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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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First the good news. Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions is sold out. And we’re going into the second print run. In the second lot we’re tweaking the cover design a bit to accommodate the spate of *ahem* the good reviews.

I’ve always dreamed of having stuff like Brilliant!…Jain sets the pace from the word go and doesn’t let it flag…Simply unputdownable! embellish the cover.

Soon you’ll see refurbished Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions adorning the shelves. And hopefully (and where I really want to see it) the pages of the Amazon catalogue.

The bad news is that my photograph may have to knocked off. Ah, well.

On the scripting front, I have queries for at least two more new shows. And the producers won’t take no for an answer. So I figured that with the amount of time I spend in saying no, I might as well write the damn episode. And get paid for it.

You see, I can’t say no so I spend a lot of time beating around the bush bitching about various TV personalities who also happen to be good friends, TRPs, movers and shakers tec. The average talk time on each of these ‘no’ calls is about two hours. Which is about how long it takes to write the screenplay of an episode. Get it?

But the only way I can do this on an ongoing basis is by hiring an assistant, which also I have managed to do. Tentatively. Which means we are on on a trial basis.

My plans for becoming a one-woman screenwriting industry seem to be coming true. Eyah-ha-ha-ha! (evil laughter).

Plus the second novel is a work-in-progress. So that should hit the shelves sometime end of this year.

Maybe I will dominate the whole writing space. More evil laughter.

As you can see there’s a lot happening. Speaking of which, there was something else I had to do. Which I can’t seem to remember.  I do know there was something.  Wait I remember! There are people coming home today and I forgot to order Biryani!

As the subtitles on badly transcribed movies would read – Excrement! Excrement! Excrement!

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Financial Express – Sunday, July 27, 2008

To read the more legible online verison, click here.

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I have a friend who is currently going through some hard times. He is a director and is having some difficulty in getting his project going. This has been going on for about two years. Obviously, this delay causes concomitant financial difficulties.

“Why don’t you try writing a book?” I suggested to him. I said this to him for four reasons. One, I know for a fact that he reads a lot and has many ideas for stories.

Two, Indian writers have never had it so good in the publishing market and chances are he would taste some success there.

Three, long as you can construct a grammatically correct sentence it doesn’t matter if you can’t write flowery prose. Let’s face it, most Indian writing in the market today sucks language-wise.

Four, even if doesn’t get accepted for publication, he would at least have a ready story for a script. And who knows maybe that will intrigue producers and actors and maybe that project will get under way.

The moment I said I could have bitten my tongue. He looked at me wistfully and said, “I can’t write a book. I’m too undisciplined.”

Tell me about it. This is a guy who’s been after me for two months to help him rewrite/polish dialogues for his film script. I just haven’t been able to find the time. Now, if it had been me, I would never have waited that long. I would’ve attacked it myself.

“You don’t suppose you could….,” he started to say hopefully.

“Perish the thought.” What did he expect? That I would write it for him?

“No, just help me with the outline.”

“Perish the thought,” I said for the second time. This is what I get for suggesting ideas. Sometimes I’m too smart for my own good.

“You know I’m not good with outlining stories,” he said insistently.

Not my problem. If you can’t write stories maybe you ought to be in some other line of work. I like to help my friends and am happy to give comments and even help with restructuring a story, but you’ve got to give me something to work with first. You can’t expect me to write the first draft for you. I’m not that helpful. I used to be. But not anymore. Not unless I’m being paid for it.

Actually I’m being uncharitable towards him. This problem – indolence, indiscipline – call it what you will, is more prevalent than people think. I have numerous friends in the industry who all ask the same thing of me at one time or another. The fact of the matter is that people just don’t try. They are afraid of work. They just don’t want to do it.

I’m sorry, but I can’t help you there.

P.S. check out this review of Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions.

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As I’ve mentioned on my blog before, when I’m working on my book, I switch to non-fiction. I cease to read fiction for fear that it will influence me. Well, yesterday I just happened to pick up the Tipping point by Malcolm Gladwell. It is a book I’ve read before but find it illuminating every time I read it.

Most of us at some point in our lives have heard the story about some monkeys who were trained to peel bananas. For those who haven’t here goes: A study was conducted in which a bunch of wild monkeys, who were taught to peel bananas before eating them. During the course of the study, researchers discovered an astonishing thing. When about 100 monkeys had been trained, researchers found that soon all the monkeys were peeling bananas before eating them. Somehow, an experiment which had started out with a few monkeys had assumed epidemic proportions.

