under the weight of collective irresponsibility. I find myself thinking obsessively about Margaritas – the frozen kind. The only problem is I don’t have Cointreau and no idea where to get it. So I called up some friends in the middle of the afternoon, thereby sending them into a tizzy thinking that I had taken to drinking in the afternoon. One concerned friend suggested marijuana instead. So much more appropriate for afternoons.

On the subject of pressure, my maid has gone on leave. That’s thrown my entire morning schedule out of gear as well. Now I have to make my own tea, not to mention, bed. By the time I’m done with the added chores at about ten a.m., I’m exhausted and ready to go back to bed. Earlier I would get at least a thousand good words written by then.

And the fact that I haven’t got any work (now, honey, don’t be upset. I know housework is work) done by ten drives me crazy so I can’t work even afterwards for a while. Just shows how everything is so interconnected and finely balanced that the tiniest deviation can produce cataclysmic results. Don’t look at me like that, authors are supposed to be notoriously self centred.

On the same subject, but on an unrelated note, the replacement maid, who speaks nothing but Marathi (who’ll only do the dishes and the cleaning but won’t oblige with the tea and the bed), has been dropping words like sari, salwar kameez, bonus. Now, I don’t follow Marathi all that well, so I really don’t know the context. But I can’t help feeling that those are not-so-subtle hints.

I figure I’ll give her a sari when she obliges with the tea and the bed.

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You know what they say, If you think it’s your lucky day, don’t worry, it too shall pass. So true.

And there was moi, thinking just that I was having one of the best days of my life. No script to turn in, an off day from my running schedule, nowhere to go, plus I had just received a fresh stock of DVDs.

This is how it went. My DVD bootlegger (sort of), let’s call him Imran (name changed to protect his identity) texted me in the morning saying: Charlie Whilsun War@Maicaal Clinton@No Conttry for Old Men@There Will be Blud@Atonemen@Joonu@and any@holiwood boliwood intar netinal wald cinema im Imran DVD.

He followed it up with a call. “Sistaar, I was in the area so I thought I would call and check. Naya Maal has come in. All the Oscar filims -,” He paused hopefully.

Now Imran is in ‘the area’ everyday because all film and TV fraternity is based there. And he gets Naya Maal every day. So, recognising his spiel for a pitch I asked suspiciously, “Need money? ’Cos if that’s the case don’t even think about coming here. I don’t have any.”

He sounded horrified. “No, sistaar! I was just trying to get you the best DVDs! If I don’t then you complain that the good stock is gone.”

I do do that.

“All right, come on in,” I sighed reluctantly. “But, I’m warning you, don’t even think of showing me anything other than the films you mentioned. I can’t afford it.”

He swore on his mother and dear departed father that he wouldn’t.

A half hour later he had chitkoed (can’t quite get an English word to convey the same feeling. ‘Saddled me with?’ Nah!) 80 plus DVD on me and lightened my wallet by 8000 plus rupees. (Yes, the math works out to 100 rupees per DVD. I did say he was a bootlegger.)

I had inserted 3:10 to Yuma into the DVD player and already indentified the next flick that I was going to watch when I got a call from a film producer. He wanted to sit in on a narration of a romantic comedy I had promised him. And since I had boasted that I already had a ready script (which I didn’t), I had to work out a reasonable screenplay, or at the very least, a scenic order (which I’m working on) to justify the huge signing amount (which I had gladly accepted).

I have yet to find the time to approach my DVD player again. Sigh! And you wonder why I’m not writing sparkling posts.

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One of my readers asked me why I don’t write on the subject of writing so much. Well, there is only so much gyaan I can dish out. The rest is up to you, the writer.  You have to start writing. And in case you already have, stick to it. If you don’t write no amount of advice is going to help. If you do, then no advice is necessary.

Because advice is only advice, after all. It is only a general guideline and subject to individual interpretation/adaptation. I’ll tell you what I did at the beginning. I read all the advice and promptly discarded it the moment I found my style.

Examples of advice/rules I bend:

1.      Never begin a sentence with ‘and’ and ‘because.’ And I do.

2.      Stay away from cheesy alliterations. Which I use ubiquitously.

3.      Avoid long sentences, which generally should be no longer than 21 words. Now that’s a good rule and should be followed because often times by the time the readers have reached the end of the sentence they have to go back to the beginning to figure out what the beginning premise was.

4.      Keep exclamations under control. Surprise! That I do follow!

5.      Don’t be vague on…you get the drift.

Besides I figure, writing about a writer’s life is just as illuminating. People are often flummoxed when I tell them I write for about 5-6 hours a day. And envious, saying things like, “Only 5 hours a day!” Trust them to pick up the smaller number.

But it’s true. I don’t write all the time. I write from morning till about 3.00 p.m. That’s when I have my lunch while watching the Bold and the Beautiful. Don’t ask me to, I can’t explain it. Just put it down to a quirk and leave it at that.

