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Archive for August, 2008

Even before we begin writing a show or a movie, we do a lot of prelim writing work in churning out what is called the ‘show bible’. It contains the detailed concept, character sketches and the story.  In some cases it even contains the budget, casting options and options for various talent – director, cameraman, stylist, set designer.

It is blueprint of the show and on which our screenplays are based. I have already covered some aspects of a TV show in some of my earlier posts.

What I haven’t covered is how we develop characters. Contrary to what people think, a lot of work goes into developing engaging, believable and quirky characters. It involves answering a lot of questions in as much detail as possible. Good character biographies can run into thirty page or more.

There are many formats available on the net, but here’s one:

SOCIAL ASPECTS

*Occupation
*Education
*Religion
*Hobbies
*Political views
*Ethnicity
*Marital status
*Birthplace
*Social status
*Affiliations

PHYSICAL ASPECTS

*Men or Female
*Height/weight
*Physical Build
*Appearance
*Complexion
*Health
*Athletic
*Defects (scars, or limps)
*Voice

PSYCHOLOGY ASPECTS

*Fears (Do not create cheap Freudian back story as motivation for your characters. For example, “she was once sexually abused by her stepfather and so hates all men.” People are more complex than this. If such a traumatic event happened in her life, if anything, it would make her promiscuous. She may hate sex, fear men, but hate men? Do some research for plausible cause-effect scenarios.)

*Values
*Addictions
*Habits
*Intelligence
*Morality
*Temperament
*Beliefs
*Secrets.

You can of course, embellish it with more details, for example, what clothing does your character favour? Or what motto defines her world view, i.e., “A successful person is one who can fake sincerity.” Does she have a nickname? Does she like it? Hate it?

All the detail you create may or may not be revealed during the story, but it doesn’t mean that it’s work that’s been wasted. The more detail you create, the deeper you can make your character, and this rich history will be such a rich source of information that it may even change and evolve your story itself.

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Some time ago, the Hindutan Times had carried a story, Bubble Trouble, on how the great Indian Soap Factory works. For all of you who are interetsed in writing for television, or are even remotely curious about it, do check it out.

The story gives various POVs – the channel’s, the producer’s, the writer’s. For the latter bit, they contacted me for my inputs, which in itself is reason enough to read it. Kidding. 🙂

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The way to write good situational comedy it is to have quirky characters and then add as much conflict as you can from the beginning. Do not try to write funny. That’s the worst thing writers can do. They end spending too much time and energy trying to come with funny one-liners which only seem forced. Instead what they should do is set up the premise, i.e., what the protagonist wants, and then try to create as many obstacles in his/her way. This will create conflict and automatically give rise to situations that are funny.

The reason Indian comedies don’t work is because very often a) they don’t have solid well-rounded characters off whose personality traits you can play off b) they don’t have a premise which has potential for enough conflict. Or, even if they have a premise they don’t work hard enough on the story to sustain it for two hours. Then they end up writing in situations that seem forced and gags which are dependent on exaggerated physical quirks and stupid, scatological humour.

Take Singh is Kinng. The premise was good enough. A good-natured, well-meaning country bumpkin becomes a big don. That’s it. And then what do they do? They mess it up by bringing in a stupid love angle which is not strong enough to hold the movie together for two hours.

Instead what would have worked better as a main plot would have been Happy Singh trying to fit into Lucky Singh’s shoes and trying to be the menacing don who strikes fear in everyone’s heart. The love angle would’ve worked better as a side plot. You know, something to add to the already chaotic situation.

But we all know, that it ain’t gonna happen. Just today I read in the papers that the producers are looking for a story for a sequel. Brace yourselves, you’re in for another attack of Sing is Kinng.

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This is a sincere apology to all readers of my blog for the appalling editing mistakes in my post Singh is Kinng and Rules of Comedy.

I am really sorry for doing such a shoddy job. I also thank you all for not pointing it out. 

I was horrified when I read the post this morning. Quite unworthy of someone who calls herself a writer.

FYI, I have rectified the mistakes now.

And yet another blogger has taken the trouble to write a review of Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions. Do check it out.

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Oh dear God! What a monstrosity! The less said about it the better. I will say this though. All my friends who recommended this film to me, kitne janamon ka badla nikal rahe thay? I WILL HUNT YOU DOWN AND KICK YOUR ASS! If I’m feeling charitable. Else I’ll just kill you.

What a waste of Akshay Kumar’s dates. I can’t help thinking (mostly ruing) what I could’ve done if had those dates. You could be forgiven for thinking it’s a case of sour grapes, ‘cos it kinda is).

Although, I don’t think Akshay Kumar is really complaining. Thanks to all the publicity and the controversy, the film has already made its money in the opening weekend, taking Akshay Kumar’s hit score to 5 is it, 6, in a row? (Now that’s one dude who’s really emerged. Just watch Mr. Bond for reaffirmation).

I’m worried about is what the success of such films will do to directors like Anees Bazmee, David Dhawan, Sajid Khan and Priyan.

Why is it that we can’t make decent mass comedies in India? Examples of niche comedy being Dil Chahta Hai, Khosla ka Ghosla, Loins of Punjab and Jaane tu…which are all nice.