What made this happen? The Tipping Point, discusses precisely this. It studies why, starting with a few numbers, an idea, a product or a disease becomes huge. He begins with the examples of Hush Puppies and why they suddenly, mysteriously became huge, how in one given year, crime rates in New York automatically dipped and goes on to study the spread of infectious diseases.

In each instance it was found that when the idea/disease reached a certain critical mass, it spread like the virus and infected an entire population. He calls it the Law of the Few and that critical number, The Tipping Point.

However, every idea does not become a phenomenon. What then differentiates an idea that becomes big from an idea that refuses to catch on? The answer must lie in the make-up of the critical mass population. It seems, for an idea to become big, the answer does not lie simply in numbers. The answer lies in the nature of the messenger.

Gladwell asserts that there are certain characteristics that are common within the population that effectively spreads an idea. He categorises them into Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen. Connectors, as the name suggests are wonderfully connected people. They have a large number of acquaintances, not because they are networkers but because they genuinely like other people and are helpful.

While Connectors cultivate acquaintances, Mavens collect information. They are naturally curious people and are veritable goldmines of information. And they like helping other people. But Mavens, while being wonderfully, enviably up-to-date about information on various products may or may not be persuaders.

Salesmen are somewhat a more amorphous category. The only thing that can be said about them with any certainty is that they’ve got the ‘it’ factor. They’ve got charisma. When they talk, people listen. And, you got it, they like helping people.

An idea that becomes big usually involves a complex network of Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen. “Mavens are the data banks. They provide the message. Connectors are the social glue: they spread it. But there is also a select group of people – Salesmen – with the skills to persuade us when we are unconvinced of what we are hearing.”

Gladwell then turns his attention to the characteristics of the successful message itself – the social and economic condition prevalent at the time and the inherent stickiness of the communication itself.

Interspersed with interesting example, The Tipping Point is a wonderfully entertaining and hugely informative book on the science of manipulation. A must read for anyone looking to sell something. A must read for everyone.

 

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At some point every author gets asked about her muse, the one author who inspires her to write. Normally this is a difficult question to answer as there are so many great writers out there. But a little introspection usually throws up one clear favorite.

In my case the clear answer has to be Mario Vargas Llosa, a Peruvian author, or rather, one book of his – Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (Spanish: La tía Julia y el escribidor), translated brilliantly into English by Helen R. Lane.  The book was first published in Spanish 1977. The first English imprint arrived in 1983.

Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter is a story about Mario, an 18 year old boy who falls in love with his 32 year old divorcee aunt-in-law, Julia. The semi autobiographical novel is based upon a fictional period in the author’s life when he, an aspiring writer, was working part-time at a radio station that broadcast soap operas.

The radio station where Mario works hires a Bolivian scriptwriter, Pedro Camacho, to write the serials. Camacho, a writer of prodigious output and unbridled imagination, imbues the soaps liberally with his own prejudices – all villains are pug-faced Argentines and all heroes have a broad forehead, clear penetrating gaze, aquiline nose and are the very soul of goodness and moral rectitude.

Each chapter in Mario’s tumultuous romantic life (he and his aunt are forced to keep their liaison discreet on account of it being a scandalous one) is followed by a riotous radio novella penned by Camacho.

Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter is as much Camacho’s story as it is Mario’s. The soaring trajectory of Mario’s romance with his aunt – initial wooing while Aunt Julia plays the coquette, her surrender, their secret trysts and their marriage  – is mirrored in reverse with Camacho’s – his rise to fame, hysterical adulation and downfall.

Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter is one of the most brilliantly written novels I have read and my own book, Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions, while a completely different genre (chicklit-meets-crime), is an open tribute to it.

Read the full article in Asian Age. And ignore the misleading headline. Not my doing!!

Warning: For casual readers, do not attempt Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter without a comprehensive dictionary.

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Kkrishnaa’s konfessions got a great review. Am over the moon…Check this out! For those who wish to read the whole article click here. You’ll have to scroll down to “Confessions of an ambitious mind.”

Here’s an excerpt:

“Move over Bridget Jones, We now have our own Kkrishnaa, writer of TV soaps, young, attractive, single, and living alone in the big bad city of Mumbai. Indian writing in English has discovered chic lit and Kkrishnaa’s Konfession by Smita Jain is just what the urban English-speaking professional young woman was waiting for.The style is clever, irreverent and witty.It is an action filled page turner. Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions is an unpretentious, rollicking romp through the lanes and by lanes of Mumbai. Considering the fact that there is a twist and turn in every page, the author Smita Jain has shown great skill in untying the knots, and giving the book a somewhat intriguing end.”
 
Deccan Chronicle 15 June 2008.
 
For those who wish to get a taste of Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions, I’ve put up the entire first chapter on the Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions page.

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