At 3.30 p.m. I promptly take a nap. When I wake up I generally lounge around till it’s cool enough to go for my run. Afterwards it’s dinner and a movie.

I pick up my laptop only afterwards, if at all.

While we are on the subject, and in the interest of guarding my relatively easygoing lifestyle, anyone who’s interested in writing comedy may contact the creative director of Sun Yaar Chill Maar at UTV. They are looking. Oh, and you should be Bombay-based. A bit obvious really.

 

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One of the most important features of a script is the dialogue. Also the most tricky. Often times writers meander around for ages before stumbling upon the right formula.

So how does one go about writing dialogue? The answer to that is to keep it as realistic as possible. But in reallife life we do a lot of ums and ahhs, we leave our sentences half-finsihed, we jump from topic to topic. If we do this in our script, we’ll leave our viewers confused. So we have to carefully craft our dialogue and make it look like it’s natural, like it just rolled of our character’s tongue. Not practiced at all.

And there is no option but to just jump right in. To be sure, your first few pages/chapters will be stilted and awkward. Most likely they will make you cringe. But you will discover your flow if you keep at it. You will get to know your characters better an things will go on reltaively more smoothly. Then go back and rewrite the first few pages/chapters.

That’s what I did for Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions. That’s what I do for my scripts. That’s what everybody does, no matter how accomplished.

Some tips for writing good dialogue:

1. Have as little of it as possible. If you can the same thing in a four word senetence as in a five word one, choose the former.

2. Avoid saying the obvious. You’re script will only become unwieldy. For example, if a woman is shown crying her eyes out, don’t get her to say I’m sad. You can give her a dialogue if the reason for her crying is the opposite. Or, is she wants to hide the fact that she’s crying. So she could say, while wiping her eyes, “I’m not crying,” or “it’s tears of happiness.” Or whatever.

3. Try and prolong the tension in a scene by getting your characters to not give direct response to questions. When asked, “Do you love me?” Get the heroine to talk about anything else (keep it short). Keep the hero as well as the audience guessing.

Also be prepared to do several rewrites. Like everything else, dialogue sparkles the more you polish it.

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Resuming from yesterday, I knew that the project would never get off the ground. After years of dealing with people like that you develop an instinct for such things.

But there sat Mr. Rajinder, across the desk from me, looking at me expectantly. All he wanted to know was how much I wanted for writing the film. I had lost my patience by then so I mentioned a figure I knew he would never pay. I obliged him by breaking it up, just in case he thought I was taking him for a ride. I said I wanted x for the story,  y for the screenplay and z for the dialogues.

He looked shocked. As did the sleeping partner, who woke up with a start.

Mr. Rajinder was thrown and blurted, “But our budget is (x+y+z)/5!”

I said, “Good luck with your venture,” and got up to go.

Mr. Rajinder was clearly not used to this attitude from writers. Let me clarify that I don’t throw this attitude either. Not with good/noted/serious film makers.

He opened and closed his mouth like a goldfish. After a few moments he recovered and said a trifle angrily this time, “You should not be thinking about money at such a time in your life. You should be thinking about your career. And do you know how popular and in demand you will be when people learn you’re writing (geriatric director’s name) film? Do you realise the kind of endorsement you’ll get when a director who’s himself a creative genius approaches you to write his film? Producers will line up outside your house. You will be able to name your price. In fact you will be so busy that you won’t have time for us!”

I didn’t have time for him then. So I politely told them that I didn’t have to think about my career and that it was going fine and that I wanted the figure I had quoted.

“But I already told you the story!” he all but shouted. “Why do you need money for the story?”

Let’s see, what he’d told me so far was girl meets boy, they fall in love and want to get married, there’s opposition from their families which they overcome and live happily after. Seriously, did he think that constituted a story?  

As this point, the sleeping partner decided that he needed to step in and they started a bad version of good cop, bad cop. He smiled at me genially and said, “Look Rajinder is right. You are young and have a fire-in-your-bally (what was it with the fire-in-the-belly? Did I resemble a dragon or what?). You should look at this as an opportunity.”

I looked on impassively.

He tried again. “Do you know how many writers come to meet us everyday? At least ten. We rejected them for you,” he ended expansively.

“I’m flattered,” I said but otherwise showed no signs of relenting.

“Look the story belongs to (geriatric director’s name), but let me put it this way, we’ll pay you Rs. 1,00,000 for story improvement.”

I considered his generous offer for precisely two seconds and said, “Well, you yourself said that you meet at least ten writers a day. Why don’t you approach someone else?”

Mr. Rajinder realised he was losing me and made an effort to control himself. He said, “Of course that is always there but you see when we saw your interview we thought you had that fire-in-the-bally and we want to work with you.”

“You see the fire-in-the-belly does need to be stoked. And that costs money. After all, I do have to live in Bombay.”

Anyway, to cut a long story short, the sleeping partner said hastily, “There’s no need to answer now. Think about it. Take your time.”

I did. Finally, they called me last evening. I didn’t answer.

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