Now, I don’t hold anything against bawdy humour (I have been known to laugh at sandaas jokes on occasion) as long as it is there.

But No Entry, Sandwich, Welcome, Partner, Mujhse Shaadi Karogi, Bhaagam Bhaag, Bhoolbhulaiya, and Hey Baby (however, he spells it) are seriously illogical, unfunny films! I can’t understand how they gross so much. In fact, come to think of it, the last seriously funny mass comedy film I watched was Hera Pheri. And okay, even No Entry was passable. But the rest, pure, unhilarious drivel.

Which brings to me to the question – what does India want? To all wannabe writers, directors, don’t try hard to work on a kickass script. Just concentrate on three-four things:

  • 1. Big stars: Akshay Kumar, Salman Khan…you get the picture.
  • 2. Random slapstick events: And don’t worry about logic. Hey, if you gotta get Akhay Kumar to Egypt, you gotta!
  • 3. Have the likes of Govinda mouth lines like Tu meri hi girlfriend ke saath saiyan banke naiya pe chaiya chaiya kar raha hai! in a particularly shrill tenor.
  • 4. Have a chase sequence in the end with all the characters involved. It doesn’t matter who’s chasing who or why. As long as it is chaotic.

Oh, and don’t forget to attire heroines in skimpy clothes and make them sing songs. If you really must give them an ‘author-backed’ role, make them nagging (shrill) wives. Notice how ‘shrill’ keeps cropping up?

Congratulations, you’ve got a hit film!

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This appeared in the Statesman, New Delhi.

The ‘K’ Factor

If you mix together loads of drama, romance, illicit relationships, hatreds, Ks, As and other emotions, you don’t just get a saah bahu saga but a book on the subject. Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions is the story of Kkrishnaa (actually Priya but numerologically Kkrishnaa) who is the successful scriptwriter of KSK – Kkangan Souten Ke, the top soap on SuperNova Channel. Young and ambitious, Kkrishnaa would do anything to maintain the number one slot. However, she has a writer’s block which threatens her job. She is all excited to chart out the next few episodes when she is politely asked by her boss Rajne to take a break….(more of the plot)…

With myriad plots and sub plots…Smita Jain’s writing is lucid and crisp. Having scripted numerous screenplays for films and television serial she ensures a racy read. The characters and plots are thrown in intelligently and are well connected with each other. The reader thus never feels lost. The plot of KSK also develops all this while. Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions, thus, has all the ingredients of a Bollywood masala film…

Here’s an excerpt from the book… (excerpt from Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions – Chapter One)

The Statesman

New Delhi 7 August 2008

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There’s a new mall that’s opened in the vicinity. Star Bazar. When it was newly opened, they had sent young college kids with boxes of muffins with an invitation card. I ate the muffins and chucked the card in the bin. I said to myself, that’s one mall I’m never going to visit. After all who needs another mall?

It seems, me. I had often passed it by and seen the huge board of HYPER BOOKS prominently displayed. Somehow it always seemed to beckon to me. So yesterday, driven primarily by curiosity, I decided to give the mall a whirl. But only the bookshop, mind you.

Ah! Simple you’d think. Except to reach the book store on the first floor, you have to pass through an entire floor and the first floor stacked with other goodies. The book store is put away in one corner of the first floor.

So I resisted the temptation and only sneaked peeks (I mean, you’re allowed that) on the way to the book store. There I found a large section devoted to offers. 3 for 2 the signs screamed. Ah well, there’s no harm in looking, I said to myself and wandered over there. I also picked up a basket, just in case, you know.

And within no time I had it filled with 9 books. The books were priced at Rs. 260 each. And nine books would have cost 2340. Except I was paying only 1560, a saving of a whole Rs. 780! How cool is that!

It was only later (when I came home) that I realised that the books had already been on sale elsewhere and still bore the original stickers of £2.50 and which price each book works out to Rs. 220! So these dudes had inflated the price of each book to Rs. 260 and then offered a discount! I had fallen for the biggest con in the game!

I really should tear up my MBA degree.

Then, of course, I was so pumped up by my savings that I decided to blow them all up.

“Oh, look at those T- shirts. 3 for 99! They’re practically giving them away free! And look at those huge mugs! And only Rs. 35! And those track pants! 4 for Rs. 100! I could do with several more. That way even if I don’t run the machine for a month I don’t have to worry.

And look at all those foreign foods displays! French cheeses for chrissakes! Oh but I hate cheese. It’s smelly. Well, yes, but it’s for guests. Besides, where do you get it so readily in Bombay? And are those salad dressings! And cold cuts! Oh, but I’m vegetarian. Never mind, it’s for guests.”

I stood staring stupidly at the check-out guy as he mouthed the words Rs. 5081. Meekly I paid, staring aghast at the stuff I’d bought and wouldn’t ever use. Did I just buy baby food?

And I resolved, no more malls. My neighbourhood kirana store will do nicely thank you. True, he may not have such a dizzyingly attractive display of goods and certainly no offers, but he is cheaper in the long run. Long live Bipinbhai Patel! At the very least, till the next mall comes along.

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